Exercise Selection for General Fitness PART 1

~450 words; 3-5 minute read

PART 1 Understanding the SAID principle and the transfer of physiological adaptations and skills

        Whether you’re new to exercise or you are coming back to it after taking time off, choosing an exercise program can be challenging. There is a plethora of training modalities and exercises to pick from, each of which have their own strength and weaknesses. Before prescribing an exercise program, you must learn one of the most important principles of exercise physiology: the SAID principle (aka Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands)

        The SAID principle states that the body’s adaptations to exercise are specific to the type of exercise/training modality being performed. Lifting weights will cause your muscles, tendons and ligaments to adapt and strengthen, while long distance running will elicit cardiovascular adaptations. However, these adaptations are not exclusive; there is such thing as cross-over or transfer. In relation to skill acquisition, the amount of transfer between two tasks is dependent on how structurally similar the two tasks are. This is also known as transfer of learning, or identical-elements theory (used in psychology and motor learning). The skills acquired from practicing field hockey may positively transfer to ice hockey because of their similarity in stick handling and eye-hand coordination. Whereas the skills acquired from soccer may not transfer over to ice hockey performance because of the differences in motor patterns/coordination (feet dexterity vs. stick handling) and environment (cleats on turf vs. skates on ice). There can also be negative transfer, where practicing task A interferes with our performance and learning of task B.


How does this relate to exercise?
Our body’s physiological response to exercise kind of works in the same way as skill acquisition and transfer, for example: though running/cycling is more efficient in producing cardiovascular adaptations (cardiac health, blood pressure, oxygen intake, etc), lifting weights can also produce the same adaptations when done with short rest periods and in a high-volume fashion. So it is fair to say that resistance training does not exclusively produce strength and hypertrophy adaptations, and that the degree of which it benefits our cardiovascular system (transfer) is based on variables such as how many reps we are performing per set, how much work we are doing each set and for how long, and also how long we rest in-between sets. Shorter rest times would more closely mimic endurance exercise modalities (cycling, running, low intensity exercises with minimal breaks), and therefore produce cardiovascular adaptations similar to endurance type activities. Knowing this information, the objective is then to choose exercises that 1) Will produce adaptations consistent with your fitness goals 2) Won’t interfere (concept of negative transfer) with the acquisition of your fitness goals 3) Will positively transfer well to your future fitness, diet or sport endeavors