Monitoring and Modifying a Resistance Training Program

When monitoring a resistance training program, workload management is key. This involves monitoring intensity (weight or complexity of exercise) against the duration of the exercise (sets and reps). If intensity increases, then duration must decrease, and vice versa.

When modifying a resistance training program, duration (sets and reps) must always increase prior to increasing resistance. When the participant can complete all sets and reps of the exercise program, then the intensity or resistance can increase. If the participant is unable to complete the prescribed number of sets and reps in the program, then the intensity or resistance must be decreased.

To determine the starting resistance of a resistance training program, a 1-Repetition Max test can be performed. This involves a trial of 5 attempts for a specific exercise where the participant attempts to lift or push their heaviest possible resistance for that exercise.

In many cases, a participant is too inexperienced to safely lift a maximal weight without injury. In that case, a 6-repetition max or 10-repitition max can be attempted. The same 5 trial procedure is used, but the resistance is much lighter, as it in the maximum weight the participant can lift in 6 or 10 repetitions.

Below is an example of a bench press 1Rm conversion table:

1rm conversion

This information will allow the instructor to accurately determine the maximal strength of the client, and therefore the exercise intensity for each specific exercise. Once the instructor has decided on the goals of the exercise program, and has the maximal strength of the client, the other variables can be determined through the application of the following programming principles.

  1. Muscle (Strength) Endurance

When the focus of the program is to develop the ability of the muscle to sustain repeated efforts of a long duration, then muscle endurance must be established. To achieve adaptations in muscle endurance, the following FITT variables will apply:

  • Frequency: 2 -3 times weekly
  • Intensity: 60% – 70% of 1RM
  • Time: 2 to 3 Sets of 12 to 20 Repetitions
  • Work: Rest Ratio: 1:1 (30 – 45 seconds rest)
  1. Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy adaptations will focus on developing the size of the muscle fibre, without necessarily encouraging adaptations in the strength. This will cause increases in the size of the muscle sarcoplasm, but not the number of protein elements (actin and myosin filaments) in the sarcomere. To achieve hypertrophy adaptations, the following variables will apply:

  • Frequency: 4 – 6 times weekly
  • Intensity: 65% to 85% of 1RM
  • Time: 4 – 6 Sets of 6 to 12 Repetitions
  • Work: Rest Ratio: 1:2 (60 – 90 seconds rest)
  1. Strength

To increase maximal strength, the focus will be on increasing the strength and size of the protein elements in the sarcomere. This may or may not result in increases in the size of the muscle fibre itself. The intensity of the resistance is very high; however, the rest in between sets is long, and the sets and repetitions are lower:

  • Frequency: 3 – 5 times weekly
  • Intensity: >85% of 1 RM
  • Time: 3 – 5 Sets of 1 – 6 Repetitions
  • Work: Rest Ratio: 1:3 (up to 3 minutes rest)
  1. Power

Program design for power adaptations is very like that of strength. The focus of power training will need to be on the speed of the repetition and the technique of the movement. The repetition must be performed as quickly as possible while maintaining the correct movement pattern.

  • Frequency: 3 times weekly
  • Intensity: 75% – 85% of 1RM
  • Time: 3 – 5 Sets of 3-5 Repetitions
  • Work: Rest Ratio: 1:3 (up to 3 minutes rest)

As the participant progresses through a resistance training program, it is important for the instructor to advise the participant on modifications to ensure adaptation based on the participants needs and goals