Never Trust A Jacked Yogi! Understanding the SAID Principle


Something I see all the time as a fitness professional is a misunderstanding of the SAID principle and a misuse of the SAID principle on trainers/coaches behalf.

It really pisses me off.

Before we move on any further, let’s just clarify what the SAID principle actually is. It’s acronym for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. This means that for every training or exercise mode there will be a specific adaptation that comes with it. Train like a bodybuilder – you’ll look like a bodybuilder. Train like a marathon runner, you’ll look like a marathon runner.

The issue for me lies in the fact that many industry professionals fail to acknowledge how they got to where they are today. Whether that’s deliberate or just plain ignorance, I don’t know.

Let me give you a completely theoretical example – The jacked yogi.

jacked yogi said principle

He’s 40 years old, got 18 inch arms and a chiseled six pack and has been doing yoga for 5 years. As a result people flock to his classes because it must be the answer to looking lean and muscular right?

What you don’t know is he was a professional rugby player in his teens and an amateur competitive bodybuilder in his twenties. Hence the muscular, ripped frame. Whilst you could argue yoga has helped to sustain it, mantra and savasana didn’t get him there.

Make sense?

Here’s a real life example along the same lines – The Bodycoach.

He’s in great shape. He’s lean and he’s got a nice amount of lean body mass. Many people aspire for that look. One look at his social media channels and you’d be forgiven for thinking you can get looking like that by doing 10 minutes of HIIT comprised of burpees and mountain climbers as your workout. But when you sign up to his online programme guess what 90% of the workouts are made up of?

Yep, you guessed it – weight training!

Whilst it doesn’t really matter how anyone got to where they are today, it does matter when people are being mislead and deceived to sell more products or increase popularity of a training mode etc.

To help you out and clear this all up, I’ve listed common exercise modes below, along with a very specific adaptation that you would expect to experience. Note: to a degree there will be some crossover, however I’ve just focused on 1-2 adaptations for each. You could say it’s the adaptations they are most famous for. It’s also important to remember that adaptations could also be split into morphological and neurological. Going into this much detail is beyond the scope of this article, so I’ve just generalised.

Weight training – Muscular size/strength/condition

Power lifting – Strength and power

Yoga – Flexibility/mobility

Boxing – Cardiovascular strength/ VO2 max

Pilates – Flexibility/mobility

General Running – Cardiovascular strength/ VO2 max

Callisthenics – Strength to bodyweight ratio

Swimming – Cardiovascular strength/ VO2 max

Gym based CV machines (treadmill, rower cross trainer etc.) – Cardiovascular strength/ VO2 max

Step classes/fitness dance classes – Cardiovascular strength/ VO2 max

By the way this isn’t including any dietary factors yet, as that would also influence the adaptation too. For example a calorie surplus with weight training would help build muscle, whilst a calorie deficit with weight training would help to lose fat etc.

Take Home Points From This Article

1. Understand the basic exercise modes and the corresponding adaption that follows it. Is it suitable for you goals? Is it the best thing you can be doing for you goals?
2. Dig deeper – Always remember with a persons journey that there’s more than meets the eye. Just because they are now a muscular marathon runner, doesn’t mean that marathon running was how they got in that condition etc.
3. Now armed with this knowledge, don’t try and do too much at once. You can’t be a bodybuilder with 20 inch biceps, training for a marathon whilst aiming to swim the channel by next month.