Variables of Resistance Training Programming

When designing a resistance training program, the first step would be to determine the goals of the program. Ideally a comprehensive fitness testing program needs to be performed on the specific individual. This would allow for specific information to be determined, including:

  • 1 Repetition Maximum
  • Strength-to-Weight Ratio

This information will allow the program designer to accurately determine the maximal strength of the client, and therefore the exercise intensity for each specific exercise. Once the designer 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. In order 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)

2. Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy adaptations will focus on developing the size of the muscle fiber, 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. In order 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)

3. Strength

In order 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)

4. Power

Program design for power adaptations is very similar to 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)