The 3 Fundamental Elements of a Training Program

While something as uniquely complex as training the Human body cannot be fully categorised into totally separate compartments, there are three elements of training that have proven useful to isolate in order to help with effective program design. Those elements are Intensity, Frequency and Volume, all of which play clear and distinctive roles within training programs of all kinds. Again, the variables involved in training may seem infinite and somewhat unquantifiable, at least to 100% accuracy, but the progress an athlete makes at their chosen discipline can be greatly maximised by implementing these fundamental elements of training.


Intensity is defined by the increase of the Challenge Factor experienced by your body systems, and thus exceeding the capability of current body adaptations. So, by this definition, an exercise is not Intense unless it challenges body systems beyond what they did when they were last challenged. Without Intensity the body is not given sufficient environmental stimuli to promote body adaptations. An example of an insufficient stimuli is performing the exact same exercise as the previous session with the same amount of weight, reps, sets, tempo, rest periods and technique. It may still feel hard, but it doesn’t provide any new environment and so doesn’t push body systems beyond current capabilities. Something about the training must increase the challenge factor. It could be different exercises, weights, reps, sets, tempo, rest periods or technique - but emphasis should always be placed on the Challenge Factor. It must be harder than ever for the target body systems, full stop. At the beginning of every workout ask yourself, “how will this session challenge my current capability?”


Frequency refers to how often a target body system is stimulated. Training a body part twice per week means that the body part experiences a training Frequency of two stimuli per week. Frequency is important because the body responds to the environment with Fluid Plasticity, which means it will adapt more to stimuli it receives more, and adapt less to stimuli it receives less, a sliding scale of adaptation depending on how often (and it what form) it receives environmental stimuli (one stimuli per week considered minimum for weight training). As you adapt to training received in the gym, so will you to performing eight hours of sitting on your butt at work. However, more does not always mean more adaptation if the stimuli becomes too demanding for body systems. This means that Frequency, like with Intensity and Volume, must be balanced against the other elements appropriately. So Frequency can only be increased alongside one of the other elements of training, Intensity or Volume, not both. The same goes for the others; only two can be kept high long term.