The 7 Laws of Training – Getting the Most Out of Your Workouts

Woman Bench Pressing

With hundreds of workout routines available for us to choose from, it is important to choose a program that follows the seven laws of training and is suitable for our desired training outcomes. The seven laws of training were developed by Dr. Fred Hatfield. These laws outline the principles upon which optimal fitness is achieved. The seven laws are:

  1. The Principle of Individual Differences – We all have different genetics, thus we will all have different outcomes to exercise and training.
  2. The Overcompensation Principle – Our bodies respond to stress with overcompensated growth. For example, if we stress our muscles, our muscle fibers will grow in size.
  3. The Overload Principle – In order to increase physical performance, we must experience resistance great than what our bodies normally encounter.
  4. The SAID Principle – An acronym for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. Your body will specifically adapt to imposed stresses, so your training plan should specifically match your training objectives.
  5. The Use/Disuse Principle – “Use it or lose it.” If you stop stressing specific systems, your body will adapt to only be able to meet that lower stress level.
  6. The Specificity Principle – When you are training, start with general fitness training and as your competition or event gets closer, transition to highly specific training.
  7. The GAS Principle – An acronym for General Adaptation Syndrome. Our bodies go through 3 stages when a stress is introduced. First, the body is alarmed, then our bodies resist, and finally our bodies exhaust. Because our bodies experience trauma from the stress and exhaust energy reserves, the body must have a rest period after being trained.

Some workout programs may not follow every law. Let’s look at a popular training program and see how it compares. CrossFit is a high-intensity system that focuses on universal fitness and non-specific training. Famous for its workouts of the day, CrossFit daily workouts will typically result in a good full-body burn. Let’s use the  7 laws framework to analyze this non-rigid system.

The principle of Individual Differences – CrossFit does not tailor workouts to the individual.Overcompensation Principle – Most CrossFit workouts are group oriented and specify a weight to

The Overcompensation Principle – Most CrossFit workouts are group oriented and specify a weight to use, so already strong individuals may have an easier time completing a workout. As long as weights are adapted based on strength level, CrossFit can meet the criteria of this principle.

The Overload Principle – With its high-intensity workouts and emphasis on pushing yourself, the culture of CrossFit motivates people to overload themselves.

The SAID Principle – CrossFit is designed not to follow the SAID principle. The training objective of CrossFit is to not specify the training.

The Use/Disuse Principle – Workouts of the day are typically conducted 5 times per week and are designed to use every muscle at least every other day, this it follows this principle.

Specificity Principle – CrossFit does not specify training.

GAS Principle – Rest days are typically given 2 times per week. Depending on the CrossFit gym, muscle groups are broken up so that there is ample time for full recovery.

CrossFit meets 4 of the 7 training laws. Whatever your workout plan is, use the 7 laws to evaluate the training effectiveness of your program. If your workout program doesn’t meet all 7 laws, then adapt your plan until it does. For example, if you enjoy CrossFit but are also training for a 5k, then mix endurance training, sprints, and CrossFit into a 5 day a week program, rotating between the workouts and focusing more on running as the race gets closer.


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