use SAID program to improve your training results

Applying the SAID Principle to Your Training

Are you putting in the effort in your workouts but not getting the results you deserve? Your lack of progress may well have to do with the make-up of your exercise program.

Unless your training regimen is founded upon the SAID principle, it’s likely that you’re going to end up spinning your wheels. In this article, we discover how you can utilize this scientific principle to fast track your training gains.

What is the SAID Principle?

SAID is an acronym that stands for…


The SAID principle simply states that the way you train is the way you will perform. This includes the angles at which you train, the muscle contractions you impose and the speed at which you train. Your training, then, needs to be in harmony with your desired outcome.

A simple example of the SAID principle in action can be seen by comparing the training of a sprinter with that of a marathon runner. The sprinter will train with explosive plyometric exercises that are of short duration, performing exercises will simulate the actions his body goes through during the 10-20 seconds that he is actually performing a sprint. As a result, he will improve his sprint performance.

The marathon runner, on the other hand, will focus on long distance endurance type training in order to build up his running time and to improve his cardiovascular response. The majority of his training will be spent running long distances. There would be little point in his training at a 1600-meter distance.

Now, if you took the sprinter and placed him on the start line of a marathon, he would probably not perform that well, just as the marathoner would more than likely be less than impressive as a 100-meter sprinter. This is the SAID principle in action.

Implications for Training

In order to be able to apply the SAID principle, you need to know what the end goal of your training is.

  • Do you want to get bigger muscles?
  • Is your goal to improve your vertical jump for basketball?
  • Do you want to lose 5 inches around your waist?
  • Are you set on smashing a baseball out of the stadium?

Until you identify what you are training for, you cannot select the exercises that will get you there.

The SAID principle tells us that in order to achieve the greatest gains in our ability to perform a chosen task, most of our training time should be spent performing that task or tasks that are extremely similar to it. That means that a swimmer is better off swimming than he is running on the treadmill. In fact, a 1975 study showed that swimmers showed no improvement in VO2 max when running the treadmill.

If you are training in the gym or at home for a sport, you obviously want the effort you expend there to pay off on the field. Yet, the first word in the SAID principle is specific. Unless your exercise mimics your sports performance exactly, there will be a drop off in effect.

According to Sports Scientist Matthew Wright, 100 hours of endurance running will produce a similar effect to just 10 hours of actual cycling training for a cyclist. In other words, 90% of the effect will be wasted!

So, how does all of this actually affect your exercise choice? Well, if you are basketball player, the majority of your training time should be spent on the court. When you train in the gym or at home, you should concentrate on exercises that simulate as closely as possible the ways your body moves when it is on the court. This may involve an emphasis on plyometric type movements, squat jumps, and explosive stop/start sprinting.

Resistance Training Applications

Anaerobic exercise, such as performing bodyweight or weight resistance exercise, produces specific adaptations in the body which are very different from the adaptations produced by aerobic exercise. However, within the category of anaerobic training, there are specific ways to perform an exercise that will result in different outcomes. If, for example, you are training to increase the size of a muscle you will want to train it differently than the person who is training for maximum strength.

This is an area where a lot of guys get mixed up in the gym. Simply put, they forget what their training goal is. Often, those with the goal of building muscle get caught up in the obsession with lifting more and more weight, with the result that their exercise form breaks down.

The loss of form and the focus on weight is counterproductive to the muscle builder. In order to produce a hypertrophic (muscle building) response, the weight needs to be controlled by the target muscle and the overload should not exceed 80% of the trainer’s one rep max. The SAID principle assures us that sloppy form and the obsession with weight will not get the desired results.

The SAID principle also makes it clear that there is little carry-over benefit between a strength training lift and a skill on the sports field. There will be some carryover but not as much as you might think. Think of a football linebacker.

You might think that the best use of a linebacker’s training time would be on heavy lifting, such as the bench press and squat. However, the SAID principle tells us just the opposite; the majority of his functional training should be spent in explosive activities on the field, not in the gym.

Of course, a football linebacker needs to be strong, so there is a need for exercises like the bench press. But the bench press is not the same as a block on the field. If he is following the SAID principle, the athlete will spend around 70% of his training time on the field, and just 30% doing resistance training.

The Best of Both Worlds

Many skills that you perform on the field can be replicated with resistance exercises, with the added bonus that you are able to add extra resistance. The effect is that you will be getting stronger in the specific range of motion that you use on the field. Resistance bands are an excellent means of facilitating this response.

Resistance bands allow you to replicate many of the moves involved in sports, including a golf swing, baseball strike, and boxing punch. In addition, you are able to progressively increase your resistance over your training cycle. This makes using resistance bands to simulate your sports action a great way to apply the SAID principle.

Another exercise, which at first glance looks like a great adjunct exercise, is sled dragging. If you are using this exercise for fat burning, endurance training or improving your V02 max, it is a smart option. But it’s not so good as a sprint training exercise.

Your goal as a sprinter is to improve speed, yet sled dragging will slow you down. It will also cause your dynamic movements to change; your normal sprint action will be altered. When we apply the SAID principle we see that sled dragging will not enhance sprint performance.


The SAID principle is the foundational principle of exercise programming. It states that the body will specifically adapt to what is being asked of it. It’s why Usain Bolt is very unlikely to win the Boston Marathon – he’s not trained to do so.

The SAID Principle, though simple, has profound effects on the way you train. Here are the key take-home points:

  • Know specifically what your training goal is
  • If you are training for sport, spend as much time actually doing the skill as possible
  • When training for a skill in the gym, choose exercises that simulate the movement as closely as possible
  • If training for muscle size, don’t get obsessed with moving weight (a powerlifting outcome) but focus on muscle contraction

How do you apply the SAID principle in your training? For example, how much of your training time do you spend on skills performance as opposed to auxiliary exercises? Let us know in the comments section below.


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