FITT Principle – What is it and what does it mean?

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FITT Principle – What is it and what does it mean?

Coaches and athletes across all sports need to know about the FITT principle.

The FITT principle is a brief guide on how often you should train (Frequency), how hard you should train (Intensity), what type of training you should be doing (Type) and how long you should be training for (Time).

The FITT principle stands for:

F – Frequency

I – Intensity

T – Time

T – Type

In this article, we discuss the four different FITT principles along with sporting examples of how they are used.

Enjoying this article? You may also be interested in our Sports Coaching Learning Centre where you can find more articles on sports coaching development and techniques.

Why is the FITT principle important?

The FITT principle is used as a guide to creating a fitness programme and a method to improve the fitness or skill levels of an athlete.

Managers, sports coaches, fitness trainers and individuals use the FITT principle to make adaptions to their fitness programmes to increase either the frequency of training, intensity, time or the type of training. 

If you want to learn even more, our article on periodisation provides more detail on how to create a fitness training programme. In the post, we explain even more about how the FITT principle can be used long term and how to create a training programme using macrocycles, mesocycles and microcycles.

Frequency

The first part of the FITT principle is Frequency. 

This means how often a person should train over a set time. This may be training twice a week or five times a week.

Some athletes completing a fitness programme are advised to gradually increase the frequency of training sessions over time. For example, the London Marathon training plan for a beginner starts with exercising two to three days a week at the start of the programme to four days a week frequency towards the end of the plan. You can read more on this here.

A personal trainer or sports coach may break this down further by stating how often should you complete different types of training sessions. For example, a fitness trainer may plan for three cardiovascular training sessions a week (You can learn more on that in our article on training methods) and then may plan one strength & conditioning session for another day. Will we explain the types of training later on in the article.

To improve fitness, an athlete should aim to gradually increase the time they exercise. 

Intensity

The second part of the FITT principle determines how hard you should train during each training session.

To improve certain areas of fitness, an athlete needs to train at a specific level of effort. This can be measured using training zones (we have an article on heart rate and training zones here).

For example, to work on the anaerobic system, an athlete is recommended to train at 80% or above using their maximum heart rate. Our article on heart rates and training zones explains more about why athletes should train according to their heart rate and how to measure their maximum heart rate.

A sporting example could be performing hill sprints once a week (which would be high intensity) and then completing an hour bike ride at a gentle pace two days a week (low/medium intensity).

An alternative example would be an athlete who is hoping to lose weight. Research suggests using a lower training intensity to burn fat. This is between 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate.

Time

This is how long should you exercise. 

To improve fitness, an athlete should aim to gradually increase the time they exercise. 

Returning to the earlier example of training for a marathon, a runner would need to gradually increase the length of their sessions over time. This would enable physical adaptions to take place as well as reduce the risk of injury.

As the training period progresses to several months, sessions should be longer to increase the distance the athlete completes each session. However, it is important to note that it may not be wise to increase the length of each session an athlete trains.

The time principle of FITT also applies to any athlete training using interval sprints. An example of this would be a sprinter completing 5-second interval sprints. After four weeks of training, the athlete may then decide to increase this to 6-second intervals.

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Type

The Type principle means the type of training an athlete is taking part in.

Some examples of the different types of training include:

  • Continuous training
  • Fartlek training
  • Interval training
  • Weight training
  • Flexibility training
  • Strength training
  • Circuit training

You can read more about the different types of training here.

A sporting example of the Type principle could be that of a swimmer. The swimmer may participate in two long-distance swims a week (which would be continuous training) as well as one weight session and a circuit training session.

Another sporting example could be a triathlete. The triathlete may complete two swimming sessions, a run and two long-distance bike rides a week. This would involve the athlete completing different types of exercises/sports throughout a training programme

Mixing different types of training can also benefit athletes as they will be training using different types of exercise. Otherwise, athletes could become easily bored doing the same training session.

Summary of the FITT Principle

In this article, we have explained the four principles of FITT:

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Time
  • Type

We have also explained why the FITT principles are important and provided sporting examples of the FITT principle.

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