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Planning An Exercise Program

When designing an aerobic or strength training exercise program, fitness professionals, such as personal trainers and gym instructors, invariably use the F.I.T.T. principle as their starting point. The good news is that with a little bit of knowledge anyone can use this principle in designing an exercise program that will help them to become progressively fitter and stronger, and help them lose or control their weight.

If you want to start an exercise program or take your current routine to the next level, you'll find the information and tips in this article just what you need.

What is the F.I.T.T. Principle?

The F.I.T.T. principle is a basic philosophy of what is necessary to gain a training affect from an exercise program.

Specifically, the letters F.I.T.T. stand for:

? Frequency
? Intensity
? Type
? Time

Here's what each of these four things stand for:

Frequency refers to the number of times you exercise. For those new to training or those just wanting to lose weight, frequency is usually calculated within the context of a week. For example, your plan might be to walk 3, 4 or 5 times per week.

Intensity is the level of effort you put into each exercise. For aerobic exercises intensity is usually measured in terms relative to your maximum heart rate while the intensity of strength exercises is measured in terms of the amount of weight you use, the number of repetitions and sets you perform, and the amount of rest time you take in between sets.

Time is simply how long you exercise during each session. For example, 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling, etc) per session.

Type refers to whether you do aerobics or strength training during your exercise sessions and the specific exercises you select for each.

The F.I.T.T. principle and Weight Loss

Why are the basic F.I.T.T. principle concepts important if you are planning an exercise program to lose weight?

They're important because they help you to:

? Start with the right exercises and intensity.
? Measure your progress.
? Plan your exercise to maximize long term weight loss.

Using the F.I.T.T. principle isn't just important in your initial exercise planning, it is also crucial to your long term planning and weight loss and fitness success.

By increasing or varying any or all parts of the F.I.T.T. principle elements, you can:

1. Increase the number of calories you burn during each exercise session.

2. Improve your cardiovascular fitness and strength.

3. Help minimize overuse/over training injuries.

4. Build variety into your program.

F.I.T.T Principle Guidelines

Here are some basic F.I.T.T. principle guidelines for both aerobics and strength training to help you plan an exercise program.

Please keep in mind that these examples represent general guidelines only for those of us with low to moderate fitness levels. Use these guidelines to establish a program and then customize your program to fit your specific needs and goals as your experience and knowledge increases.

And remember to always consult your doctor before commencing any new exercise program and consult a fitness professional (personal fitness trainer, gym instructor, etc) if you require help.

Basic Aerobic Training Guidelines

Frequency: Exercise between 3 and 5 times per week.

Intensity: Maintain a heart rate of between 60 - 80% of your Maximum Heart Rate.

Your Maximum Heart Rate can be calculated using a Maximum Heart Rate test conducted by a fitness or health professional or estimated using the formula:

For Women (230 - Age = Maximum Heart Rate).For Men (220 - Age = Maximum Heart Rate).

The best and most practical way to monitor your heart rate is with a heart rate monitor.

Time: Those of us with low levels of fitness should maintain our heart rates in our selected target zone for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes, excluding warm-up and cool down periods.

Those with a good fitness base should exercise for between 20 and 60 minutes in their target heart rate zone.

Type: Exercises that involve as many muscles as possible and allow a relatively consistent level of intensity are best. Good examples of these include:

? Walking
? Jogging
? Cycling
? Swimming
? Rowing
? Hiking

Basic Strength Training Guidelines

Frequency: Exercise each body part 1 to 2 times per week. For lower intensity workouts or for those who have trained for some time, try exercising each body part 2 to 3 times per week. You can exercise different parts of the body on different days (called split routines) or you can train your whole body at each workout.

Intensity: Choose a weight that can be performed 10 to 15 times (repetitions) per set.

When you can perform more than 15 repetitions without rest, increase the weight slightly for your next workout.

If you are training your whole body each time you exercise, only do 1-2 exercises for each muscle group and perform 1-3 sets of each exercise.

If you employ a split routine try performing no more than 2-3 exercises per muscle group and 2-4 sets of each exercise.

Time: Beginners usually benefit from exercise sessions that last between 30 to 45 minutes. As you become fitter and stronger, you may want to increase your total workouts from 45 to 90 minutes. For most of us, particularly those with limited time, sessions of 60 minutes are typically ideal.

With rest between sets, try not to take longer than 2-3 minutes as a beginner. As you get fitter, try to reduce this time to 1 minute or less.

Type: Generally speaking, there are two types of exercises for muscles, compound exercises and isolation exercises.

Compound exercises use more than one muscle group to perform and are the most effective for those interested in losing weight. Examples of compound exercises include Bench press, Push-ups, Squats, Shoulder press and Deadlifts.

Isolation exercises use only one muscle group to perform and include Bicep curls, Tricep extensions, Leg extensions, etc.

For those new to resistance training, compound exercises are best. Once you have a base level of strength you can add isolation exercises to your workouts for variety and to help shape individual muscles.


No matter what your goal, current fitness level or exercise experience, you can employ the F.I.T.T. principle to plan an effective long term exercise program.

By using the guidelines above, you too can plan an effective regime that will help you to improve your cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility and of course help you lose weight.

Using the F.I.T.T. principle in your exercise planning will ensure that you achieve your weight loss goals as efficiently as possible. Not only will you achieve your goals in the shortest possible time, you'll also enjoy your routine more because of the variety built into it. If that weren't enough, you'll also minimize the chances of experiencing annoying and painful overtraining injuries that can stall or stop your weight loss and fitness progress.

While anyone with the basic knowledge provided above can plan their own workout, if you are new to exercise or have an existing injury or ailment, we suggest you consult a personal trainer or other fitness professional. As well as designing a personal plan for you using the method above, they can help you rehabilitate or work around existing injuries, teach you the right techniques for each exercise in your program and advise you of when to modify your plan to take advantage of your new fitness levels.

For all your weight loss and healthy lifestyle needs, visit and become a happier, healthier you.

Scott Haywood



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