WATCH: The Seven Granddaddy Laws

TAGS: Gas Principle, Use Disuse Principle, Overload Principle, Overcompensation Principle, Principle of Individual Differences, Dr. Fred Hatfield, specificity principle, SAID principle, Josh Bryant


I’ll never forget what my mentor, the late Dr. Fred Hatfield, shouted out to a young powerlifter at a seminar we did together in Japan: “If you break the law, you get thrown in jail!” In this case, it would have been a self-imposed prison, so to speak, because what he was referencing were the Seven Granddaddy Laws of Training.

Dr. Hatfield categorized these Laws himself, and together they serve as a framework to measure an effective training program. If you want to know how your training program stacks up, I encourage you to assess it against the Laws outlined below. Naturally, the more Laws that your training program satisfies or takes into account, the better.

1.  Principle of Individual Differences

Description: Everyone has a different genetic blueprint, different abilities, bodies, strengths, and weaknesses, and as such, will respond differently to different training programs. Individual differences incorporate how fast you recover, your injury history, psychological makeup, what you do for work, and how you change over time.

Gym Application: Ensure that you properly individualize your training program to suit your body. This may mean higher or lower frequencies, different weights, different reload times, etc.

2. Overcompensation Principle

Description: Callouses build on your hands as an adaptive response to friction, and Mother Nature compensates from weight training stress by building better and stronger muscles.

Gym Application: Recognize that in your training program, you’ll be able to handle more stress in the future as your body adapts over time.

3. Overload Principle

Description: To gain size or strength, you must strengthen your muscles beyond what they are accustomed to handling. A commonly-cited example of this is the ancient Greek story of Milo of Croton, who picked up his baby calf every day until, over time, it became a full-grown ox. At this point, legend has it that he had become the strongest man in the world and a revered wrestler and athlete. Simply put, this is an example of progressive overload.

Gym Application: The most obvious way to apply this is to add more weight to the bar, but there are also other opportunities to create progressive overload in your training. Whether it’s increasing your training disks, increasing your training frequency, taking shorter rest times, or adding extra reps, the idea is that you have to overload in order to make gains.

4. Said Principle

Description: This principle is an acronym that stands for Specific Adaptations to Impose Demands. This means that your muscles and your body will respond in a highly specific manner to the training demands that you place on it.

Gym Application: Given the Said Principle, you must choose your training goals and objectives wisely, because your body will respond accordingly. If your goal is to be more explosive, then you should be training explosively. Similarly, if your goal is to build powerlifting limit strength, then you should be training heavy in powerlifts and building the necessary supporting muscle.

5. Use Disuse Principle

Description: This comes down to the old saying, “use it or lose it.” Essentially, the idea is that your muscles hypertrophy and strengthen with use, and they atrophy and weaken with disuse.

Gym Application: If you are training in a certain area, such as strength in a power lift, for example, this is a skill that you are developing. If you discontinue training in this area, you risk losing that skill. Although the neurological base may remain even after a long hiatus, you still want to avoid too much time away to preserve strength, skill, and training progress.

6. Specificity Principle

Description: Neuromuscular adaptation will occur over time as an adaptation to repetitively grooving a specific movement pattern. This is in alignment with the saying, “the way to get to Carnegie Hall is to practice, practice, practice.” The same rings true for your training program.

Gym Application: For example, you are going to become stronger in powerlifts by doing the “big three” as opposed to other exercises (i.e. leg presses, hammer strength inclines, deadlifts, etc.). This is not necessarily at the expense of assistance work, however. To build up your bench press, you may have to target your triceps with an isolation exercise, for example. But the bottom line is, the greatest neurological benefit will be derived from actually performing the exercise itself.

7. Gas Principle

Description: This acronym stands for General Adaptation Syndrome, and comprises of three stages. First is the Alarm Stage, or the application of intense training stress that we see demonstrated in the Overload Principle. Second is the Resistance Stage, when your muscles adapt in order to resist stressful weights more efficiently. We see this reflected in the Overcompensation, Said, and Use Disuse Principles. Third is the Exhaustion Stage, that states that if you keep pushing, you’re eventually going to over-train or suffer a break of some sort.

Gym Application: Keep in mind that over the course of your training program, there should be a period of low-intensity training (or a rest period) followed by periods of high-intensity training. It is important to self-regulate as you move through the three stages of the Gas Principle to avoid fatigue or potential injury.

To summarize:

  • Everyone is different and must train as such (Principle of Individual Differences)
  • Your body adapts to handle more stress over time (Overcompensation Principle)
  • You have to progressively overload if you want to make gains (Overload Principle)
  • Your body will respond to the specific training demands placed on it (Said Principle)
  • You have to “use it or lose it” when it comes to strength training (Use Disuse Principle)
  • The most benefit comes from performing the particular exercise (Specificity Principle)
  • Training should include low-intensity and high-intensity periods (Gas Principle)

In conclusion, if you have questions or hesitations about a particular training program, assess it against these Seven Granddaddy Laws and see how it stacks up — to you, and to strength. Thank you, Dr. Fred Hatfield, for teaching me the Seven Granddaddy Laws!

By The Minute

  • (0:51) Principle of Individual Differences
  • (1:43) Overcompensation Principle
  • (2:10) Overload Principle
  • (3:45) Said Principle
  • (4:22) Use Disuse Principle
  • (5:11) Specificity Principle
  • (6:08) Gas Principle

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