FITT Principles for Fitness and Weight Loss: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type

FItt PrincipalsWe first mentioned using the FITT principals in our article about football training and soccer workouts. The FITT principals are Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. These simple rules apply to all forms of fitness and exercise.

  • Frequency: If you wish to progress you need to optimise the frequency of workouts; not too few, not so many that you over-train. Different activities require different fitness regimes. Weight training is a good example, as muscles can take several days to repair so cycling specific workouts is needed to increase frequency.
  • Intensity: The intensity is important to manage so that you work your body as hard as is required without over-training, risking injury or reducing competition fitness. Bruce Lee taught us to never train so hard that you are incapable of defending yourself the following day. Over-training not only slows fitness gains, it can make you less fit for action.
  • Time: The duration of workouts, the time, refers to the length of each fitness session. This is a topic of much debate. Some people swear by workouts which last just 10 minutes while pro athletes may spend eight hours a day exercising.
  • Type: The type is what you actually do. Lifting weights, jogging, sprint intervals, core training, functional training etc. To get really fit you should not be doing the same workout each session.

FITT is a form of fitness planning really. Rather than blindly charging into a new fitness program you should have an understanding of what your goals are and how they can be best achieved. These same rules apply to both professional athletes and those who are trying to lose weight. These four FITT rules should always be specified in a training program to avoid hitting a plateau, or over training, which are both detrimental to development.

For weight loss purposes you should aim to follow these FITT rules:

  • Frequency: Aim to exercise every day. If you are serious about losing weight don’t treat yourself to days, or whole weekends, off. For best results two workouts a day can be done. It is recommended to do a lighter cardio workout in the morning and an intensive one in the evening.
  • Intensity: Always build up intensity as your fitness levels improve. While today it is fashionable to talk about high intensity, Tabata and MetCon, in practice it is more important to start easy and work up. One rule for each workout is that you should sweat and feel out of breath with an elevated heart rate, on every workout.
  • Time: For weight loss around 45-60 minutes of activity a day is recommended. This can be split into two different workouts, such as a steady cardio session and a more intensive workout later in the day.
  • Type: For weight loss cardio tends to work best, and more intensive forms of cardio are better then less intensive (i.e. running and not jogging). However, your fitness levels will dictate what you can do. It is important to work the whole body, so do not just run or cycle, but instead do several different workouts throughout the week, some cardio based, some bodywegiht / weight training based.

A FITT program, whether for fitness or weight loss, should be approached with continuous improvement in mind. Set a plan with specific goals and log your workouts and progress. Keep a note of times taken, distance, weight lifted etc. for all your for exercises and workouts and note your progress. If you are not reaching your goals you will need to modify and improve the plan.

There should of course be a fifth rule of FITT – never giver up!

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