My Chiropractor SAID what?


SAID stands for specific adaptation to imposed demand! The idea behind this principle is that our bodies will adapt (to an extent) to the stresses that it is put under, whether that be stresses from life or from training. Our bodies are incredible and are capable of making changes to meet the needs that we cause them to perceive as necessary. Now, there are limitations to this. For example, just because you sit in the sauna at your gym for a half hour every day, doesn’t mean that you would one day be able to exist totally in 150o temperatures. That being said, there is much understanding of your body—and how to train it—to be gained from this principle!


According to the SAID principle, it matters how you train for your sport. While some sports may be similar, they all have their differences. Because of this, athletes must train differently, so that the imposed demands that they are placing on their bodies lead to specific adaptations to propel them to a higher level of performance. Take for example the men in in these pictures. I don’t want you to compare their physiques, but rather the different demands that their sports require. Usain Bolt (an Olympic sprinter), and Lesisa Desisa (a professional long-distance runner) both run for a living. However, they obviously don’t run the same way. Bolt runs for very short distances very fast, while Desisa runs for very long distances without stopping. These two athletes would likely not perform well in the other’s sport. Why? Because they train in very specific ways to simulate their sport. Bolt does not run multiple miles a day to become an Olympic gold medalist in the 100m. He imposes demands on his body similar to the competition. Take now the other two athletes: Blaine Sumner (a world champion powerlifter), and Donnell Whitenburg (a USA gymnast). It is likely that Blaine Sumner could not control his body weight on the rings very long. Likewise, it is unlikely that Whitenburg could squat 1,000+ pounds. Why? Because neither of these athletes train to be able to do that. They train to win in their respective sports. The physiology behind these adaptations is complex, but for now just understand that the body will change according to how we train as athletes.

This idea also stands true in the world of rehabilitation. A football player and a ballerina with the same injury would not rehab that injury the same way. Athletes require rehab programs that are tailored to the demands of their sport (with respect to the level of injury) in order to return to the field/court/stage close to or at the same level they were pre-injury. Dr. Barry Dale explains “If the rehabilitated athlete cannot perform activities specific to his or her sport on completion of the rehabilitation program, it does not matter whether the athlete regains normal range of motion and strength, agility, and power. The rehabilitation program would have failed if this were to happen.” So, not only does the normal everyday training of an athlete need to be specific to that athlete and sport, but the rehab introduced following injury needs to be sport-specific as well!


For those of us who don’t play any specific sport, understanding this principle can be an encouragement for those of us trying to begin exercising in general. We have all had a family member or friend quit soon after starting to exercise (be it running, biking, or lifting weights) because they felt pain or discomfort or soreness and said their bodies either couldn’t handle it or weren’t used to it. Well lucky them, as long as they [slowly] progress their training level without injury or overtiring (and in the absence of any other serious conditions), their bodies will adapt to that training! On the contrary, if you don’t use it you lose it. If our bodies realize that they no longer need to adapt to those demands because we stop training, they will adapt to not training. We lose muscle strength/density/size faster with rest than we gain it with exercise!


-The SAID Principle stand for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand

-The type of training we do as athletes must be specific to our sport, so that the adaptations our bodies make are specific to the demands of our sport

-Exercise for non-athletes can become encouraging when we realize that our bodies will soon adapt to meet the demands we are placing on it

-We lose muscle strength faster with rest than we gain it with exercise


Andrews, James R. Physical Rehabilitation of the Injured Athlete. ElsevierSaunders, 2012.

Kulig, K., et al. “An Intensive, Progressive Exercise Program Reduces Disability and Improves Functional Performance in Patients After Single-Level Lumbar Microdiskectomy.” Physical Therapy, vol. 89, no. 11, 2009, pp. 1145–1157.

Liebenson, C. Rehabilitation of the Spine: a Practitioner's Manual. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.

Renno, A, et al. “Effects of a Progressive Loading Exercise Program on the Bone and Skeletal Muscle Properties of Female Osteopenic Rats☆☆☆.” Experimental Gerontology, vol. 42, no. 6, 2007, pp. 517–522.

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