How to Build A Solid Foundation – The Principles of Strength Training

Principles of Strength Training

During this past term of our Redo Clinical Exercise classes a key theme we focused on was shoulder posture, mobility and strength. This was in addition to our ongoing themes of postural awareness, abdominal/back muscle strength, glute strength, overall mobility and balance.

Week to week we aimed to build on both strength AND endurance, highlighting the key differences.

When it comes to strength training there are many principles that lead to a stronger body. Strength training is key to any well-rounded exercise routine, with many benefits; increased muscle mass, improved bone density, enhanced physical performance and overall well-being. 

In order to maximize the benefits and effectiveness of strength training it is important to to understand and apply the fundamental principles. For example, what is the difference between training for muscular strength vs muscular endurance?

Let’s start off by reviewing the 7 key principles of strength training.

Principle 1: Overload

principles of strength training

Overload is the foundation of strength training and involves subjecting the body to a workload that exceeds its current capacity. By challenging the muscles and other physiological systems, overload prompts them to adapt and grow stronger. Examples include:

    1. Increasing resistance on a weightlifting exercise such as biceps curls or squats.
    2. Performing an additional set or increasing the number of repetitions of an exercise.

Principle 2: Progression

Principles of Strength Training

Progression builds upon the previous principle of overload and emphasizes the need to continually increase the intensity, duration, or frequency of workouts to stimulate further gains.

By gradually progressing demands placed on the body, your  muscles are consistently challenged and forced to adapt. Examples include:

    1. Gradually increasing the weight lifted during strength training exercises over time.
    2. Adding an extra workout day to the weekly routine to increase your overall training volume.

Principle 3: Specificity

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The principle of specificity states that the training adaptations are specific to the type of training stimulus placed on the body. Basically, the body adapts to the specific demands placed upon it. Examples include:

    1. Focusing on compound exercises like squats and lunges to improve overall strength and functional movement patterns.
    2. Adding plyometric exercises to enhance power and explosive strength.

Principle 4: Individualization

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Individualization recognizes that an individual is unique, in their physical abilities, injuries, and restrictions, and something we highlight in our Clinical Exercise classes – it is all about working “at your level”.

Each individual will need their training to suit their individual needs and goals. Examples include:

    1. Modifying exercises to accommodate physical restrictions or limitations, such as replacing barbell squats with goblet squats for individuals with lower back issues.
    2. Adjusting the training volume and intensity based on an individual’s recovery capacity and overall fitness level.

Principle 5: Adaptation

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The principle of adaptation highlights the body’s ability to adjust and respond to the demands placed upon it from strength training. Over time, consistent training leads to physiological adaptations, such as increased muscle size, improved neural activation, and enhanced bone density. Examples include:

  1. Increasing muscle growth) in response to consistent resistance training.
  2. Developing a more efficient cardiovascular system to meet the demands of high-intensity strength training.

Principle 6: Recovery

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Recovery is a vital yet often overlooked principle when it comes to strength training. The body requires adequate time and resources to repair and rebuild after intense workouts. Proper recovery allows for optimal adaptation and reduces the risk of overtraining and injury. Examples of recovery strategies include:

  1. Incorporating rest days between strength training sessions to allow for muscle repair and growth.
  2. Engaging in active recovery activities like light stretching or low-intensity aerobic exercises on rest days.

Principle 7: Reversibility

principles of strength training

The principle of reversibility – the “use it or lose it” principle, states that the gains achieved through strength training are not permanent and can be lost if training is stopped.

If the training stimulus is removed or reduced, the body gradually reverts to its previous levels of strength and fitness. Examples of reversibility include:

  1. Losing muscle mass and strength after an extended period of inactivity or no training.
  2. Experiencing a decline in cardiovascular fitness after discontinuing regular aerobic exercises.

Training for Muscular Strength, Endurance, and Power

principles of strength training

Muscular Strength: Training for strength involves lifting heavy loads with lower repetitions, focusing on compound exercises, and progressively increasing the resistance over time. Examples include: 3 sets of 6-8 repetitions of an exercise.

Muscular Endurance: Training for endurance emphasizes higher repetitions with lighter weights, longer sets, and shorter rest periods to improve the ability of muscles to perform repetitive contractions over an extended period. Examples include: 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions of an exercise.

Muscular Power: Power training combines strength and speed, involving explosive movements like Olympic lifts, jump squats, and medicine ball throws to enhance the ability to generate force quickly. Performing higher sets with lower repetitions, 3-5.


Understanding and applying the 7 principles of strength training are essential for optimizing the benefits of strength training. 

When we look at an overall program, we recommend having 2 days to work on strength for every day of endurance when it comes to strength (or resistance) training. Please always consult your Physiotherapist for more specific strength training questions. 

By tailoring programs to the needs of the individual, considering injuries and physical restrictions, and focusing on the appropriate training goals, individuals can build a solid foundation of strength, endurance, and power while minimizing the risk of injury and achieving optimal results.

To learn more about how our Clinical Exercise classes can help you improve your strength and endurance in addition to your postural awareness, mobility and balance) check out our classes page here

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