Unique Workout Habits: The F.I.T.T. Principle

The F.I.T.T. Principle is a concept used by our personal trainers at NLF as a means to keep workouts unique and varied. This concept, and the variations it provides, has several purposes:

  • Helps to lower the risk of injury
  • Lowers the likelihood of hitting plateaus (where further development becomes difficult)
  • Helps keep workouts fresh and interesting


F.I.T.T. stands for: Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.

  • Frequency – How often you should perform a particular exercise (e.g. how many days a week)
  • Intensity – How hard you should lift or perform a particular exercise (e.g. resistance/weight, speed, tempo, etc.)
  • Time – How much time you should spend on a particular exercise in any given session (e.g. 30 – 45 minutes on cardio, 1 hour on a muscle group, etc.)
  • Type – What kind of exercise you should perform for a particular muscle group or movement

For those who are looking to lose weight or get in better shape overall, follow these guidelines to increase the productivity of your workouts!



Cardio – At least 3 sessions a week is suggested; 5 to 7 sessions a week is even better. The more often you can push yourself, the faster your cardiovascular abilities will improve. However, it’s not recommended to perform much more often than this, as you risk wearing yourself out.

Strength/Resistance – 3 to 5 sessions of full-body exercise a week is suggested. If your sessions are targeting a specific muscle group only, you can perhaps perform twice this many. In any event, you want to make sure you give each muscle group a day to rest between sessions, so as not to increase the risk of injury.


Cardio – Low to moderate intensity is advised for most individuals starting out. Keep to a lower heart rate zone. The harder you push yourself, the less time you’ll be able to spend exercising.

Keep to a reasonable tempo to increase the amount of time you can spend. More experienced individuals should try to maintain a higher heart rate zone in order to see benefits.

You’ll need to know what your maximum heart rate is in order to determine an appropriate amount of intensity.

  • To find your maximum heart rate, use the following formula:
  • 220 – your age = maximum heart rate
  • If you are less experienced with cardio, you should aim for 55 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate.
  • If you are more advanced, aim for 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heat rate.
  • Don’t try to go above 80 percent of your maximum heart rate unless you are very advanced!

Strength – Don’t kill yourself! Injuring yourself is all too easy if you ignore the signs your body sends you. Don’t lift more weight than you can handle just because it seems like the most obvious way to push yourself.

If you find yourself struggling, there’s a number of ways you can switch up your workout to try to compensate. Many of the alternate methods work well with lighter weights, too.

  • Increase workload by increasing the amount of weight you lift, forcing your muscles to work harder. Be careful not to overdo it, though.
  • Increase workload by increasing the number of sets and/or reps you perform, forcing your muscles to work longer. Don’t be afraid to use lighter weights when doing this.
  • Increase workload by decreasing rest times between sets, limiting the amount of time your muscles have to recover.
  • Increase workload by slowing down the motions of each exercise, forcing each muscle to work longer, and distributing the work more evenly amongst a muscle group.


Cardio – The amount of time to perform depends somewhat on your conditioning level. If you are new to cardio training, start with 20 – 30 minutes or so, and work up.

Individuals with better cardio conditioning should aim for 45 minutes to an hour. Remember, the 30 – 45 minutes need to be performed consecutively—any less than this shouldn’t be considered a “full session”!

If you can’t last for a full 30 minutes, consider doing a less demanding activity, or lowering your pacing so you can go longer. Also, any sessions over an hour are probably not going to provide much extra benefit to most people.

Strength – At least 30 – 45 minutes in the weight room is recommended. This should give you ample time to perform multiple sets of exercises on each muscle group you are targeting.

If you are spending less time than this, then it’s possible that you are perhaps not working hard enough to get any significant benefit. Of course, if you are only targeting one specific muscle group for your workout session, you may not need the full 45 minutes.


Cardio – You want to perform exercises which have large motions and use large muscle groups, or multiple muscle groups at once. This includes activities like running, stair-climbing, bicycling, elliptical, or swimming.

When starting off, you should try to stick with exercises that are low-impact, like the elliptical or bicycle, as high-impact exercises are more likely to cause injury if you’re untrained—especially for the long periods of time you’ll need to see maximum benefit.

Strength – You should start with basic exercises that challenge your balance. By improving your balance, you’ll improve your entire foundation, which will in turn make more advanced (and strenuous) exercises easier to perform, and lower your risk of injury from bad form.

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