Whether you’re new to fitness or an avid gymgoer, you can apply the FITT principle to what you do. FITT stands for:

  • frequency
  • intensity
  • time
  • type

Each component works in tandem to help you reach your fitness goals.

This article will explore what the FITT principle is, along with how you can incorporate it into your workouts.

The FITT principle is a tried-and-true method of putting together an efficient workout plan.

It’s especially useful if you’re someone who thrives on structure, as you can think of the components as a set of rules to follow.

It’s also great for monitoring your exercise progress with cardiovascular activity and strength training.

One study even found that the FITT principle was useful in helping researchers and healthcare professionals create the right exercise regimen for people who had just had a stroke.

Let’s explore each component.

This refers to how often you exercise. The point is to meet your goals without overtraining the body.

  • When it comes to cardio: As a general rule of thumb, aim for a minimum of three cardio sessions per week. If you’re looking to lose weight, you might increase this number to five to six sessions.
  • When it comes to strength training: It’s recommended to do some sort of strength training three to four times per week. Strength training can involve the use of weights (even bodyweight workouts), resistance, barbells, or machines.
  • Also includes rest days: Also account for rest days when putting together your plan. It’s important to give your muscles a chance to recover.

This refers to how difficult an exercise is.

When it comes to strength training

If you’re new to an exercise program, you don’t want to make the plan too challenging. This could lead to injury or burnout.

Start at a level that feels comfortable, and then gradually increase the difficulty as your strength and endurance builds.

With strength training, there are three primary methods you can use to measure intensity:

  1. amount of weight lifted
  2. number of repetitions completed
  3. number of sets

When it comes to cardio

To measure how hard you’re working during a cardiovascular exercise, you can look to your heart rate, which is measured by beats per minute (bpm).

This starts with determining your target heart rate zone for your fitness level and age. The heart rate zone you’re meant to target is based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

1. Find your max heart rate (MHR)

To find your MHR, use this calculation: 220 minus your age = MHR.

For example, if you’re 25 years old, your MHR is 195 (220 – 25 = 195 MHR).

2. Find your target heart rate zone

According to Harvard Health, aerobic exercise is when your heart rate reaches between 70 and 85 percent of your MHR. You’re also getting a workout when your heart rate reaches 50 to 70 percent of your MHR.

To find your target heart rate zone, use this calculation: MHR multiplied by percentage rate in decimals.

So, this looks like: 195 x 0.50 = ~97 and 195 x 0.85 = ~165

According to the American Heart Association, the target heart rate zone for a 25-year-old is approximately 95 to 162 beats per minute.

How to keep track of your heart rate

One way you can find your heart rate is by checking your pulse at your wrist or neck and counting the number of beats for 1 minute.

A heart rate monitor is also a great way to monitor your heart rate during your workout. Ideally, use one that shows your heart rate at a glance.

Heart rate monitors are available to buy online.

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This refers to the duration of each exercise.

Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise a week.

This can look like 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of intense exercise a day.

Of course, you can increase or decrease this duration based on several factors, including current fitness level, age, weight, health, and others.

A cardio workout is recommended to last a minimum of 30 minutes. This can be longer, depending on the exercise. A long bike ride, for example, could take up to 2 hours.

Resistance workouts usually last between 45 and 60 minutes.

Don’t add time to your workouts until you’re ready to do so. Once your endurance builds, you can gradually increase the time spent exercising.

This refers to what kind of exercise you’ll be doing under the umbrella of cardio or strength training.

Cardio is any type of exercise that improves your cardiovascular system. This includes:

  • running
  • swimming
  • walking
  • dancing
  • aerobics routines
  • cycling

Strength training is any type of exercise that tones and strengthens the muscles. It usually results in muscular hypertrophy.

This includes:

  • the use of weights, like bicep curls and bench presses
  • bodyweight exercises, such as:
    • squats
    • pushups
    • pullups
    • situps

There are many upsides to using the FITT principle to guide you toward your fitness goals.

It’s good for busting through plateaus

Hitting a plateau is a common concern for those who are trying to reach their fitness goals.

When you notice that your weight is no longer budging, you can look to your FITT plan and find ways to improve it.

For example, if you’ve been walking for 4 weeks straight, you can add jogging to the plan to get the scale moving.

It’s great for alleviating boredom

In addition to busting through plateaus, the FITT principle encourages cross-training. This is when you use several modes of training to reach your desired fitness goals.

For example, you may alternate between walking, strength training, and dancing to help you see results — and keep boredom at bay.

Cross-training comes with several other benefits. For example, it helps reduce the risk of injury since you won’t be overusing the same muscles or joints.

It can be used by all fitness levels

You don’t have to be an avid gymgoer to use this method.

It’s great for beginners, as it teaches you the basics of putting a fitness plan together. This can help save you money in the long run, as the average cost of a personal trainer is $60 to $75 per hour.

Incorporating the FITT principle into your life can be simple. Here’s how you can use it with cardio and strength training.

FITT example for weight loss

If your goal is to lose weight, your fit plan might look like this:

  • Frequency: Get your heart rate up during 3 to 6 days of the week.
  • Intensity: This will depend on your current fitness level. For a high-intensity workout, aim to reach 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.
  • Time: Aim for around 20 to 30 minutes per workout. You can increase the workout length as your endurance builds.
  • Type: Any type of cardiovascular training, such as dancing, walking, running, rowing, jogging, hiking, cycling, swimming, etc.

FITT example for cardiovascular exercise

  • Frequency: 4 days a week
  • Intensity: moderate, 60 to 70 percent heart rate
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Type: jog

FITT example to increase strength

Choose a few goals

Before you create your plan, get concrete about your goals.

Try SMART goal planning to assist you, or ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s my current fitness level?
  • What do I want to achieve in the next month? Next 3 months? Next 6 months?
  • What types of exercises do I like to do?

By answering these questions, you’ll be able to tailor the plan to meet your individual needs.

Don’t make the plan too hard

For example, when strength training, the goal is to push your muscles to the point of fatigue without overexerting them. Only increase the weight for an exercise when you can still maintain proper form.

Consider time when adjusting your intensity

The intensity of your workouts can also depend on the length and frequency of them.

For example, you may ramp up the intensity on a HITT workout when you know that it’s only 10 minutes.

Add variety to your workouts

To achieve a balanced body, you need to work several different muscle groups. This can mean doing different kinds of activities for fitness. It’ll also help you avoid the dreaded exercise rut.

Regardless of your fitness level, you can implement the FITT principle as a way to create an effective exercise program.

This will help you reach your fitness goals, bust through plateaus, and stay consistent with your workouts.

Before starting any exercise program, you may want to consult with your doctor to ensure you’re safe to do so. This is especially important if you have any preexisting health conditions.

Overall, know your limits. Only gradually increase the intensity once you’re comfortable.

It’s your workout plan, so always feel free to tailor it to fit you!