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What Is the SAID Principle?

An injured patient may see a physical therapist to help restore her full range of motion.
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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2014
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The acronym, SAID, stands for specific adaptations to imposed demands. The SAID principle states that the body gradually adapts to and that performance increases in response to applied stress. The principle serves as the foundation for any activity, including strength training and physical therapy .

The adaptive process occurs naturally with any type of workout program. Athletes apply the SAID principle in training programs that fulfill the needs of a particular sport. Regardless of initial fitness level, once an individual begins an exercise programs, physiological changes occur.

After an initial workout, the body is fatigued and undergoes a recovery period. Damaged ligaments, muscles, and tendon fibers are restored to the baseline level of the individual before activity. Any nutritional stores depleted during exercise are replenished. After the next workout, the body repeats the reparative processes, only now, the body adapts by thickening and strengthening various fibers, as required by the added stress. The cardiopulmonary system also learns to work more efficiently, providing adequate blood flow and oxygenation.

Physiologists refer to these enhanced building processes as super-compensation. Adequate recovery time must be allowed between each workout for the SAID principle to work, but these changes continue as the individual changes or increases physical stressors. When physical activity remains the same, the body ceases to change and physical ability plateaus. If physical demands on the body diminish, compensation decreases and the body gradually regresses to a point before exercise began.

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People may require physical therapy after incurring an illness or injury. They may experience limited range of motion in one or more areas of the body, along with decreased strength. Patients may initially find the therapy difficult and often experience discomfort when performing a specified task. By repeating the required movements, however, the actions gradually become easier. Using the SAID principle, therapists assist patients in recovering to their prior condition, by gradually increasing movement repetitions, or applying stress in the form of weight to the affected area, forcing the body to adapt.

Professional athletes often attend training camps prior to the beginning of a game season. Sports coaching requires engaging athletes in programs that not only improve overall fitness but enable players to perform specific sport-related movements. In addition to weight training, specific exercises, and running, players typically perform drills that mimic the movements required during a sporting event. Football players practice blocking and tackling along with throwing and receiving passes. Swimmers complete laps in a pool while being timed.

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