exercise prescription

Periodization 201: Training variation

Periodization 201: Training variation

Periodization, the systematic planning of exercise and athletic training. It is one of the cornerstones of high level sports and physical performance and without it, training has no context and no direction.

This series will cover the big picture as well as dive into the small nuances of what makes periodization such an important topic to learn for any aspiring strength & conditioning coach or high performance trainer. 

Exercise Selection for General Fitness PART 2


~600 Words ; ~5 minute read

Carrying on from part 1 on the topic of exercise selection for general fitness, we will next talk about the goals of general fitness and what exercises we can pick from to achieve those goals in a safe and efficient manner.
Although fitness goals differ from person to person, it is safe to say the goals of increasing general fitness are as follows:

1) Improve body composition via increasing muscle mass (for functionality and aesthetics) and decreasing body fat (for aesthetics and overall cardiovascular/joint health, reducing the risk of disease and mortality)

2) Increase cardiovascular endurance (the general population wants to get tired less easily, walk and run for longer distances, be able to go hiking, etc)

3) Fix posture and muscle imbalances (reduce current soreness and pain, reduce risk of acquiring lower back, shoulder and knee pain in the future)

4) Build a good muscle and movement foundation (which allows people to do what they want to do with their body, play the sports they want to play)

5) Increase confidence and self-efficacy (body re-composition/physique changes and the elimination of debilitating pain often comes with an increased feeling of self-confidence and self-efficacy; the driver behind motivation and habits, and an indicator of future success)


Types of Exercise Modalities and Their Benefits:

Resistance Training Exercises (Barbells, Dumbbells, Kettlebells)

  1. Allows for performing exercises in a full range of motion
  2. Very effective in increasing muscle mass and neuromuscular efficiency (the body's ability to recruit the correct muscles in order to produce force and stabilize structures of the body)
  3. Allows the trainee to easily track progress (if the weight on the barbell or dumbbell is increasing, you're most likely getting stronger, gaining more muscle; making progress!)
  4. Resistance training exercises often requires the trainee to use several different muscles and move several joints to perform the movements, this is very effective for ingraining proper motor patterns and learning to use your body as a whole. It is also great for hypertrophy gains and expending calories (for body recomposition purposes)

Cardiovascular Exercises (Running, Swimming, Cycling, Hiking, etc)

  1. Little to no equipment needed, convenient
  2. Improve muscular endurance (light loaded repetitive tasks in your daily life will be easier to perform)
  3. Effective in increasing cardiovascular endurance (walking to the bus stop won't get you feeling like you just ran a marathon anymore!)
  4. Better cardiovascular health, reduced risk of disease (decreased heart rate, blood pressure, LDL + total cholesterol)
  5. Sets a cardiovascular endurance foundation needed in order to perform resistance training exercises and/or play sports

Body-weight Exercises

  1. Little equipment needed, body-weight exercises can be done virtually anywhere there is open space
  2. Depending on previous exercise experience and current bodyweight, it can be a good introduction to resistance training exercises
  3. Improves body kinesthetic awareness (where your limbs are in space, where they are relative to other parts of your body)
  4. Often used as stability and isometric exercises for the core muscles (rectus abdominis, diaphragm, transverse abdominis)

Stability/Resistance Band Exercises (Resistance bands, Bosu ball, Exercise Stability Ball)

  1. Increases muscle and joint stabilization
  2. Often used as an exercise modality to rehabilitate muscular or joint injuries 
  3. Can be used to work the core muscles


As we covered in Part 1, the benefits of these exercise modalities are not exclusive. There is definitely a degree of crossover (eg: Resistance training with short rest times will give benefits similar to cardiovascular training).

In PART 3 of this series, we will put everything together and learn how to design an efficient exercise program. 

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