Physical activity is vital for every individual, regardless of age. That is because it has loads of health benefits, such as the reduced risk of disease and better weight control. That said, to reap these benefits you have to work with a practical exercise plan. FITT principles help you create and adjust such a plan. But what are FITT principles? Are they effective? Does the FITT strategy help with a stretching routine? Get these and other details about the FITT principle here today.
What Is The FITT Principle?
The FITT principle is a powerful tool to help you when designing a workout plan.
What does the FITT principle stand for? The FITT is an acronym that stands for frequency, intensity, time and type (1). These are four crucial components that you must analyze when creating your workout plan. These highly influence your fitness goals and fitness capacity.
Why Use The FITT Principle?
- It helps you develop an operational structure because you account for factors such as your body type and fitness level.
- As a guide for you on how and when to change your workouts to avoid fitness or weight loss plateaus, boredom, or injuries.
- To help you revise and evaluate your workout plan and adjust any aspect, such as the intensity, depending on your fitness goals.
- For monitoring your workouts so as to prevent overtraining.
- To validate that you are always progressing.
- For assistance in preventing lifestyle-related diseases like obesity.
In-Depth Analysis Of The FITT Training Principles
Regardless of the workouts you perform, the exercises will become effortless at some point. That signals good progress, congratulations. But unfortunately, it is an indicator that you need to move on from this routine.
Luckily, you can maintain the obtained results by structuring a new workout plan using the FITT principles. But what do they entail? Let us list each FITT principle and describe what they represent. Take a look:
The frequency is the first thing you will work on when using these principles to adjust or create your workout plan. Training frequency refers to the number of times you work different or all muscle groups in a week. It also includes the total number of workouts you perform in a week (5).
Determine this by evaluating factors such as the type of your workout, your fitness level, and your goals. Most studies reveal that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends training 3 to 5 days if it is an aerobic activity (1), (5), (2).
If your workouts are more vigorous, such as a strength training program, you need to train 2 to 3 days a week. It is worth noting that you also must spread these exercises out throughout the week. For example, you can exercise on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the strength training program.
The intensity of an exercise is measured by how hard you work to nail the movement or regime (5). Of course, you work more when the routine is highly intense and less when it is low intensity. Note that the intensity of your workouts will be influenced by the type of activity you are performing and your fitness goals (4).
Again, note that there are different ways you can increase the intensity of your workouts. For example, you could increase the number of reps and sets that you perform. Similarly, you could increase the weights, reduce rest periods, or slow things down (5).
Again, it will depend on the activity you are performing. It would be best to talk to your trainer for better guidance on how to increase intensity in your workout plan.
When creating your workout plan, the third component you have to analyze is time. Unfortunately, there is no standard rule on how long you should exercise. Instead, it all comes down to your fitness level and the type of exercise you are performing (5).
You are advised to not perform vigorous activities such as weight lifting for over an hour. That is because, at this time, fatigue kicks in, and you face an increased risk of injury. With this in mind, try to perform such workouts for 30 to 40 minutes (2).
You can perform cardiovascular activities such as running for over an hour. However, it would be best to reduce other factors such as your speed. Please talk to your trainer if you want to increase the time sessions for your workouts, perhaps to build power or endurance.
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Believe it or not, the type of exercise you perform is the last thing you pick when using these principles. You are advised to look at what you enjoy doing when selecting an activity.
Of course, most of us have a love-hate relationship with our exercise routines. Sometimes we cannot wait to get started, and other times we just want to hide away from them. So, fun and enjoyment may not be all you need to stay consistent with your workouts.
Instead, you need to evaluate the workouts to help you attain your goals and fight plateaus (2). The last thing you want is to be stuck and see no results. So, take your time and choose practical exercises, even if they are not your favorite.
Again, look for exercises that minimize injury risk (2). The last thing you want is to cut short your weight loss or fitness journey because of an injury or pain experienced, for example, in your back.
How To Use The FITT Principles In A Cardio Or Weight Loss Training Program
The FITT principles are very efficient when designing a cardio or weight loss training program. It is effortless to apply, especially in a cardio program, because it is a standard recommendation for cardio training. To use it, consider the following:
Most cardiovascular activities, for example, biking, swimming, walking, running and jogging, are fun to perform. You may find yourself performing them daily. That said, remember to give your muscles time to repair, heal, and grow. Knowing this, you are advised to perform these activities 5 to 6 days a week (2). Be sure to check in with your trainer and doctor.
The weight loss principle is to burn more calories than you consume. One way your body burns more calories is by performing more intense workouts. However, you need to know your intensity limit.
Aim to perform an easy to moderate cardiovascular activity for an extended duration to burn more calories. Mayo Clinic states that an individual weighing 163 pounds and running for an hour burns 606 calories (3). What you want to do is maintain your maximum heart rate between 60% and 75%.
The time you spend performing an activity also influences the number of calories you burn. For example, from our example above, the 163-pound individual burns 606 calories after running for an hour. Of course they will burn fewer calories if they run for half an hour (3).
It is worth noting that you must decrease the intensity when running for an hour. For example, a 163-pound individual ran at 5 mph (3). If they were to run for half an hour, they would increase their speed to increase the intensity and burn more calories.
There are many cardiovascular activities to choose from to aid weight loss. They range from brisk walking, swimming, running, rowing, cycling, etc. It is crucial to choose an activity you enjoy and one that you can do continually.
But for sustainable weight loss, you have to remember to lead a healthier lifestyle. Exercise will not do the trick alone. Instead, you have to implement other lifestyle changes such as:
- Getting adequate rest.
- Eating a calorie diet.
- Drinking enough water.
- Reducing stress levels.
- Practice portion control and mindful eating.
- Eat small but frequent meals (do not skip breakfast or any other meal).
How To Implement The FITT Principles In A Strength Training Program
As with aerobic conditioning, evidence shows that you can use the FITT principles in a strength training program. Here is an overview of how you can apply these principles for more muscular strength, mass, and endurance:
Strength training daily to build muscle is not recommended. Instead, evidence shows that lifting weights 2 to 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes is enough to bear fruits (3). Try to target all muscle groups by performing compound exercises.
One of the best ways to build muscle is by increasing the intensity of your workouts. Of course, in a strength training program you raise the intensity by lifting heavier weights. However, you can also increase your power by performing more reps or sets (3). The secret is to perform more sets and reps when using lighter weights and fewer reps and sets when using heavier loads.
The time you spend performing your strength training program is highly influenced by its intensity. The key is to reduce the time spent if the routine’s intensity is exceptionally high. You can increase the time if the intensity is low or moderate. Remember that the recommended time for vigorous activity is 75 minutes a week (3). If you do such a routine twice a week, each session should last 38 minutes or so (75 minutes/2).
You have to consider the best strength training exercises to align with your fitness goal. Typically, the most recommended strength training for effectiveness in building muscles includes deadlifts, resistance training, free weights, machine and hydraulic weight machine exercises.
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How To Apply The FITT Principles In A Stretching Routine
A stretching routine effectively fights muscle tension and stiffness and improves flexibility, balance, and posture. But again, for you to reap these benefits, you have to structure it correctly by using the FITT principles. Here is an overview of how you can use these principles in such a workout routine:
A stretching program should not be vigorous. It is classified as a low to moderate activity, which you are advised to perform for at least 150 minutes a week (6). This means you can do it 5 to 7 times a week. Doing this can also help you recover from other activities, relax, and reap several therapeutic benefits. But be sure to match the exercises with your fitness goals for better insight on how long you should perform them.
The fitness goal influences the intensity of stretching workouts. For example, if your stretching program is meant to improve flexibility, you are advised to maintain a low intensity. That is because most of your muscles may be stiff.
The aim is to perform low intense stretching that allows you to hold the stretch until you feel deep tension in the targeted muscles. Remember that you only stretch to your point of comfort. Release from the stretch if it starts to hurt.
The recommended time to perform a stretching routine is anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes (6). Remember to hold each move for 40 to 60 seconds, or as instructed by your trainer.
There are different types of stretching programs depending on your fitness goals. The most common are passive, static, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching techniques (6).
Opt for long-hold static and passive (or assisted) stretching if your goal is to improve flexibility. PNF stretching is mainly recommended for individuals who want to increase their range of motion (6).
The Bottom Line
When creating an exercise plan, you are advised to use the FITT principle. It is an acronym that stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type. These four components highly influence the success of your workout plan.
It is worth noting that applying these principles varies depending on the type of workout plan. That said, the intensity and frequency of a stretching routine will not be the same as that of a strength training program. Therefore, it would be best to talk to your trainer to help you apply this strategy to your regime.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- [FITT principle of exercise in the management of lifestyle-related diseases] (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Does aerobic exercise and the FITT principle fit into stroke recovery? (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Good to Great: Take Your Workout to the Next Level (2020, webmd.com)
- How fitting is F.I.T.T.?: A perspective on a transition from the sole use of frequency, intensity, time, and type in exercise prescription (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Importance of Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (FITT) in Physical Activity Assessment for Epidemiological Research (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)