4 Non-Negotiable Principles of Exercise
If you follow these guiding principles, you are guaranteed to see results.
“The principles are few but the methods are many.” – unknown
We live in a world of peddlers pushing methods and tactics.
This is the equivalent of selling a man a fish to feed him for a day.
He will come back tomorrow to buy more.
But if he is taught how to fish, that is if he learns the principles, he can feed himself for a lifetime.
Selling principles is not attractive because once they are learned, one can self-reliantly excel in any domain in which those principles apply and the peddler can no longer peddle.
Principles are the guiding rules or laws by which we should instruct our lives.
So rather than focusing on tactics, for example deciding between a front squat, back squat, overhead squat, goblet squat, Bulgarian split squat, bodyweight squat, reverse lunge… the list endlessly continues, let’s focus on the PRINCIPLES OF EXERCISE.
Armed with these 4 principles, you can conquer any fitness, athletic, or aesthetic aim you set your sights on.
The 4 Non-Negotiable Principles of Exercise
Principle 1: Adherence
Consistency beats intensity.
Adherence to your exercise program is the #1 predictor of success.
Adhere and you will see results. Fall off the wagon after a week of going hard and you’ll have nothing to show for it.
Strive to be the tortoise.
Stick to your program with ruthless consistency even if it means you have to scale a workout down to just a few minutes because you’re having a busy day.
What your exercise program looks like is completely up to your goals, preferences, and limitations (Principle 3). But create it so that you are excited to engage in it, put effort into it, and repeat it consistently over time.
When designing your program, check for adherence by asking yourself: How can I make sure that I want to do this?
Principle 2: Progressive Overload
Growth in nearly all domains of life comes from stress.
If you pick up 10-pound dumbbells on Day 1 of your exercise program and never increase the amount of weight or reps you do, your progress will eventually come to a halt.
Consistent progressive overload, increasing the amount of stress the body is under, is necessary to continue improving your fitness.
If you exercise without progressive overload, you can still reap the other benefits of exercise (burn calories, boost mood, improve cognitive function, etc.) but you will not see continued improvements in your strength, muscle growth, or endurance.
There are three basic ways to progressive overload:
Way #1: Increase weight
Use heavier dumbbells or kettlebells, add weight to the barbell, use tighter resistance bands, and so on.
Way #2: Increase volume
Volume = sets multiplied by repetitions.
For time-based exercises, just count the total minutes performed over a session or over a given week.
Way #3: Increase frequency
Increase the number of times you perform an exercise in a week.
For example, you can start squatting twice per week instead of just once.
Principle 3: Individualization
Individualization is all about you.
What are your personal preferences? Limitations? Equipment availability?
Again, the best program is the one you will adhere to (Principle 1).
Create a routine that you can get excited about, that fits your needs and desires, that jives with your daily and weekly routines, that considers any movement restrictions you have, and that ensures you will not get injured.
Principle 4: Picking the right target
Setting the right goals is just as important in fitness as it is in business and learning.
How do you determine where you need to improve and set appropriate goals?
One way is to perform fitness testing to identify limitations and weak spots which will help you decide where you need to improve.
Our Longevity Combine series covered fitness testing in-depth:
Alternatively, you can just select goals that attract and excite you. Simple as that.
Balancing Specificity and Variation
After you implement these core principles, try to find a balance of specificity and variation.
Too much specificity can cause injury. For example, if you want to grow your chest so all you do is bench press five days per week you are likely to tear a muscle.
Whereas too much variation, doing 10 new exercises each time you step into the gym, will not cause enough stimulation in the muscle or movement to create progress.
But a balance of specificity and variation, whatever that looks like for you, will drive progress while building well-rounded fitness and keeping your workouts fresh and interesting.
Finally and Least Importantly: The Methods
Lastly, you can choose the methods and tactics that work best for you.
In exercise, we select methods based on the modifiable variables:
The decisions you make for each of these variables will determine the results you achieve.
Remember, exercises do not determine adaptation, execution of the exercise does.
To understand how to manipulate each modifiable variable when targeting different adaptations, here are four aerobic and anaerobic endurance protocols, and here’s a simple approach to build strength or power.
If your goal is to build muscle mass (hypertrophy), which we will cover in the future, focus on the following rule for now:
10-25 sets per muscle group per week, 8-30 reps per set
That’s all for this week folks.
Finish the week strong and have a fantastic weekend.
Much love to you and yours,