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The Variation Principle

The Variation Principle is the Foundation of Successful Training Programs
      The Variation Principle suggests that minor changes in training regimens yield more consistent gains in sport performance. Training programs for virtually every sport include variations in intensity, duration, volume, and other important aspects of practice.

      The most well known method of practice variability concerns training in phases. Typically, an annual sports training program includes phases of training for conditioning, intensive sport specific work, in-season maintenance, and an off-season regimen.

      The Eastern European system of training using macrocycles (a year), mesocycles (about a month), and microcycles (a week) represents a well planned, detailed sports training regimen called periodization.

      Adjustments to practice trials are very effective when used for skill learning, as well as for fitness training. Changes in training situations are well supported by schema theory. See Training Variation

      This principle does not conflict with the Specificity and Overload Principles, although it can be confusing. Specificity  is about how the athlete's body adapts to the type of training used. Practice variability supports specificity because competitive conditions present different situations that demand altered responses. The Overload Principle implies that gradual and progressive changes in training must occur in order for improvement to take place.

Training Tips for Applying the Variation Principle
  • Design an annual sports training plan using specific phases
  • Plan incorporate multiple training activities to support and compliment the training schedule in achieving peak in training that coincides with important competitions.
  • In each week of each training phase, coordinate the intensity of fitness training activities with technical and tactical work to allow ample recovery time.
  • Adjust weight training exercises to a range that fits the training cycle (sets, reps, rest, and volume).
  • Aerobic training, may require adjustments to daily distance, speed, duration, recovery, and volume within the training cycle.
  • When signs of over training occurs, the coach and/or skater should change the content of the workouts by reducing intensity and allowing longer recovery time.


The Variation Principle in Sports Training The variation principle suggests that minor changes in training regiments yield more consistent gains in sport performance.

Training principles to improve athlete performance The specificity principle states that the more specific the training to the demands of the sport, the better; and the variation principle seemingly asserts that after athletes have trained hard for several days, they should train lightly to give their bodies a chance to recover. Over the course of the year use training cycles (periodization) to vary the intensity and volume of training to help your athletes achieve peak levels of fitness for competition. This principle also means that you should change the exercises or activities regularly so that you do not over stress a part of the body. Of course changing activities also maintains athletes interest in training.

PDF 8. ITF Level 2 Coaching Course - Principles of training - VariationWhen training is dull/boring there is a danger: of a lack of concentration, poor performance, mental burn out, more possibilities of injury.

Principles of Sports Training:

Mental Training:

Principles of Training Athletes:

Developing Course Materials:


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:


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