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  • Daniel Rockman

The SAID Principle

The SAID principle is one of the most important concepts that underpins everything we do in the strength and conditioning field. If you understand the theory behind this simple principle you will train smarter than most people at the gym and see better results from the effort that you put in. SAID is an acronym which stands for:

S pecific A daptations to I mposed D emands


What that means is what you train is what you improve. Squatting really heavy weights will make you good at squatting heavy things but will have limited benefit to sprinting, unless you train sprinting as well. There's more to it than that, though.


The body has a lot of complicated responses to exercise which are very specific to the type of exercise you were doing. For example if you spend long periods of time in an aerobic zone (your body is mostly relying on oxygen to help create energy) then the body will adapt by increasing the number of mitochondria (the place where aerobic energy creation occurs) thus allowing you to create more energy and work harder without feeling like you're trying when doing aerobic exercise. This adaptation will occur mainly in the primary muscles which were being used so if you only sit on an exercise bike for cardio this adaptation will occur mainly in the legs and the arms will not see the same increase in mitochondria. So not a great form of cardio if you're a swimmer where you constantly need to use your arms to pull you through the water.


That's not to say that the arms won't feel like they can work longer after lower body cardio. There are more adaptations that go on in the cardiovascular system (such as your heart pumps more blood every beat also known as stroke volume) which will help out when swimming too. Like I said, there is a plethora of responses to exercise that go on in the body, too many to possibly list here, the best way to make the most of them is by using the SAID principle to train exactly what you want to improve.


The SAID principle can be utilised in two different ways:


1. Train the specific fitness component required


2. Train the specific movement required


To go back to the sprinter analogy I used before: The best way to get better at sprinting is to sprint. The body gets better at dealing with the lack of oxygen as well as the speed and timing at which the body parts must move (among other things) to get you to the finish line as quick as possible .


But the body can only create that speed using what it has at it's disposal. If you increase the amount of force you can create quickly by training your power (power = force divided by time) at the gym, then your sprinting speed has the capacity to increase with it.


By training the specific fitness component required for sprinting, one of which is power, then your upper limit for how fast you can sprint increases BUT you need to train the specific movement so your body can use this increased capacity before you will see any effects on the track.


As a soccer player myself I've seen some benefits to going for long slow runs during the off season, more benefits from going for intermittent sprint training which is closer to how players run during a game but none of that even compares to match fitness. The runs build up a great base of fitness so my body can deal with the running better but they won't prepare me for the rapid changes of direction, fast feet movements, kicking skills when fatigued or even quick decision making while fatigued.


Running is great for increasing aerobic capacity and is definitely an important part of preparing to play sport for the year but the best fitness in preseason is game fitness.


So if you're training with a particular goal in mind make sure to attack it on two fronts: The specific fitness component AND the specific movement. The body will adapt to deal with the exact circumstances you've put it in, so make the most of this by making your training as specific to your end goal as possible.


There's probably more I could say on this topic but I'll keep it simple like the principle itself is. If there is something you want to get better at: train the specific training component and train the specific movement and you will get better at it.


Simple but not easy. If you need help with anything, get in contact with me and I'll do what I can for you.

Happy Lifting!


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