Said Principle

Why the Said Principle is important when designing your workout plan.

One of the most important concepts in strength training is the SAID Principle.

Question: What is the Principle of Specificity?

Answer: The SAID Principle or principle of specificity means that you get better at what you train.

Your body has a specific series of adaptations to the demands that you're imposing it to.

For example, If you want to build strength, then you'll need to lift weights heavy enough to allow you make gains in strength.

Have you been lifting for a while and not making some of the gains that you expect? If you've tried adjusting your training volume and have been using progressive overload, you might go back a step.

It is entirely possible that you're not training what you think.

SAID Principle

Strength training programs are based on your overall goals and the immediate goals that you have in front of you. In the long run, you might want to lose fat, tone and gain muscle and strength.

The most effective training for all those things is going to look significantly different, it's easier to break your goal up into segments.

Typically goals are broken down into "training blocks" of 4-6 weeks or phases. The goal of each session becomes aimed at that one particular goal.

Ex. If your goal is to build leg strength;

  • Pick a lower body exercise that will serve as a proxy for your strength.
  • Test your current abilities.
  • Based on your goal, decide on a rep range and number of sets.
  • After a predefined amount of time training an exercise, you can measure your ability to express that strength by retesting the same exercise.

Let's say that you got better but, not at what you expected. How do we measure your progress?

In collegiate football, they measure everything that they can including;

  • Flexibility
  • Scale weight
  • Body fat percentages
  • Vertical jump
  • Broad jump
  • Sprinting times (of various distances, commonly 10 and 40 yards in football)
  • Hang cleans (or other full body explosive strength tests)
  • Squatting maxes
  • Bench press maximums
  • How many times you can bench press 225 lbs
  • Lateral agility (commonly the 5-10-5 test)
  • Maneuverability (commonly using the "L-drill")

Millions of dollars, jobs and uprooting family lives are on the line every year. You better believe that standards are high.

What is an example of specificity? Let's look at a story from college football to help us learn the concept.

Why is the SAID Principle Important When Designing Your Own Workout Plan?

To demonstrate the importance of the SAID principle, let me tell you a story. It comes from my time playing football at The University of Missouri (2010-2013).

As the story goes, Coach Bryan Mann, an Associate Strength and Conditioning coach at the time, came to tell Coach Pat Ivey that the hang cleans were not improving vertical jumps as expected.

After a heated exchange, they eventually came to realize that in fact, Coach Mann was right.

Studying old texts on velocity-based strength training lead Coach Mann to surmise that hang cleans needed to be trained at a faster speed in order to produce gains in explosive strength. The new goal was to have athletes performing the hang clean at 1.53 m/s2, measured using an accelerometer.

Once the team was training explosive strength, vertical jumps started increasing again.

They were now training the thing that they wanted to improve.

The same lesson can apply to your strength training goals.

To Train for Strength (Low-Speed Strength)

Are you looking to perform your first pull-up or lift a human? That's strength.

  • Strength training involves longer rests, higher levels of effort and lower relative repetitions
  • 2-6 sets per exercise
  • ≤ 6 repetitions per set
  • 2-5 minutes of rest
  • ≥80-85% of 1 rep max

To Train for Endurance

Are you looking to improve your marathon time? Muscular endurance will be important to you.

  • Muscular endurance training involves shorter rests and repeated efforts
  • 2-3 sets per exercise
  • ≤30 seconds of rest
  • 12-25+ repetitions per set
  • ≤67% of 1 rep max

To Train for Muscle Growth (Hypertrophy)

Are you looking to grow your thighs, glutes, or biceps? You're looking for hypertrophy.

  • Muscular Hypertrophy training can involve high, moderate and low load training taken near failure.
  • 3-6 sets per exercise
  • 30-90 seconds of restor 2-3 minutes of rest
  • 6-12 or 8-20+ repetitions per set
  • 67-85% of 1 rep max

To Train for Power (High-Speed Strength)

Would you like to jump higher or throw farther? Training powerfly will do that.

  • Power training can involves moving various weights at high speeds.
  • 3-5 sets per exercise
  • 2-5 minutes of rest between sets
  • 1-5 repetitions per set
  • 30-90% of 1 rep max

You might disagree-different authors and texts provide different definitions and recommendations for training.

If you decide that you want to take a deeper look at your training, there are two things left to do:

  1. Establish baselines for yourself.
  2. Periodically test your performances relative to your baselines.

Decide What You Want to Measure

You get to define the goals that you want to work towards.

Let's say that you want to improve your mile time.

Once you’re clear on your goal(s), the next step is to figure out where you’re starting from. Spend some time observing what you’re doing now-before you start making changes, take a week to observe your eating, sleeping and training.

In our example, the first thing that you’re going to do is time yourself running a mile and take some notes:

  • What did you eat leading up to your run?
  • How did you sleep the night(s) before?
  • What was the weather like?
  • How much energy did you have before and during the run?
  • How long did it take for your heart rate to return to normal?

Track the minimum that you need to make a good decision. See if your training gets better. Remove measurements and see if you still get better. If you're able to continually improve, the things you removed didn't matter.

Here's How to Measure the SAID Principle in Your Training:

  • Choose a goal. Ex. Running.Track your mile time, resting heart rate and one-minute recovery time (what your heart rate is one minute after you've finished running).
  • Conduct experiments, trying out lifestyle and training changes, little bits at a time.
  • Only make a few changes at a time. Changing too many things will leave you wondering what worked.
  • Collect feedback on how your training is going. In training, we often spend time "testing our maxes after 4-16 weeks. When you test depends on the goal.
  • Look for bright spots and what's going well. Avoid a negativity bias.

Try to remember that you don’t need to measure everything, only enough information to change your decision-making process.

Did your mile time change?

Is your heart getting in better shape?

Maybe it's how you're running.


  1. Sheppard, Jeremy M, and N Travis Triplett. “Program Design for Resistance Training.” Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th ed., Human Kinetics, pp. 439–468.

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Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.