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The F.I.T.T. Principle


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The F.I.T.T. Principle

The F.I.T.T. principle is a basic philosophy of what is necessary to gain a training effect from an exercise program. F.I.T.T. stands for Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time. We will apply these concepts to the two types of training, Cardoirespiratory Training and Resistance Training, to educate you on what is needed to gain training benefits.  Please keep in mind these are general guidelines for individuals of low to moderate fitness levels. There are as many ways to train as there are people doing the training.  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.

Cardiorespiratory Training

Also called Aerobic Conditioning, which  means it  requires oxygen to sustain the activity.


Exercise a minimum of 3 times per week. Little additional training benefits occur when the frequency is greater than 5 times per week when compared to the amount of effort involved.


You must maintain your heart rate in the Target Heart Rate Zone for the required time to gain benefits. Your Target Heart Rate Zone is determined by your fitness level and your age. Low fitness individuals will attain results training at 50% to 70% of their maximum heart rate as their Target Heart Rate Zone. Higher fitness individuals will train at 70% to 85% of their maximum heart rate as their Target Heart Rate Zone.

A simple way to determine your maximum heart rate is to use the following formula:
220 - age = Maximum Heart Rate

Maximum Heart Rate

An example for a 40 year old person would be as follows:

220 - 40 = 180 beats per minute (Maximum Heart Rate)

A Low Fitness Person would train at 50% to 70% of 180 beats per minute which is 90 to 126. They should  keep their heart rate between 90 and 126 beats per minute for the required time of the exercise. A Higher Fitness Person would train at 70% to 90% of 180 beats per minute which is 126 to 162. They should keep their heart rate between 126 to 162 beats per minute for the required time of the exercise.

To monitor your heart rate you can take your pulse with your first two fingers at various locations:

  •  With palm up, find your pulse at your wrist on the thumb side about 1 inch below the joint.
  • With palm up at the elbow find your pulse to the inside of the biceps tendon at the joint.
  • At the side of the neck below the ear, next to the windpipe is a main artery to the head.

Knowing your heart rate is important for three reasons:

It assures you are training at the right intensity to gain benefit from the exercise.

It also assures you are exercising at a safe intensity.

It can tell you the amount of time you exercised in your target heart rate zone.

Monitoring your heart rate while exercising is especially important if you are at a low fitness level and/or have many risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Finding your pulse can be very inconvenient while performing an exercise. It is difficult trying to locate your heart beat  and accurately count the beats per minute while you are exercising, also you may not have a time clock in front of you. You would also have to re-take your heart rate every time you changed the intensity of the exercise to make sure you are still in the safe training zone. This would apply when doing interval training and programs that vary the intensity level.  

Healthgoods strongly recommends using a Heart Rate Monitor.  These devices are easy to use and comfortable to wear. They allow you to program your Target Heart Rate Zone and you are then alerted  when you are training at too high or too low an intensity. Heart rate monitors also have various features such as monitoring the time you are in the safe and effective training zone. These devices allow you to concentrate on your exercise while you have a safe and effective workout.


It is necessary to maintain your proper intensity (target heart rate zone) for a duration that will create a training benefit. Low Fitness individuals should maintain their heart rates in their target zone for a minimum of 12 to 15 minutes.  This does not include warm-up or cool down periods. As your fitness level increases the exercise time in your target heart rate zone can be extended to 20 - 60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity. Unless you are a competitive athlete, training beyond 60 minutes in your target heart rate zone provides little additional  training benefits for the amount of effort exerted. If you are overweight however, long training sessions at a low intensity (50% to 60% of maximum heart rate) utilize fat as an energy source and are helpful in a weight/fat reduction program.

Example For a 38 Year Old Person


Choose an exercise that will involve as much muscle mass as possible.  In other words, exercises that use the whole body or the larger muscle groups such as the legs and/or the back.

  • Make sure the exercise is of a dynamic contracting nature that involves movement.(not isometric)
  • The exercise should be rhythmic to allow a consistent intensity.
  • The exercise should be capable of creating the proper training intensity.

Some examples of activities that create a constant heart rate response include: Walking, Running, Cycling, Swimming, Rowing, Hiking, Cross Country Skiing

Some examples of activities that produce varying intensity (intermittent training) include: Handball, Racquetball, Volleyball, Tennis, Soccer, Squash, Circuit Weight Training

Resistance Training

Also called anaerobic training which is a term to indicate oxygen isn't required. This is a simple explanation of a more complex metabolic system. In actuality oxygen does play a part in resistance training muscle metabolism through a process called oxygen debt. What happens during anaerobic training is the body uses glycogen storage in the muscle for immediate fuel during heavy exertion.  Oxygen is required to replace this fuel and therefore you are in oxygen debt until the exercise is finished and the energy storage is replenished through the process of respiration.


The frequency of training each body part varies with the amount of work done at each exercise session.  If you want to do more work at each session then you would exercise less frequently as you will need more time to recuperate. If you do less work per body part at each session then you can train more frequently.  A factor in how often you will train depends on your ability to recuperate after your workout and be ready for the next workout.  This will be something you will determine on a personal basis.  It is better to be consistent in your workouts and make steady progress than to overtrain and be discouraged from inconsistent and poor training results.

A general guideline would be to do each body part 1 to 2 times per week or every 4-5 days if you are a beginner or are doing high load workouts. For lower intensity workouts or higher trained individuals you could try doing each body part 2 to 3 times per week. You can do different areas of the body on different days or you can train your whole body at each workout only doing a few exercises for each body part.


Intensity is more complicated to measure in resistance training than in Cardiorespiratory training. The main aspect of intensity is workload.  The amount of work you do during a workout is your workload.  Your workload can be measured by three components. One component is the amount of weight you lift during an exercise. Another component is the amount of repetitions and sets you performed of that exercise.  A repetition is one complete movement of an exercise and a set is the number of repetitions an exercise is performed before stopping.  The third component is the length of time it took you to complete the training session.  Therefore we can summarize by saying the workload or intensity of the training session can be measured by how much weight was lifted, the number of repetitions that was completed,  the number of sets of the exercises that were performed and the amount of time it took to complete the workout. You can also determine your workload for just one exercise as well as an entire workout.  So it is plain to see that any combination of lower weights, less sets and repetitions and more time will decrease your intensity and by increasing weight, sets, repetitions and less workout time will increase intensity.

Choose a weight that can be performed 8-12 times (repetitions), or if you are a true beginner perform 10-15 repetitions before momentary muscle exhaustion prevents you from doing another repetition.  This is called training to failure and is important because as you are doing your repetitions your muscle will start to fatigue and the last few repetitions will be at maximum effort or close to maximum contractions. These last few repetitions are what will create a training effect and make changes in the muscle in the shortest period of time.

When you get to a point where you perform more than 12 repetitions then you add weight the next time you do the exercise.  If you do less than 8 repetitions on your exercise then you do less weight next time and work your way back up to 12 repetitions before you add more weight.  It's that simple!

If you are training your whole body in one exercise session then choose 1-2 exercises for each muscle group and perform 1-3 sets of each exercise.  When you do a split-routine or do different muscle groups on different days then you can perform 2-4 exercises per muscle group and 2-4 sets of each exercise. Please be cautious of doing too many sets and exercises.  If you train your sets to muscular failure there is no reason to do numerous sets to get results. You will see other people in the gym doing many sets at a sub-maximum intensity, this is inefficient and ineffective training.  They need to do many sets to get the same training effect you will get with less sets at the proper training intensity!


As a component of intensity and workload, time is important. As a beginner or intermediate trainer,  muscular endurance may not be well developed.  Therefore training too fast at the onset won't allow you to handle reasonable weights, and training too slow will not give you an efficient and high intensity workout. I recommend initially training at no more than 2-3 minutes in between sets of exercises.  As you become more trained you can try to get to 1 minute between sets and even 30 seconds on some of the assistance or lighter exercises. 


There are two types of exercises for muscle groups, main and assistance (minor). Basically, your main exercises involve the most muscle mass.  They usually involve more than one muscle group when exercising and you can use the greatest weight resistance with these exercises.  The assistance exercises isolate the muscle group by concentrating on the simple movement of that muscle group and eliminating or minimizing the involvement of other muscle groups. Have variety in your choice of exercises.  Don't do the same exercises the same way every time you train.  Variety will shock the body and won't allow it to get used to the same exercises.

Lets look at an example of the chest muscles.
A major or main exercise would be the bench press.  This exercise primarily involves the triceps (back of arms), shoulders and the chest muscles.  An assistance exercise would be a dumbbell fly or pec-deck exercise which minimizes the action of  the triceps, therefore isolating the chest muscles more.

If you are trying to change your body composition by gaining more lean muscle mass, then concentrate on the main exercises for muscle groups and do fewer assistance exercises.  This will stimulate the most muscle mass and create the greatest change in body composition in the shortest time. Utilizing the main exercises will also help to develop the body proportionally. Many individuals spend too much time and effort concentrating on specific muscle groups and will achieve less overall results then when using the same effort with more comprehensive exercises.

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