CSCS Study Guide Chapter 17: Program Design for Resistance Training

An athlete or client walks in your door, what are the steps you need to take to build her program? Chapter 17 of the Essentials of Strength training and conditioning answers this and other personal training questions for the CSCS exam.

Chapter 17 of the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning covers all of the major steps involved in designing a resistance training program. The process begins with a needs analysis and ends with the assignment of rest periods undertaken.

Program Design for Resistance Training

  • Designing a training program involves coordinating individual variables to allow the athlete to adapt to a higher level of performance. The resistance training portion of the program can more easily be approached one step at a time.

Principles of Anaerobic Exercise Prescription

  • Specificity - training in a specific way to produce a specific adaptation to training. The muscles, movement pattern and nature of the movement are all involved in this but, not always all at once.
  • SAID - specific adaptation to imposed demands, an acronym sometimes used in place of specificity.
  • Overload - an exercise demand greater than the current level of fitness than the athlete possess.
  • Progression - increasing the training demand over time.
  • Program Design - planning the steps necessary to put together a resistance training program.

Step 1: Needs Analysis

  • Needs Analysis - a two-stage process to determine the needs of the athlete and the needs of the sport.
  • Movement Analysis - how the athlete needs to be able to move in the sport.
  • Physiological Analysis - strength, power, hypertrophy, and endurance requirements of the sport. Which needs to be prioritized.
  • Injury Analysis - common areas of concern for muscular and joint injury in the sport.
  • Profile - a descriptive compilation of what the sport requires, information about the athletes background and the needs of the program going forward.
  • Training Status - the athlete's current condition.
  • Training Background - what the athlete has done in the past and what the athlete has just completed in the previous training cycle. Can include the type, level of intensity and frequency of training.
  • Exercise History - another term for training background.
  • Exercise Technique Experience - the amount of exposure and skill an athlete has previously attained with an exercise.
  • In order to be reliable, data should be gathered from tests that are related to the skills required in the athlete's sport. This data should then be compared to normative results for someone in the same sport around the same developmental age.

Step 2: Exercise Selection

  • Exercise Selection - choosing exercises for a resistance training program.
  • Core Exercises - exercises that recruit one or more large muscle areas, involve two more more primary joints and receive priority because of their direct transfer to the sport.
  • Multijoint Exercises - exercises involving action in more than one joint. Ex. a combination of knee and ankle or shoulder and elbow joint action.
  • Assistance Exercises - exercise that involve typically one primary joint and smaller muscle areas. Typically used to prevent injury.
  • Single-Joint Exercises - exercises that involve typically one primary joint.
  • Structural Exercise - a core exercise that loads the spine directly or indirectly and involves keeping a neutral spine. Ex. Power clean or squat.
  • Power Exercise - a structural exercise that is performed very quickly.
  • Agonist - the muscle groups actively causing the movement, ex. hip and knee extensors working when jumping.
  • Antagonist - the muscle groups on the opposite side of the limb when an agonist is doing it's job. Sometimes passive.
  • Muscle Balance - a proper ratio of strength, power, or muscular endurance between agonist and antagonist muscle groups.
  • Recovery Exercise - exercises that promote recovery without involving extra neurological or muscular stress.
  • Equipment and time available also play a major factor in designing the resistance training program.

Step 3: Training Frequency

  • Training Frequency - the number of training sessions completed within a given time period. Typically within one week.
  • Training frequency is impacted by the athlete's training status and sport season. It is also influenced by the loads and types of exercises that will be performed in each session as well as other training.
  • It is recommended that beginners exercise between 2-3 times per week. Intermediates 3-4 times per week. Advanced athletes and clients may exercise 4-7 times per week.
  • Split Routine - training different muscle groups on different days as opposed to full body workouts.

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Step 4: Exercise Order

  • Exercise Order - the order you perform exercises in during training. There are many ways to do this.
  • Circuit Training - a method of alternating resistance training in an attempt to minimize rest with 20-30 seconds between each exercise.
  • Superset - two exercises performed one after another with little to no rest that stress opposing muscle groups. Ex. bench press and chin-ups.
  • Compound Set - two exercises performed one after another with little to no rest that stress the same muscle groups. Ex. bicep curl and chin-ups.
  • Supersets and compound sets are more demanding and may not be appropriate for unconditioned athletes or clients.

Step 5: Training Load and Repetitions

  • Load - the amount of weight or resistance assigned to an exercise.
  • Mechanical Work - the product of force and displacement. Also can be defined as the distance a load travels as a result of the athlete doing work.
  • Volume-Load - the total repetition volume times the amount of load work was performed against.
    • A part of the total system volume load is also the weight of the athlete.
  • Repetition-Volume - the total number of reps performed.
  • Intensity - the amount of resistance or quality of work performed.
  • Repetitions - the number of times an exercise is performed.
  • 1-Repetition Maximum (1RM) - the most an athlete can lift in one repetition with proper technique.
  • Repetition Maximum (RM) - the most an athlete can lift a load for a given number of repetitions.
  • Repetition maximums can be quantified with a 1-RM or multiple RM testing protocol. The 1-RM appears to give more accurate estimates for what an athlete can do for a given number of repetitions. These values can then be used to assign the appropriate loads for certain exercises based on the goal of the program.
  • A maximal effort is the most that athlete truly could have done. Ex. performing 10 reps with good form instead of "leaving one in the tank".
  • There are associated ranges that have been shown to provide gains more specific to certain resistance training goals. Ex. 6-12 reps are mainly associated with gains in muscular hypertrophy. However, there are gains in endurance, strength, hypertrophy and power in each part of the ranges.
  • Goal Repetitions - the number of desired repetitions in an exercise.
  • 2-for-2 Rule - training loads must be increased over time in order for an athlete to continue to progress, this is a conservative method by which to do so. If an athlete can perform 2 or more reps over a given goal number in the last two workouts then weight should be added the next session.
  • Estimated load increases can be anywhere from 2.5-10%.

Step 6: Volume

  • Volume - the total amount of weight lifted or mechanical work done in a training session.
  • Set - a grouping of repetitions.
  • An athlete's training status and primary resistance training goal affect the amount of volume prescribed. Ex. for hypertrophy, a beginner may be limited to the lower end of the associated 3-6 sets that can be prescribed for hypertrophy.

Step 7: Rest Periods

  • Rest Period - the amount of time taken to recover between sets or exercises.
  • Interset Rest - a rest period that can be undertaking during a set.
  • There are associated rest periods for each training goal. Strength being 2-5 minutes between sets, power 2-5 minutes, hypertrophy .5-1.5 minutes and endurance less than or equal to 30 seconds.

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Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.