The FITT Principle in relation to injury prevention
Brad Walker explains the FITT principle and its application to avoid injury.
The FITT Principle (or formula) is a great way of monitoring your exercise program. The acronym FITT outlines the key components of an effective exercise program, and the initials F, I, T, T, stand for:
What is the Mainstream Recommendation?
The FITT Principle is most commonly used in the weight loss industry, although it is also used as part of the strength and weight training recommendations. The standard recommendation is as follows.
Frequency is a vital component of the FITT Principle. Remember that it is essenitial to know why you are exercising and what you wish to achieve before rushing into any exercise program. Adjust the number of times you exercise per week to reflect your current fitness level, the time you realistically have available, your other commitments like family and work, and the goals you have set for yourself.
This is an extremely important aspect of the FITT principle and is probably the hardest factor to monitor. The best way to gauge the intensity of your exercise is to monitor your heart rate.
There are a couple of ways to monitor your heart rate, but the best way by far is to purchase an exercise heart rate monitor. These can be purchased at most good sports stores and retail from $50 to $400. They consist of an elastic belt with a transmitter that fits around your chest and a wristwatch that displays your exercise heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).
If you do not want to spend the money on a heart rate monitor, count your heart rate over a 15 second period. All you need is a wristwatch that has a "seconds" display. Feel for your heartbeat by either placing your hand over your heart or by feeling for your pulse in your neck or on your wrist. Count the beats over a 15 second period and then multiply by 4. This will give you your exercise heart rate in beats per minute.
The time you spend exercising is also an important part of the FITT Principle. The time dedicated to exercise usually depends on the type of exercise undertaken.
For example, it is recommended that to improve cardiovascular fitness, you will need at least 20 to 30 minutes of non-stop exercise. For weight loss, at least 40 minutes of moderate weight-bearing exercise is required. However, when talking about the time required for muscular strength improvements, time is often measured as several "sets" and "reps." A typical recommendation would be three sets of eight repetitions.
Like time, the type of exercise you choose will have a significant effect on the results you achieve. That is why it is important to know what you want to gain from your efforts.
For example, if you are looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness, then exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, bike riding, stair climbing, aerobics and rowing are very effective.
For weight loss, any exercise using a majority of your large muscle groups will be useful.
To improve muscular strength the best exercises, including the use of free weights, machine weights and bodyweight exercises like push-ups, chin-ups and dips.
How does all this relate to Injury Prevention?
The two biggest mistakes I see people make when designing an exercise program is firstly training too hard, and secondly, not including enough variety.
The most common problem is that people tend to find an exercise they like and very rarely do anything other than that exercise. This can result in long-term, repetitive strain to the same muscle groups, and neglect, or weakening of other muscle groups, leading to a very unbalanced muscular system, which is a sure-fire recipe for injury.
Keep the following FITT principles in mind
Frequency After you finish exercising your body goes through a process of rebuilding and repair. It is during this process that the benefits of your exercise are forthcoming. If you are exercising daily (5 to 6 times a week), then your body never has a decent chance to realise the benefits and gains from the exercise. What usually happens is that you end up getting tired or injured and just quit.
My frequency recommendation is - only exercise 3 to 4 times a week MAXIMUM!
This may sound strange and a little hard to do at first, (because most people have been brainwashed into believing that they have to exercise every day) but after a while exercising like this becomes very enjoyable and something that you can look forward to. It dramatically reduces your likelihood of injury because you are giving your body more time to repair and heal. Many elite-level athletes have seen significant performance improvements when forced to take an extended break. Most never realize they are training too hard, too often.
Intensity, Time & Type
The key here is variety. Do not let yourself get stuck in an exercise rut. Regarding intensity and time, vary your effort. Dedicate some of your workouts to long, easy sessions like long walks or light repetitive weights. While other sessions can be made up of short, high-intensity exercises like stair climbing or interval training. Remember, if you are not feeling 100%, then take the day off or schedule an easy workout. The type of exercise you do is also important.
Like I said earlier, many people get into a routine of doing the same exercise over and over again. If you want to lower your risk of injury, then do a variety of different exercises. This will help to improve all your major muscle groups and will make you a more versatile all-around athlete. Cross-training is an excellent way of adding variety to your workout schedule.
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About the Author
Brad Walker is a prominent Australian sports trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. Brad is a Health Science graduate of the University of New England and has postgraduate accreditations in athletics, swimming and triathlon coaching. He also works with elite level and world champion athletes and lectures for Sports Medicine Australia on injury prevention.