The ‘F.I.T.T.’ principle is an acronym that stands for ‘Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time’. It outlines the directives for getting the maximum out of an exercise program. It also helps overcome plateaus (a phase where you stop seeing gains in your workouts) and prevents overuse injuries (injuries that occur due to repeated use of the same set of joints).
After Frequency of workouts, the next element in F.I.T.T. is Intensity. Intensity describes how hard your body works during exercise. Put in other words, intensity is the amount of effort expended in a particular workout. People use words like easy, hard, or very hard to describe the effort quality of their workout. Other adjectives to explain exertion are light, moderate or vigorous. To be effective in exercise and to avoid injuries, one must progress from light to moderate and then to vigorous.
Not many understand that the Intensity of exercise is linked to its Frequency. If the intensity is high, it cannot be repeated often in the week. The muscular system needs time to recover – to deal with fatigue and adaptation (physiological changes to occur at the cellular level). It is important to gauge intensity as it forms the main reference to measure effort objectively.
In cardiovascular exercises, such as jogging, cycling, swimming, etc., the number of heartbeats during peak exercise give an indication of intensity. The best way to know this is to use a heart rate monitor. Roughly speaking, increasing speed from a brisk walk to a jog, then to a run and ultimately to a sprint, shifts a person from low to moderate and then to a high and very high intensity of exercise. Sprint training using an Interval-technique is considered as the highest intensity of training in cardiovascular exercise.
A certified fitness professional can help you calculate your target heart rate. The target heart rate, a percentage of your maximum heart rate, is the zone that’s best for you, taking into consideration your age, exercise and medical history. Most people don’t own heart rate monitors; cost and lack of awareness are reasons. So, instead of counting heart rate, you can assign a number to your effort, on an effort rating scale. On an ‘effort scale’ of 1-10, where 1 is ‘easy’ and 10 is ‘max all-out effort’, seek to achieve a rating between 4-8, depending on the intensity planned.
Continuously maintaining this target heart rate is useful for beginners and those aspiring to participate in 5K, 10K or marathons, cyclothon or long-distance swimming (swimathon). The intensity most appropriate for this group of people is low. Spiking up the difficulty level of cardio by intermittently changing speed and gradient will force the heart to work at a higher intensity. You will achieve a higher average on the target heart rate. This method, of moderate to high intensity interval training, is suggested to people who have gathered sufficient experience in cardio training.
When it comes to stretching, remember to move slowly into every stretch until you encounter a feeling of tension in the muscle. Then hold the position for 20-30 seconds to help elongate it.
As regards weight training, different parameters apply. People wrongly assume that breathlessness is a sign of intensity. And so, they are misguided to have a minimal rest period between 2 weight training sets. People are wrongly told that results are far better this way. Actually, the contrary is true. Breathlessness at the start of a set will make you work harder for the same load. This approach will not produce the desired effect of progression. To increase effort/intensity, you need to augment the load lifted. Ensure that you start a new set only after your panting has ceased and you are able to breathe easy and effortlessly.
The Intensity in weight training is known by the number of repetitions carried to failure in a set. A certified fitness trainer can help you decide the maximum number of repetitions you should be doing. This is referred to as Rep Max (RM). Once this is done, you select the greatest amount of weight that you can manage to do the exercise with complete range of motion, those specific number of times (e.g. 8 RM, 10 RM, etc.). Rep Max per set will depend on the exercising history and health considerations that fits the range. The general idea is to lift enough weight so that you can only complete the number of reps that have been chosen. Hitting muscular failure helps you build strength in the long run.
To ensure progression, you need to gradually increase your intensity of training. This is done by lifting heavier weights that lower the maximum number of repetitions per set.
Don’t take a back step on effort. Shine as you grind hard!
Senior Faculty (Exercise Science)
K11 Academy of Fitness Sciences
Fitness Icon Kaizzad Capadia
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