Program Design

Begin training at a level that can be easily tolerated. Evaluate your physical activity history and consider having an assessment at a human performance laboratory. Starting your program too intensely can lead to injury, excessive muscle soreness, reduced energy levels, and psychological maladjustment to training.

Therefore, the exercise program should allow for proper recovery and be tolerable. Underestimate your physical capabilities when beginning and then upgrade and evaluate the program regularly to maintain progression and the proper level of exercise stimulus.

When planning a weight training program, do a brief needs analysis. What are your goals? How much time do you want to spend on the activity? What is your training history? If you want to train for a sport, what energy system is used in that sport? What major muscles are you using, and do you have any potential injury sites that should be strengthened? What are your weak areas?

Variables of weight training programs are:

  1. Choice of exercise
  2. Order of exercise
  3. Amount of weight (intensity)
  4. Number of repetitions
  5. Number of sets
  6. Rest between exercises
  7. Rest between workouts

Something to consider is what muscles do you want to strengthen? Are you incapable of doing certain exercises because of injury, preference, or coordination? Also, balance should be achieved in strength training between the upper and lower body and between agonist and antagonist muscles of the same joint. In other words, if the quadriceps are strengthened, so should the hamstrings to help protect the integrity of the joint.

Order of exercise.

The trunk muscles, abdominals, and spinal erectors are used to stabilize the body during exercise, so they generally should not be exercised until the end of a training session. Another rule of thumb is to work larger muscles first then smaller muscles afterward. For example, if you exercise the triceps first, then work shoulders and chest, the triceps being smaller and just recently fatigued, will tire out before the larger chest and shoulder muscles receive enough of a stimulus for overload.

Amount of weight.

This depends on the number of repetitions to be performed. Some studies have shown that 67% of one’s maximum amount of weight lifted for a muscle is required to stimulate that muscle to become stronger. If you are performing an 8 to 12 repetition maximum you will generally be within this threshold. The amount of weight should gradually and progressively be increased. The use of training records will help you keep track of your progression and signal when it is time to increase your weight.

Number of repetitions.

This depends on the objective of the program. Ten to twelve repetitions per set are a good place to start to produce stimulus and hypertrophy. Fifteen to twenty repetitions per set would improve muscular endurance, while 5 to 6 repetitions per set are appropriate for concentrating on strength improvement. You should train for several months and have a good base in strength training before pursuing a program based on 5 to 6 repetitions per set. Repetitions can be benchmarked as a repetition maximum (RM), where the last rep is the last one that can be completed in a set number. The RM protocol may be difficult for a beginner to tolerate. However, it is important to progress to the point where a RM set can be tolerated. By performing your set to reach muscular failure you will enhance the results you can achieve. In every workout, you should try to perform one more rep on each exercise, and do not stop until you have performed as many repetitions as possible.

Number of sets. 

The use of one or two sets of an exercise may be most appropriate for beginners in the initial stages of a base program or for circuit weight training. The principle behind multiple sets (3 to 6) is that muscles will adapt to the given stimulus and multiple sets are superior to a single presentation of a stimulus. However, a person interested in general fitness with a limited amount of time will get good results with one set.

Rest periods between exercises.

The amount of time allowed between sets determines the amount of recovery of the anaerobic energy sources allowed prior to the next set. The ATP CP energy source is utilized during maximal contractions and requires 2 to 3 minutes of rest to replenish the energy source. If the rest periods are not long enough to allow for replenishment of ATP CP, then energy will be derived from anaerobic sources. Anaerobic sources will cause an increase in lactic acid, which is not well-tolerated by beginners and could be inappropriate until conditioning improves.

Manipulating these variables of the training program will provide a progressive overload of the specific muscle groups and energy systems that are to be strengthened. The program must be made as interesting as possible and allow for adequate recovery of the muscles between individual exercises and between exercise periods to ensure compliance with the program.

A good general base programfor weight training would be a circuit program using Nautilus or Universal equipment. This could consist of 10 to 12 exercises with one set of 10 to 12 repetitions. The larger muscles should be exercised first and then progress to the smaller muscles. The rest between exercises should be enough to allow you to catch your breath.

For a circuit weight training program, it is best to arrange exercises so that the larger muscle groups are worked first then in descending order to the smallest. To use the most weight possible do not put two consecutive stations of exercises involving the same muscle groups back to back. For example, the following sequence could be used: first, upper legs and hips; second, chest; third, back and posterior aspect of legs; fourth, lower legs; fifth, shoulders and posterior aspect of upper arms; sixth, abdomen and; seventh, anterior aspect of upper arms.

As you become accustomed to the training, the repetitions should be maximized (RM) up to twelve, as the most that can be performed with good form. Thirteen repetitions cannot be completed with good form. At that time, the resistance should be increased. With short rest periods, a vigorous beneficial weight training program can be completed in 20 to 25 minutes, excluding warm-up and cool down. The length of the rest period between sets depends entirely upon your stamina. You will need to allow enough time between sets for your breathing to return to normal. As you progress in your weight training program, your endurance and stamina will increase noticeably, and the time between sets can be decreased. Circuit programs are effective for increasing muscular strength and endurance.

Recommendations for a Beginning Weight‑Resistance Program

  1. Underestimate strength, and make the exercise tolerable
  2. Provide ample recovery between workouts (48 hours)
  3. Progression should be gradual and steady
  4. Include a warm-up, then the exercises, then a cool down
  5. Allow at least one minute of rest between sets
  6. Frequency   3 days per week
  7. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions and 1 3 sets per exercise
  8. Perform 10 to 12 exercises utilizing large muscle groups of the entire body
  9. Exercise the larger muscle groups first continuing to the smallest muscles last
  10. Use controlled movement speed
  11. Slower speeds decrease tissue trauma
  12. Slower speeds allow greater muscular tension
  13. The less momentum (slower speed), the more muscle fibers have to be recruited to work
  14. Take three seconds to lift the weight and three seconds to lower it

Begin training at a level that can be easily tolerated. Evaluate your physical activity history and consider having an assessment at a human performance laboratory. Starting your program too intensely can lead to injury, excessive muscle soreness, reduced energy levels, and psychological maladjustment to training.

Therefore, the exercise program should allow for proper recovery and be tolerable. Underestimate your physical capabilities when beginning and then upgrade and evaluate the program regularly to maintain progression and the proper level of exercise stimulus.

When planning a weight training program, do a brief needs analysis. What are your goals? How much time do you want to spend on the activity? What is your training history? If you want to train for a sport, what energy system is used in that sport? What major muscles are you using, and do you have any potential injury sites that should be strengthened? What are your weak areas?

Variables of weight training programs are:

  1. Choice of exercise
  2. Order of exercise
  3. Amount of weight (intensity)
  4. Number of repetitions
  5. Number of sets
  6. Rest between exercises
  7. Rest between workouts

Something to consider is what muscles do you want to strengthen? Are you incapable of doing certain exercises because of injury, preference, or coordination? Also, balance should be achieved in strength training between the upper and lower body and between agonist and antagonist muscles of the same joint. In other words, if the quadriceps are strengthened, so should the hamstrings to help protect the integrity of the joint.

Order of exercise.

The trunk muscles, abdominals, and spinal erectors are used to stabilize the body during exercise, so they generally should not be exercised until the end of a training session. Another rule of thumb is to work larger muscles first then smaller muscles afterward. For example, if you exercise the triceps first, then work shoulders and chest, the triceps being smaller and just recently fatigued, will tire out before the larger chest and shoulder muscles receive enough of a stimulus for overload.

Amount of weight.

This depends on the number of repetitions to be performed. Some studies have shown that 67% of one’s maximum amount of weight lifted for a muscle is required to stimulate that muscle to become stronger. If you are performing an 8 to 12 repetition maximum you will generally be within this threshold. The amount of weight should gradually and progressively be increased. The use of training records will help you keep track of your progression and signal when it is time to increase your weight.

Number of repetitions.

This depends on the objective of the program. Ten to twelve repetitions per set are a good place to start to produce stimulus and hypertrophy. Fifteen to twenty repetitions per set would improve muscular endurance, while 5 to 6 repetitions per set are appropriate for concentrating on strength improvement. You should train for several months and have a good base in strength training before pursuing a program based on 5 to 6 repetitions per set. Repetitions can be benchmarked as a repetition maximum (RM), where the last rep is the last one that can be completed in a set number. The RM protocol may be difficult for a beginner to tolerate. However, it is important to progress to the point where a RM set can be tolerated. By performing your set to reach muscular failure you will enhance the results you can achieve. In every workout, you should try to perform one more rep on each exercise, and do not stop until you have performed as many repetitions as possible.

Number of sets.

The use of one or two sets of an exercise may be most appropriate for beginners in the initial stages of a base program or for circuit weight training. The principle behind multiple sets (3 to 6) is that muscles will adapt to the given stimulus and multiple sets are superior to a single presentation of a stimulus. However, a person interested in general fitness with a limited amount of time will get good results with one set.

Rest periods between exercises.

The amount of time allowed between sets determines the amount of recovery of the anaerobic energy sources allowed prior to the next set. The ATP CP energy source is utilized during maximal contractions and requires 2 to 3 minutes of rest to replenish the energy source. If the rest periods are not long enough to allow for replenishment of ATP CP, then energy will be derived from anaerobic sources. Anaerobic sources will cause an increase in lactic acid, which is not well-tolerated by beginners and could be inappropriate until conditioning improves.

Manipulating these variables of the training program will provide a progressive overload of the specific muscle groups and energy systems that are to be strengthened. The program must be made as interesting as possible and allow for adequate recovery of the muscles between individual exercises and between exercise periods to ensure compliance with the program.

A good general base program for weight training would be a circuit program using Nautilus or Universal equipment. This could consist of 10 to 12 exercises with one set of 10 to 12 repetitions. The larger muscles should be exercised first and then progress to the smaller muscles. The rest between exercises should be enough to allow you to catch your breath.

For a circuit weight training program, it is best to arrange exercises so that the larger muscle groups are worked first then in descending order to the smallest. To use the most weight possible do not put two consecutive stations of exercises involving the same muscle groups back to back. For example, the following sequence could be used: first, upper legs and hips; second, chest; third, back and posterior aspect of legs; fourth, lower legs; fifth, shoulders and posterior aspect of upper arms; sixth, abdomen and; seventh, anterior aspect of upper arms.

As you become accustomed to the training, the repetitions should be maximized (RM) up to twelve, as the most that can be performed with good form. Thirteen repetitions cannot be completed with good form. At that time, the resistance should be increased. With short rest periods, a vigorous beneficial weight training program can be completed in 20 to 25 minutes, excluding warm-up and cool down. The length of the rest period between sets depends entirely upon your stamina. You will need to allow enough time between sets for your breathing to return to normal. As you progress in your weight training program, your endurance and stamina will increase noticeably, and the time between sets can be decreased. Circuit programs are effective for increasing muscular strength and endurance.

Recommendations for a Beginning Weight‑Resistance Program

  1. Underestimate strength, and make the exercise tolerable
  2. Provide ample recovery between workouts (48 hours)
  3. Progression should be gradual and steady
  4. Include a warm-up, then the exercises, then a cool down
  5. Allow at least one minute of rest between sets
  6. Frequency   3 days per week
  7. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions and 1 3 sets per exercise
  8. Perform 10 to 12 exercises utilizing large muscle groups of the entire body
  9. Exercise the larger muscle groups first continuing to the smallest muscles last
  10. Use controlled movement speed
  11. Slower speeds decrease tissue trauma
  12. Slower speeds allow greater muscular tension
  13. The less momentum (slower speed), the more muscle fibers have to be recruited to work
  14. Take three seconds to lift the weight and three seconds to lower it

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