• Starr Knight

The 7 Laws of Training According to Dr Fred Hatfield

Dr Hatfield explored an extensive amount of research to devise laws found in successful training programmes.

I came across Dr Fred Hatfield whilst reading a book about Sports Genes and found him fascinating. Not only did he set the world record for squatting at 1,014lbs in 1987 at age 45, he also founded Men's Fitness Magazine and the ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association).


Dr Hatfield explored an extensive amount of research to devise laws found in successful training programmes. He read the workings of many acclaimed sports scientists and came up with 7 laws that can be used when training for any sport in the hope of success. The same 7 laws I am going to share helped him squat 1,000lbs without the use of supportive technology that most weightlifters are now using.


1. The Law of Individual Differences

When devising a training programme, it is important to remember that every single person has different strengths and weaknesses. If you were to look at the structure of the hop in one person compared to another, the balls of the Femur would extend differently meaning that these two people would have different squatting mechanisms. You will also find variation in strength, recovery time, coordination, mobility, reaction and other factors that need to be taken into consideration.


2. The Overcompensation Principle

Naturally, our bodies will react to stress and there is nothing we can do about it. Our body will overcompensate when stressed so that when it happens again, the body can handle the same amount or even more stress. This is why you may find beginners in sport improve greatly when only a few weeks into their training programme.


3. The Overload Principle

As mentioned briefly in the second law, for your body to overcompensate, you must load it with a greater amount of stress than it has already experienced. Over a longer period of time, it is hard to experience great improvement because it is so difficult to stress the body to a point where it has not already been stressed.


4. The SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) Principle

The basic idea of the SAID Principle is that you train your body to improve a specific adaptation. If you want to move quicker, you train to be quicker and if you want to be more explosive, then train explosively. Same goes for strength; if you want to become stronger, do strength training.


5. The Use/Disuse Principle and Law of Reversibility

The use/disuse principle is in simple terms; if you don’t use it, you lose it. You must continue to train a certain skill or you will lose the capacity to execute it. The law of reversibility is based on the fact that once a skill has been trained and lost, the skill will be much easier to recover than it was to originally train… Just like riding a bike.


6. The Specificity Principle

This law agrees with the idea that if you want to get better at something, you must do that something. If you want to be able to do more press-ups, do press-ups. Although, doing such a specific ancillary exercise may not see the best outcome. The main exercise is what benefits our neurological system the best.


7. The General Adaptation Syndrome

The final Hatfield principle is broken down into three stages and overlaps with some of the other laws.

  • Alarm Stage – When the boy reacts to stress caused by training (similar to the Overload Principle).

  • Resistant Stage – Muscles adapt to increasing amounts of stress (similar to the Overcompensation Principle)

  • Exhaustion Stage – If we continue to train, we will be forced to stop from too much stress.

The General Adaptation Syndrome has now been renamed the Fitness Fatigue Model.


This has been revised based on the fact that due to individual differences, novice athletes respond in a different way to stress compared to elite athletes. Novice athletes find it easier to reach the exhaustion stage therefore it is better for them to train in a wide variety of exercises to improve fitness. When looking at elite athletes, it takes a great deal more stress to lead to the resistant stage (overcompensation).


Overall, these 7 laws indicate that we cannot blindly follow training programmes because of how every single athlete has a different body structure. A programme needs to be tailored to an athlete’s specific goals otherwise improvement will always be extremely limited.

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