ACSM CPT Chapter 14: Resistance Training Programs

Get your copy of the ACSM CPT exam cheat sheet. It helps immensely for studying for the exam.

My PTP students report cutting their ACSM study time and effort in half with Trainer Academy. 

Benefit from the Exam Pass Guarantee and Retake Fee Guarantee. Plus, take advantage of my current discount code PTPJUNE for 35% off the MVP Program (Ends June 20th, 2024). 

Try it out for free here to see if it’s right for you, or read my detailed review for further insights.

Chapter Objectives: 

  • Learn the principles of resistance training.
  • Go over the how and why of the performance of resistance training.
  • Make, evaluate, and use programs of resistance training.
  • Evaluate the needs and progress of the client’s resistance training.

The History and Science behind Resistance Training

Progressive resistance training was experimented with for injured soldiers after the second world war. Later Olympic weightlifting pioneers and those in free weight training promoted the industry.

Not much grew as far as the public until the 60s and 70s. Since then, it has grown exponentially.

General Resistance Training principles:

People often use resistance exercise and training interchangeably, but there is a distinction to be pointed out. The term resistance exercise will in reference to a single session of exercise, whereas training will be the combination of consecutive sessions over time. A resistance protocol is a prescription for a single session called a workout.

Specificity of training: This training principle says that only trained muscles will be the ones that change and adapt in response to a program. So, our resistance programs need to target all muscles where you desire a training effect.

Specific adaptations to imposed demands (SAID): The SAID principle says that the adaptations will be specific to the exercise demands on the individual. So, if the goal is to work on muscular endurance, and the person does many reps, then it would be achieved.

Progressive overload: The body adapts to the stimuli that we give it, so by increasing these stimuli over time, the adaptations and improvements will continue to increase. The body will maintain that level if the load or volume doesn’t increase over time.

Variation in training: Programs shouldn’t be done without changing stimuli over time.

Periodization: This principle is about the phasic manipulations of training variables to optimize the right physiological outcomes while also reducing the incidences of overtraining.

Prioritization of training: Training goals should be focused on each training cycle.

Program Design Process

Having a great program depends on identifying the specific variables needed to be controlled and ensuring that the desired training outcomes are achieved.

Training Potential

Genetic potential plays a part n the gains that anyone will make in the variables of muscular performance. The rate of adaptation will slow as the time spent training increases due to this genetic potential.

Initial Assessments

Initial assessments include these things:

  • Needs analysis that focuses on the client’s personal needs and goals.
  • The time frame is thought to be sufficient for these needs and goals.
  • The muscle groups and areas that are to be targeted.
  • The health issues of the client.

Before the client does a resistance training program, trainers will conduct baseline tests to find where the client is.

The one rep max tests can be valuable for these baselines and for the future.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25&percnt off
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25&percnt off
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You

Follow-up Assessments

Clients are excited and motivated when they see their improvements throughout the weeks as they work toward their goals. 

There should be frequent formal reassessments of the tests to see and record your clients’ progress.


Clients are not all the same, so it is very important that programs are built for individuals and not for many clients.

Client Feedback

Feedback from the clients is vital for building effective resistance programs. Training beginners and people recovering and coming back from an injury requires some extra concern and observation from trainers for them to be careful and progress properly in resistance programs. This is one example where feedback could avoid injury and other problems.

Setting and Evaluating goals

 Good program design is individualized for the goals of each client, and trainers will run into many different goals the client has, like weight loss, decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol, gaining weight, building up muscle and strength, and shape or tone their body. 

People lose motivation when they don’t see their improvements meeting their expectations, so it is important that goals and expectations are set as realistically as possible.

Having good performance athletically and good health are not always the same thing.

Maintenance of Training goals

Capping is a concept applied in some training situations where small gains are made that require large amounts of time to achieve, but in the long run, they are not necessary for success. 

Unrealistic goals

A lot of times, people set very unrealistic and open ended goals that are impossible to achieve or require more time.

Their goals should be carefully examined for both men and women to determine if the program can make the wanted changes.

Resistance Training Modalities

Variable Resistance Devices

These devices work through a lever arm, pulley, or cam arrangement. 

Elastic devices are becoming popular in fitness as they are easy to use and not very intimidating for new clients.

Dynamic Constant External Resistance Devices

Isotonic devices are ones that force the muscle to exert force at a constant tension. Devices that we do this with our medicine balls, barbells, free weights, weight machines, and kettlebells.

Static Resistance Devices

These specialized static or isometric contraction devices are not used often and involve a person pushing or pulling against a resistance that is immovable.

These use isometric contractions in which the length of the muscle doesn’t change but does contract.

Other Resistance Devices

Isokinetic devices are ones that keep maximum resistance through the entire range of motion by keeping control of the speed at which the movement occurs. 

Pneumatic resistance exercise, which uses compressed air, is pretty popular and allows for a rep’s eccentric and concentric parts to be changed during a rep or set of reps with buttons.

Machines versus Free Weight Exercises

Machines do not always fit every individual.

Machines have a fixed range of motion.

Many machines only utilize one muscle or muscle group.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
NASM Gold Standard Personal Trainer Certification - Save 25&percnt off
Most Popular Cert
ISSA - Most Popular Online Personal Trainer Certification 3 Certs for
Best Study Materials
TA - Trainer Academy - Best Study Materials for Personal Trainer Certification Online - See MVP discount
A Good Option
ACE Certification- A Good Fitness Course Online Option - 25&percnt off
A Good Option
NCSF Certification - A Good Option - Save 25%
Best CPT for you?
Best CPT For You? Take the Personal Trainer Certification Online quiz and Get a Personalized Recommendation Just for You

Machines eliminate the need for spotting and helping.

Machine exercises may be better for some special populations

Some free weight moves, hydraulic, and pneumatic machines allow power to be trained since no joint deceleration happens.

The Needs Analysis

Resistance Training Goals

The very first question that should be asked the client is about the primary goal of the program. Their desired outcome should be understood to have a program that appropriately works for the client.

Biomechanical Analysis to determine Which Muscles Need to be Trained

Specificity is the principle used here to determine what and how to train our muscles.

The specificity of training is based on the following:

  • The joint that the movement happens in.
  • The joint’s range of motion.
  • The resistance pattern throughout the motion.
  • The limb pattern velocity in the motion.
  • The type of contraction the muscle goes through.

Transfer Specificity

Every resistance exercise in a program has various amounts of transfer for the other activities. 

Determining the Energy Sources Used in the Activity

The energy sources used in training have major impacts on the program’s design. The same deal with the specificity of muscles should be utilized when training and deciding what energy you need to use.

Selecting a resistance Modality

Decisions on the modality of training resistance are important in any program. Not all equipment uses the same muscle actions, which will impact your sessions’ effectiveness.

Injury Prevention Exercises

The injury profile of your clients should be known so that you are aware of any common sites for possible injury during the sport or recreation activity of the client. We can work to strengthen or lessen the work if something has been overworked. Communication plays a big factor here, too.

Acute Program Variables

Choices of Exercises

Exercise choices are related to the biomechanical characteristics of the targeted goals for improvement. The potential for joint angles to work in is as limitless as the body’s functional movements. Muscle tissue that won’t be activated will not benefit training, so the selected exercises should stress the right joints, muscles, and joint angles that are decided within the needs analysis.

Exercises can be grouped as primary or assistance exercises. Primary exercises are the ones that will train the prime moving muscles in a certain movement and are the major muscle groups of the body. The assistance exercises are the ones that train a single muscle group in the movement done by the prime moving muscles.

Exercises can be single or multi joint. The multi joint movements require the coordination of two or more joints or muscle groups. This can be things like the power clean or bench press. The single joint exercises only utilize one joint or muscle group at a time. This is seen with things like bicep curls and leg curls.

We can also classify exercises as bilateral and unilateral. They both are used to develop a good balance in the body. 

Order of Exercises

The sequence of exercises that are recommended is this:

  • Larger muscle groups before the smaller ones.
  • Multijoint exercise before your single joint movements.
  • Alternate between push and pull when doing total body days.
  • Alternate between upper and lower when doing full body days.
  • Do explosive and power movements before your standard strength and single joint moves.
  • Exercise the weaker areas before your strong ones.
  • Do the most intense exercise before the least intense.

Resistance and Repetitions

The reps and resistance used change depending on what you are wanting to work on. Doing 3 – 5 reps will have a different response in the body than doing 13 – 15. So, one way to determine your reps and resistance is to find the max weight you can do a certain number of reps.

Another way we can determine the reps and resistance is by using the percent of our one rep max. This usually gives you a proper rep range to achieve depending on your percentage.

The resistance as a whole depends on the goal and level of your client. If you want to get better at lifting big weights, you work with high weights often, and when working your endurance, you work with lighter weights.

Number of Days per Week of Training (Frequency)

ACSM suggests you train resistance for 2 – 3 days of total body training. And this can be broken up and days added if you choose an often used training style like a split program.

Number of Sets for Each Exercise

The sets done for every exercise are a variable we use to determine the exercise volume. The same number of sets is not needed for every exercise in a program, and we also can do one set of different exercises on one muscle group to reach our goals.

Duration of Rest Period between Sets and Exercises

The rest period duration plays a significant role in the metabolic, hormonal, and cardiovascular response that we have to short-term bouts of resistance exercise and the performing of following sets. If we do not allow enough rest, then we will not be able to hit our goals, but if we allow too much rest for the body, then we may not be warm up optimally and thus less effective.

Standard weight training recommends a rest period of 2 – 3 minutes.

Variation of Acute Program Variables

Muscle Actions

A concentric muscle action occurs when our muscles shorten and overcome the external load placed on them.

An eccentric muscle action occurs when the muscle is contracting but not overcoming the force, so it lengthens.

An isometric contraction is when our muscles contract but are not moving.

The most effective programs use a concentric-eccentric approach to repetitions.

True Repetition and Range of Movement

Full range dynamic exercise has a concentric and an eccentric phase. And motions must go through a full range of motion to train a muscle properly.

Periodization of Exercise

The traditional linear program has 4 phases:

  • Hypertrophy phase: This is high volume with shorter rest periods.
  • Strength and power phase: This works at a reduced volume with an increased rest period and load.
  • Peaking phase: This is a low volume with a high load and long rest periods.
  • Recovery phase: This uses lower volumes and loads to recover from other phases.

Linear Periodization

This is the use of progressive increases in the intensity along with small variations made in each of the 1 – 4 week microcycles. It typically follows a line, more or less.

Reverse Linear Programs

This is the same as the linear program but in reverse order. It is best used when the goal is to train endurance.

Nonlinear Periodized Programs

This program allows for variation to be in the intensity and the volume every week over the whole program.

With these programs, we see each mesocycle completed with a specific number of workouts done, not just a specific number of weeks.

Unplanned and Flexible Nonlinear Periodized Programs

This type of plan is done for a 12 week period. So, it is similar to a nonlinear program, but here the workout of the day that is to be done is decided by the trainer and based upon the fatigue level of the client, their psychological state, and their fitness level.

Progression from Beginner to Advanced

Resistance exercises place large amounts of stress on the body; some exercises need a higher level of technique to avoid getting injured. For this reason, exercise technique is of the upmost importance for beginners in resistance training.

As people become more and more accustomed to the stimuli that they are exposed to, more stress is needed for us to increase our strength, power, hypertrophy, and endurance.

Client Interactions

It is important for the trainers to teach people the benefits that can come from resistance training, like the strength, muscle mass, and bone mass increase. This is especially true for clients that are skeptical about the need for resistance training.

Demonstration of Proper Lifting Technique

Giving a good visual representation of the lift they will be doing will allow the person to then follow by replicating that movement pattern. Each lift needs to be done by the trainer with proper form and a verbal explanation of the technique, and then lastly is the actual demonstration.

Spotting in Resistance Training

Resistance training can often have times of physical contact between the trainer and the client. It is often used for correcting or showing lifts and should always be warned and asked for permission before doing so. Another large reason for physical contact is the act of spotting exercise. Spotting is used by the trainer to ensure the safety of the client. The trainer will be helping the client lift or adding a sense of safety to their lifts. The client should be made aware of the techniques and what will happen in the spotting situations.

Know the Proper Spotting Technique

This is the checklist for the trainer to know:

  • Know the proper technique for the exercise.
  • Know how to spot the exercise properly.
  • Be strong enough to help the client with the resistance they are using.
  • Know the client’s intended reps for that set.
  • Pay attention to the client when they are lifting.
  • Stop the client if they perform exercises wrong or break form.
  • Know the action plan for if they do get a serious injury.

Resistance Exercises

The book gives us 125 exercise descriptions to be used for resistance training.

ACSM CPT Chapter 14: Resistance Training Programs 4
ACSM CPT Chapter 14: Resistance Training Programs 5
ACSM CPT Chapter 14: Resistance Training Programs 6
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

All Posts

PTPioneer Editorial Integrity

All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.

Ask me a question and I will reply ASAP

60 ACSM Practice Q's

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Exam


ACSM CPT exam cheat sheet

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The CSCS Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACSM Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Nutritionist Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NCSF CPT Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CNC Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM PES Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CES Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACSM Exam


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the ACE CPT


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the NASM CPT


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NSCA CPT Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACE Exam