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  • Writer's pictureTomas Wurst

How to improve sport specific performance. Part3: Principles of training FITT

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

To improve sport specific performance and workout efficiently you need to understand training Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time (FITT). These also are the basic principles of training.

Different sport situations have different training demands. Hence, instead of specifically tackle each sport needs, this article aims to give enough information and examples for the reader to apply the principles of training FIIT to her/his sport/s.

The four principles of fitness training are always used to improve sport specific performance and applicable to all athletes.

But they are not applicable on the same way as there are many things to consider for sport specific training:

The principles of training FITT need to be tailored, not only to the sport requirements and athlete level (professional, amateur, etc), but also to the athlete's age, gender and most importantly fitness levels.

In addition, it is important to consider, especially for professional athletes, the sport periodisation requirements. Ex: A pro footballer applies the principles of training in varied ways throughout the year to suit and aim peak performance at tournament time.

Please note that to avoid too mach article complexity and length, the examples given bellow only show 2 components of fitness: Cardio vascular fitness (cardio respiratory training) and muscle endurance and strength (resistance training).

Athletes should also train all other fitness components such as balance, reaction time, coordination, flexibility, etc. (balance, reaction time and coordination commonly can be incorporated during some cardio and resistance training sessions)

Improve sport performance applying the principal of training FIIT correctly


Following any form of fitness training, the body goes through a process of rebuild and repair to replenish its energy reserves consumed by the exercise.

The frequency of exercise is a fine balance between providing just enough stress for the body to adapt to and allowing enough time for healing and adaptation to occur.

Cardio Respiratory Training The guidelines for cardiorespiratory training (also called aerobic conditioning) is a minimum of three sessions per week and ideally five or six sessions per week. Experts suggest that little or no benefit is attained over and above this amount. Of course athletes often fall outside the suggested guidelines but even elite performers must give themselves time to rest.

Resistance Training The frequency of resistance training is dependent upon the particular individual and format of the program. For example, a program that works every body part every session should be completed 2 to4 days a week with a day's rest between sessions. On the other hand, a program that focuses on just one or two body parts per session (split-routines and the likes), in theory could be completed as frequently as 5 to 6 days per week.

Many bodybuilders follow such a routine and also split routines can suit other athletes who want to gain muscle mass as main goal).

However, resistance training performed in a compound manner (every body part every session - focusing on the body as a whole), instead of training isolating body parts in split-routines, produces much better results in performance for majorities of sports.


The second rule in the FITT principle relates to intensity. It defines the amount of effort that should be invested in a training program or any one session.

Like the first FITT principle - frequency - there must be a balance between finding enough intensity to overload the body (so it can adapt) but not so much that it causes overtraining.

Heart rate can be used to measure the intensity of cardiorespiratory training. Workload is used to define the intensity of resistance training.

Cardio Respiratory Training Heart rate is the primary measure of intensity in aerobic endurance training. Ideally before you start an aerobic training program a target heart rate zone should first be determined. The target heart rate zone is a function of both your fitness level and age. Here's a quick method for determining your target heart rate:

Heart Rate & Maximum Heart Rate Heart rate is measured as beats per minute (bpm). Heart rate can be monitored and measured by taking your pulse at the wrist, arm or neck. An approximation of maximum heart rate (MHR) can also be calculated as follows: MHR = 220 - age. Target Heart Rate For beginners a target heart rate zone of 50-70 percent of their maximum of heart rate is a good place to start. So if, for example, you are 40 years old that gives you a predicted maximum heart rate of 180 (220 - 40). Multiply 180 by 50% and 70% and your reach a target zone of 90bpm - 126bpm. For fitter, more advanced individuals, a target heart rate zone of 70-85 percent of their maximum of heart rate may be more appropriate. Staying with the example above, that 40 year old now has a heart rate zone of 126bpm - 153bpm. There are limitations with heart rate and the heart rate reserve method, while no means flawless, may be a more accurate way to determine exercise intensity.

Resistance Training For resistance training, workload is the primary measure of intensity. Workload can have three components: 1. The amount of load performed during an exercise 2. The number of repetitions completed for a particular exercise 3. The length of time to complete all exercises in a set or total training session So, you can increase workload by for ex lifting heavier weights. Or you could increase the number of repetitions with the same weight. Finally, you could lift the same weight for the same number of repetitions but decrease the rest time between sets. However, only increase the intnesity using one of the above parameters. Do not increase weight and decrease rest time in the same session for example.

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Improve sport performance by applying FIIT


The third component in the FITT principle dictates what type or kind of exercise you should choose to achieve the appropriate training response.

It is much complex to determine the right type for sport specific training as athletes need to train both: sport skills and fitness levels.

Hence, to get the right balance you need clear understanding of your sport movement requirements, periodisation and yours or your team's unique fitness needs.

Find bellow a very general overview and some highly simplified examples.

Cardio Respiratory Training The best type of exercise to improve the cardiovascular system for most field sport, played for long periods of time (30min +) should be continuous in nature and make use of large muscle groups and specific to the field sport. Examples include running, circuit training, etc. For boardsports however, (surfing, kitesurfing, skateboarding...) the best type of aerobic exercises to improve their specific needs should be intermittent and highly demanding drills. Examples include sprints, 25, 50, 100 meters swimming, paddle HIIT, etc.

Resistance Training The best form of exercise to stress the neuromuscular system is resistance training. But resistance training does not necessarily only mean lifting weights. Also, resistance training sessions that match the sport movement requirements are a must-do for sport specific resistance training.

TIME The final component in the FITT principle of training is time - or how long you should be exercising for. Is longer better? Cardio Respiratory Training Individuals with lower fitness levels should aim to maintain their heart rate within the target heart rate zone for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. This can increase to as much as 45-60 minutes as fitness levels increase. Beyond the 45-60 minute mark there are diminished returns. For all that extra effort, the associated benefits are minimal. This also applies to many athletes. Beyond a certain point they run the risk of overtraining and injury. There are exceptions however - typically the ultra-long distance endurance athletes. In terms of the duration of the program as a whole, research suggests a minimum of 6 weeks is required to see noticeable improvement and as much as a year or more before a peak in fitness is reached. Resistance Training The common consensus for the duration of resistance training session is no longer than 45-60 minutes. Again, intensity has a say and particularly gruelling strength sessions may last as little as 15 - 30 minutes.

Principal of training FIIT for sports explained

Perhaps one of the most important principle of training (that ironically doesn't have its own letter in the FITT principle) is Rest. Exercising too frequently and too intensely hinders the body's ability to recover and adapt. As a rule of thumb, the harder you train, the more recovery you should allow for. Unfortunately many athletes don't have that luxury and that's why injury can be a common recurrence in some athlete's career. The above will certainly provide a starting-point guide for all athletes.

For more in-depth approach in Sport Training, the following principles shall be also considered:







The "Sports Training Principles" (1997) by Frank Dick , offers a more detailed look at the the principles of training for athletes.

I also recommend all athletes and keen trainees to read the following related articules on our blog:

How to improve sport specific performance. Part2: ROM (Range Of Motion). If you're a professional athlete you already have a team of professional helping you to perform to your personal best (normally the team includes a sport coach, fitness coach, physiotherapist and massage therapist).

Most commonly, for amateur athletes the reality is completely different.

If you are serious in performing to your best possible levels, I strongly recommend you to seek for professional help. Unlike professional athletes, amateur do not need a full team of professionals to improve performance, but a fitness coach who understands well sport-specific training. This will not only increase your performance, but will save your time, money and also decrease the likelihood of injury and developing inappropriate practice. Moreover, as there is nothing more motivational that achieving your goals, having a helping hand from professional coaching will increase sport practice satisfaction.

Tomás Agustin Würst, Fitness Trainer, Yoga Teacher and Manager Director at Workout Australia.

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The information contained on the on Workout Australia website, Articles and so on, is not intended to be a professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.

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