What Every American Should Know About Resistance Training

For every fitness goal, resistance training is a powerful tool for improvement. This fact is reflected in the truth that the average personal training session is primarily spent lifting weights. Successful Personal Trainers know which keys are important to constructing an effective resistance training program. Although there are many different philosophies and templates, every good program has these necessary components in place. The point of this article is to highlight these components and how they are adjusted to meet particular goals.


A set is the completion of a number of movements (repetitions) of a particular exercise. When you complete ten squats in a row, that is a "set of ten". The number of sets per exercise is often determined by experience level. Beginners may start with 1-3 sets per exercise, while advanced trainees may opt for 5-10 sets for a given movement.


A repetition (or rep) is the completion of one movement of a particular exercise. When you perform ten squats in a row, you have completed ten reps. The number of repetitions done per set determines the effect the exercise will have on the body. Fewer repetitions (1-5) focus on strength, mid-level reps (6-12) focus on developing muscle, and higher reps create endurance in the muscular system. Repetitions create the above effect only when the correct weight is used, with lower reps using the heaviest weight and high reps using the lightest.

Rest Time

Also tied with intensity, rest times between sets partly determine how much weight you lift, and therefore how the exercise changes your body. Heavy weight and low reps mean long rest times (2-5 minutes) to guarantee the quality reps important for strength development. Mid-level weights and reps take much less rest (1-2 minutes) to ensure muscle breakdown accumulates. The more muscle breakdown, the more muscular development and growth during recovery. Low weight and high reps means very little rest (around 30 seconds) to create an endurance effect.


As has been discussed in previous TrueFN articles, big barbell exercises are the ideal selection for resistance training programs. These and other exercises selections are dependent on the client's goals and limitations.


The most important ingredient, and the one where the most creativity can occur. To improve someone's body, their training programs must become progressively harder over time. This occurs through increases in sets, reps, intensity; decreases in rest time; or by making an exercise more difficult. Good trainers choose the best ways to make the program harder for each of their clients, and they do so in every session.

Program design is a mix of science and art. Programs can range from short and simple to exotic and complex. Regardless of the template created, a correct application of the above components will ensure that the program will be effective for the client it is designed for.