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Resistance Training

Resistance training is a form of exercise that is well known for its role in improving fitness by increasing muscular strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance, motor performance, balance and coordination. However, the critical elemental that dictates the effectiveness of resistance training is the design of the resistance-training program. The following factors play a major role in resistance-training program design:

Customizing Resistance Training Programs

The most effective resistance training programs meet individual needs or the goals that result from performing a needs analysis. When designing a customized training program, some questions to be addressed are as follows:

  • Are health concerns or injuries present that may limit the exercises performed or exercise intensity?

  • What type of equipment (e.g., free weights, machines, bands, medicine and stability balls, balances, and so on) is available?

  •  What is the targeted frequency? Are there any time constraints that may affect the workout duration?

  • What muscle groups needs to be trained?

  • What are the targeted energy systems (e.g., aerobic or anaerobic)?

  • What types of muscle actions (e.g., concentric , eccentric , isometric )are needed?

Goals must be determined in order to guide program design. Common goals include injury rehabilitation, increased muscle size, strength, local muscular endurance, balance, coordination, flexibility, body composition, general health (e.g., lowered blood pressure, stronger connective tissue, reduced stress). Most programs focus on several of these factors instead of just a single one.

Resistance Training Program Variables

  1. Exercise selection

  2. Exercise order

  3. Workout structure

  4. Intensity

  5. Training volume

  6. Rest intervals

  7. Repetition velocity

  8. Training frequency


Altering one or several of these variable affects the training result. Therefore, proper prescription of resistance exercises involves manipulation of each variable to your specificity of the targeted goals.

Workout Structure and Exercise Order

The number of muscle groups trained per workout needs to be considered when designing the resistance-training program. There are three basic workout structures to choose from:

  1. Total Body Workout​​: Total body workouts involve exercises that work all major muscle groups (i.e., 1 or 2 exercises for each major muscle group. They are very common among beginners.​

  2. Upper and Lower Body Workout Splits:  Upper and lower body split workouts involve performance of only upper body exercises during one workout and only lower body exercises during the next workout. These are common for clients with an intermediate exercise history.

  3. Muscle Group Split Routines: Muscle group split routines involve performance of exercises for specific muscle groups during a workout (e.g., a back and biceps workout in which all exercises for the back are performed, then all exercises for the biceps are performed). This is often considered the most advanced of the three workout structures.

Individual goals, time and frequency, and personal preference help determine which structure is most appropriate.

General Guidelines for Exercise Order

  1. Large muscle group exercises (i.e., squat) should be performed before smaller group exercises (i.e., bicep curl).

  2. Multiple-joint exercises should be performed before single-joint exercises.

  3. Alternating between upper and lower body exercises or opposing (agonist-antagonist) exercises can allow some muscles to rest while the opposite muscle groups are trained.

  4. Perform higher intensity exercises before lower intensity exercises

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