CSCS Chapter 17: Program Design for Resistance Training
CSCS Study Guide Chapter 17

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Chapter Goals:

  • Assess the characteristics and requirements of a sport and athletes.
  • Choose exercises based on the type, sport specificity, technique experience, availability of equipment and time.
  • Know the frequency of training based on the training status, sports season, load, exercise type, and other concurrent exercises.
  • Order exercises based on type.
  • Determine maxes for different reps.
  • Learn when and how much load should be increased.
  • Give training volumes based on training status and goals.
  • Know the periods for rest based on training goals.

Principles of Anaerobic Exercise Prescription

Specificity is in reference to the aspects like muscles involved, patterns of movement, and nature of muscle actions, but not always a reflection of a combo of these.

The SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demand) says the demand type put on the body dictates the adaption type that follows.

Overload is when you have a greater intensity than what you usually do.

Progression is how a program gets harder and achieves greater results, by moving to the next levels.

Program Design Variables:

  • Needs analysis
  • Exercise selection
  • Training frequency
  • Exercise order
  • Training load and repetitions
  • Volume
  • Rest periods

Step 1: The Needs Analysis

A two-stage process where you evaluate requirements of a sport while also assessing the athlete.

Evaluation of the Sport

Movement analysis involves looking at the limb and body movement patterns as well as involvement of muscles.

Physiological analysis involves looking at strength, muscular endurance, strength, hypertrophy, and power.

Injury analysis looks for common sites of injury in the sport.

Assessment of the Athlete

Training Status

Training program type

The length of recent participation in training programs.

Intensity level of previous training

Exercise technique experience

Physical Testing and Evaluations

Tests relate to the sport of the athlete.

Movement analysis results are used for test selection.

Compare the results with descriptive data to find strengths and weaknesses following testing.

Primary Resistance Training Goal

Used for improving strength, muscular endurance, power, and hypertrophy.

One training outcome per season should be the focus. 4 seasons: Offseason, preseason, in season, and postseason.

Step 2: Exercise Selection

Choosing the exercises in the resistance training program.

Exercise Type

Core and Assistance Exercises

Core exercises use one or more large muscle areas and they can involve 2 or more main joints, and they receive priority when selecting exercises due to the application to sport.

Assistance exercises use small muscles and use only 1 joint. They are less important.

Structural and Power Exercises

Structural exercises put emphasis on loading the spine either directly or indirectly.

Power exercises are structural and done very quick.

Movement Analysis of the Sport

Sport specific exercise: The more similar the moves are to the sport, the better.

Muscle Balance

The agonist is the muscle doing the movement.

The antagonist is passive and opposite of the working muscle.

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Exercises to Promote Recovery

A recovery exercise is one not involving high stress to the muscle or the nervous system, but typically they do promote restoration and movement. 

Exercise Technique Experience

Don’t assume athletes will do the moves well.

Availability of Resistance Training Equipment

Available Training Time per Session

Step 3: Training Frequency

The number of sessions done in a certain time.

The regular time period is one week for resistance programs.

Training status

Affects how many rest days are needed between the sessions.

3 workouts a week are recommended for proper recovery.

Generally, one day of recovery, but no more than three is ideal.

Beginners = 2 – 3 sessions

Intermediate = 3 – 4 sessions

Advanced = 4 – 7 sessions

Sport Season

Seasonal demands limit available time

Offseason: 4 – 6 sessions

Preseason: 3 – 4 sessions

In season: 1 – 3 seasons

Postseason: 0 – 3 sessions

Training Load and Exercise Type

Max and near max loads require more time to recover

Other Training

Frequency of training is influenced by levels of stress.

The effects of other aerobic/anaerobic training, sport skill practice, and physically demanding occupations should be considered.

Step 4: Exercise Order

The Sequencing for resistance exercises done in one session.

Power, Other Core, Then Assistance Exercises

Power moves like the snatch, clean, hang clean, power clean, and the push jerk need to be done first in training, and then nonpower core and assistance exercises need to be followed next.

Upper and Lower Body Exercises (Alternated)

Alternating upper and lower body each day is one way to recover.

When exercising with minimal rest, it’s known as circuit training.

Push and Pull Exercises (Alternated)

Alternating pulling and pushing Is another way to rest.

Supersets and Compound Sets

Supersets are when you perform two exercises in a row on two different muscle groups.

Compound sets are two exercises together that work the same muscle.

Step 5: Training Load and Reps

Terminology Used to Quantify and Qualify Mechanical Work

Mechanical work is equal to force times displacement.

Load volume is a practical measure of the amount of work done while resistance training.

Load volume is equal to weight units times the repetitions.

Relationship Between Repetitions and Load

Heavier loads lower the reps that can be done.

Load is a percent of 1 RM.

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1RM = most weight lifted properly for one rep.

RM = most weight lifted for a number of reps.

1RM and Multiple RM Testing Options

Testing the 1 RM

Adequate experience with the exercise is needed.

1 RM testing is done with the core exercises.

Estimating a 1 RM

Using a 1 RM Table

Consult the table in Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Third Edition in order to estimate the 1 RM of an athlete.

Using a prediction Formula

There are equations for predicting 1 RM base on multi RM loads.

They are more accurate with multi load maxes less than or equal to 10.

Multiple RM Based on Goal Repetitions

Assigning Load and Repetitions Based on the Training Goal

Rep max continuum

If strength and power is the goal, use relatively high loads.

For hypertrophy, use moderate loads.

For muscular endurance, use lighter loads.

RM’s are used for certain training outcomes.

Strength = <6 reps


Single Effort Event = 1 – 2 reps

Multiple Effort Event = 3 – 5 reps

Hypertrophy = 6 – 12 reps

Muscular Endurance = >12 reps

Percentage of 1 RM

Training goals are achieved when athletes lift a load a specific amount of times at a percent of 1RM.

Strength is >85% of 1RM

Power Single Effort is 80 – 90% of 1RM

Power Multiple Effort is 75 – 85% of 1RM

Hypertrophy is 67 – 85% of 1RM

Muscular Endurance is < 67% of 1RM

Variation of the Training Load

Heavy day loads are usually full repetition maxes, the most resistance that is able to be lifted for a set goal of reps.

Other training days are typically reduced for recovery following heavy training days.

Progression of the Load

Timing Load Increases

Loads need to increase over time for continued improvement.

The 2 for 2 rule is a conservative method that may be used for increasing training loads of athletes. When someone performs 2 more reps over the assigned goal in the last set of the last two workouts on an exercise, weight needs to be added for the following workout.

Quantity of Load increases

Exercise, training status, and load volume variations have a strong influence on the load increases.

Relative loads going up by 2.5 – 10% are typically used in place of absolute values.


Less trained people

For upper body exercise, increase load by 2 – 5 pounds.

For lower body exercises, increase load by 5 – 10 pounds.

More trained people

For upper body exercise, Increase load by 5 – 10 pounds or more.

For lower body, increase load by 10 – 15 pounds or more.

Step 6: Volume

Volume is the amount of weight lifted within a single session.

A set is a group of reps performed sequentially before resting.

Repetition volume is the number of reps you do in a session.

Load volume is your sets times the number of reps per set.

Multiple vs Single Sets

Single sets are more appropriate for untrained people in the first months of training. Some studies say that higher volumes are needed for more strength gains, mostly in advanced and intermediate athletes.

Training Status

It’s appropriate to perform one or two sets as a beginner and add sets later as you become more trained.

Primary Resistance Training Goal

Training volume is based directly on the goal of resistance training.

Guidelines for reps and sets for strength, power, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance.

Strength is <6 reps, for 2 – 6 sets


  • Single effort event = 1 – 2 reps for 3 – 5 sets
  • Multiple effort event = 3 – 5 reps for 3 – 5 sets

Hypertrophy is 6 – 12 reps for 3 – 6 sets.

Muscular endurance is >12 reps for 2 – 3 sets.

Strength and Power

Volume for power is lower than strength training so you can maximize exercise quality.


Muscular size increases happen from higher training volumes and 3 or more exercises per muscle group.

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance involves many reps per set, light loads, and few sets.

Step 7: Rest Periods

Time dedicated to the recovery between sets and exercises.

Length of rest depends on training goals, relative load lifted, and training status of the athlete.

Strength is 2 -5 minutes


  • Single effort events are 2 – 5 minutes
  • Multiple effort events are 2 – 5 minutes

Hypertrophy is 30 – 90 seconds

Muscular Endurance is <30 seconds

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CSCS Chapter 17: Program Design for Resistance Training 1
CSCS Chapter 17: Program Design for Resistance Training 2
CSCS Chapter 17: Program Design for Resistance Training 3

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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