Oct 18, 2016
The Principle of SAID
Rich Zawack

The human body is an absolutely amazing organism. It performs a tremendous number of functions, most of which can be directed.

That is, there are many things we can do to alter or shape the way the body operates. Generally speaking, we do what we have to do with our bodies but not what we can do. We don’t take advantage of the body’s responsiveness and adaptability.

We have a nervous system, a muscular system, a respiratory system, and an energy system that all are fully adaptable.

The athlete who trains intelligently based upon how these systems work can make major differences in their body and their body’s performance.

There is a basic principle upon which we approach strength and conditioning. That is the principle of SAID, Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. If you take coaching seriously you need to grasp this concept because it can change peoples’ lives.

SAID refers to the fact that every system in the body will adapt to stress. It will attempt to meet any challenges that are placed before it.

Lifting weights is a stress; the body will adapt in a number of ways to strength training. Aerobic work like running is also a stressor; it will have specific effects on your whole body.

Whatever you do in a workout or practice that puts the body in a position it is not used to will cause a reaction and eventually an adaptation. Those unused positions are stressors.

The point is: there are many ways that the body will adapt in order to protect itself. Its goal is always to reach a balance, homeostasis.

Exercise science is about the mapping of the body’s reaction to many common stressors. The coach’s responsibility is to understand the reaction to various types of stress. Generally speaking, the way you train will determine what your players will be like athletically. This is SAID — Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.

The key is for the coach to use this concept to the athlete’s benefit.

One of the ways to do this is through an organizational format called periodization. Periodiation is a training plan based upon the concept of SAID.

Western periodization takes advantage of our knowledge of physiology.

Periodization is structured in cycles, each designed to create specific reaction to a specific kind of stress. Building size, creating power, developing strength, or increasing endurance could all be objectives of a periodized training plan.

Every beginning athlete needs this type of structure. The typical 14-20 year old is just a baby in terms of training. They need a step by step approach if you’re going to create maximum development.

This is a period of maturation and it is important to present the right type of stress in the right order. These are building blocks.

Athleticism is a complex concept. It includes eight qualities — speed, strength, power, agility, endurance flexibility, balance, and coordination. The teaching of these qualities needs to be attended to and developed systematically. A periodized system is the way to create an athlete.

There are many coaches who introduce advanced systems, but in the process they miss the fundamental building blocks that make a person athletic. They get adaptation but there are gaps in their training.

The key word here is general physical preparedness. Anatoliy Bondarchuk used this to describe the foundation for athleticism. Periodization is the way to develop a fully competent athlete.

The body, properly trained, will be more resilient if it is trained in stages.

Periodization allows for individualization. This allows the athlete to progress at his or her own rate.

There are lots of general workouts but many create gaps because they ignore SAID and don’t train in physiologically appropriate steps. Periodization is an excellent way to give bodies the proper stimulus.

Rich Zawack, BS, MA, CSCS-D, has served as president of Athletic Development Corporation for the last 10 years. Prior to that he was a high school teacher and coach for 36 years at Strongsville (Ohio) High School. He has coached 17 state champions, one NCAA champion, 18 NFL football players, and one NBA basketball player.

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