NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts
NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts 1

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Make a summary for how resistance training will affect the human body.
    • Know the definitions for resistance training systems.
    • Find the acute variable for training resistance.
    • Make categories of the resistance training exercises for the many types of clients, goals, and adaptations. 
    • Use the methods in the chapter to safely execute, instruct, and cue resistance exercises.

    Introduction to Resistance Training

    Making a well-designed and safe, strategic program for training is complicated and usually needs the trainer to start before they fully know their client’s needs and goals. 

    There are many exercise principles to consider for this, along with manipulating the many variables of exercise to produce the desired outcomes. 

    Fundamental principles, scientific nature, and resistance training application need to be well understood for the fitness professionals. This allows the trainer to be effective in guiding the client through toward their desired results.

    Principle of Adaptation

    The ability for the human body to adapt and change is one of its unique features or traits. The body will change in times of stress, environmental change, and functional capacity. 

    Resistance training will elicit some of the more well-known physical changes to the body.

    Resistance training is shown to help clients whose goals are sports performance all the way to simple aesthetics. 

    The adaptive benefits of Resistance Training are:

    • Improved cardiovascular efficiency
    • Improved endocrine (hormone) and cholesterol adaptations
    • Increased muscular hypertrophy (larger muscles)
    • Increased bone density
    • Increased metabolism
    • Decreased body fat
    • Increased neuromuscular control (coordination)
    • Increased connective tissue (tendons, ligaments) strength
    • Increased muscular endurance
    • Increased muscular strength
    • Increased power

    General Adaptation Syndrome

    This is the main theory that governs overall adaptation to training responses. It looks at the process of how organisms will change when exposed to simple acute, or damaging stimuli.

    The model is broken down into three stages: alarm reaction, resistance development, and exhaustion.

    In the alarm reaction, we see fatigue, joint stiffness, and DOMS taking over as a response to the stress put on the body. This happens 6 – 48 hours following the initial injury or acute stressor to the body. 

    Usually this happens to anyone starting an exercise program and when they have done too much when they begin.

    The second stage is the stage of resistance development. There are many changes occurring here that will lead to the adaptions that promote increased performance as a result of a program.

    After many sessions, we will see the body increase the ability to recruit our muscle fibers and to distribute the oxygen and blood everywhere. 

    The last stage is the exhaustion stage where too much stress and an intolerable amount of it will lead to exhaustion of the body and distress.

    This exhaustion is usually seen in the form of stress fracture, muscle strains, ligament sprains, joint pain, and emotional fatigue.

    The Principle of Specificity: The SAID Principle

    This looks at the body’s responses and adaptations to training and exercise. SAID stands for the specific adaptations to imposed demands. 

    The adaptations that the body makes will be representative of the type of exercise done and the muscle groups that are involved. If someone is lifting very heavy weights, it seems fair to deduce that they will then increase their max strength and lift even heavier weights over time.

    The types of specificity that we look at for training are specificity of energy systems, specificity of the mode of training, specificity of muscle groups and movement patterns, and posture specificity.

    All training that is done in a program should be specific to the goals and desires of the client. If they want to work on something, they need training that helps the specific want. 

    There is a big exception that we see to this, and that is when specific movement patterns increase the risks for injury or exacerbate the dysfunctional movements that might be present.

    Mechanical, Neuromuscular, and Metabolic Specificity 

    Mechanical specificity is the weight and the movements that are put on the body. An example would be light weights building endurance.

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    Neuromuscular specificity is the speed of contraction and the selection of the exercises. To develop stability, the movements will need to be done well controlled and at slower speeds.

    Metabolic specificity is referring to the energy demands that are placed on the body. In order to develop aerobic endurance, resistance training will need to be longer, with minimal rest between the set.

    Progressive Adaptations from Resistance Training

    There are many goals that can exist in resistance programs. These are goals like endurance, strength, hypertrophy, and power. The use of this style of training will help to achieve optimal health and longevity.


    This is the ability for the body to provide the right levels of dynamic joint support to keep proper posture during all movements. There is a high need for muscular endurance for the optimal recruitment of the prime moving muscles to increase concentric force production and reduce the eccentric forces. 

    Improper stabilization has been seen to negatively affect the muscle’s force production.

    Muscular Endurance

    This is the ability to produce and keep force production for a long period of time. This is integral in any fitness program.

    With increases in this factor, we see greater core and joint stability, which gives a solid base to build on hypertrophy, strength, and power. 

    Muscular Hypertrophy

    This is simply the enlargement of the muscle fibers as a response to being recruited in order to develop levels of tension in resistance training.

    With the hypertrophy of muscles, we see the cross-sectional areas of the muscle fibers increasing, as a result of the myofibril proteins. 

    Programs that utilize a variety of rep ranges, with the use of progressive overload, will led to hypertrophy of the body.


    This is simply the ability for the neuromuscular system to produce tension internally, specifically in the muscles and connective tissues that are used to pull the bones and overcome a force.

    The degree of internal tension is the result of adaptations in strength. 

    Strength is to be considered not as a function of the muscle, but a result of neuromuscular activation. 

    Strength is also not to be thought in terms of isolation. It is built in regard to the foundation of stabilization in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to be ready for the load that is needed to raise strength after the initial starting of training.


    This is the ability for the neuromuscular system to make the most force possible in the shortest time possible. The equation used for this is force times velocity.

    Like we discussed with plyometrics, the rate of force production is the desired training goal with this form of training. It is also notable that this may not be a good thing to train with all clients.

    Introduction to Acute Variables

    The acute variables are also called the exercise training variables, andtheye give the whole foundation of any exercise program.

    They are going to be used to find the amount of stress put on the bod, and the adaptations that will occur.

    The fitness professional should ask questions such as:

    • Which exercises are most appropriate for my client?
    • Which exercises are contraindicated for my client (i.e., should not be used)?
    • Which exercise intensities are appropriate for my client?
    • How many exercises are appropriate for my client?
    • How many sets and repetitions should my client perform?
    • How many days per week should my client train?

    Acute Variables of Training

    Repetitions are the number of times an exercise is completed. An example would be 15 reps of a bicep curl. So that move was finished 15 times without stopping.

    Sets looks at the group of repetitions that are done together. There is an inverse relationship between sets, reps, and intensity.

    Training intensity refers to how much effort is put forth with each rep. It often is described as a percent of someone’s one rep max with an exercise.

    Stabilization and Muscular Endurance Training:

    • Moderate to high repetitions:  ~12–20 or higher
    • Low to moderate sets: ~1–3 sets
    • Low to moderate training intensities: ~50–70% 1RM

    Muscular Hypertrophy Training:

    • Low to moderate repetitions: ~6–12 or higher
    • Moderate to high sets: ~3–6 sets
    • Moderate to high training intensities: ~75–85% 1RM

    Maximal Strength Training: 

    • Low repetitions: ~1–5
    • High sets: ~4–6 sets
    • High training intensities: ~85–100% 1RM

    Power Training:

    • Low to moderate repetitions: ~1–10
    • Moderate to high sets: ~3–6
    • Low training intensities: ~10% of body weight (when using a medicine ball) or ~30–45% (when using weights)

    Repetition Tempo looks at the rate that each rep is done in. this usually follows the order of the eccentric action first, the isometric action, the concentric action, and then the isometric contraction.

    Rest interval is about the time taken to rest the body in between the sets for recovery. 

    Training Volume is not considered in the five parts of fitness, but it is simply the sum of the reps done in a set and the sets during each training session multiplied by the resistance used.

    Training frequency looks at the total number of weekly sessions. Duration and frequency have an inverse relationship with one another. 

    Beginners are recommended to do 2 – 3 sessions in a week.

    Intermediate exercisers are recommended to do 3 per week when using total body training sessions, and 4 when doing a split routine. 

    Advanced exercisers are recommended to do 4 – 6 sessions, and even possibly multiple sessions within a day.

    Training duration looks at how long the actual training sessions last.

    Exercise selection is important when we look at resistance training programs. This can be influenced by the many factors of specificity of training. The easiest ways we see to control this are with starting with the most complex moves and then all the way down to the most isolated movements. The same goes for exercise order.

    Resistance Training Systems

    Most programs used to be designed by the powerlifters and bodybuilders. There are many resistance training systems in the fitness industry that are used today.

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    Warm-up set is when you do 1 – 2 sets at lower intensities to prepare your body for the exercise and higher weight you will do.

    Single set is simply performing one set of each of the exercises.

    Multiple set is when you are performing multiple sets of each exercise.

    Pyramid sets are done with increasing or decreasing weights in each set, usually in some kind of ordered fashion.

    Supersets are done with the performing of two exercises rapidly together with very little rest between.

    Complex training involves doing a complex exercise with a heavy load, and then immediately following it with an explosive movement of some kind.

    Drop sets have the first set being done to failure, and then we remove some percent of that first weight and continue with the set.

    Giant set is what we do when performing four or more consecutive exercises in rotation with very little rest between the sets.

    Rest pause means that there is a slight pause between the reps in a set.

    Circuit training is the training style where there are a series of exercises done one after the other with very little rest.

    Peripheral heart action refers to a variation of circuit training where you are alternating between upper and lower body exercises in the set.

    Split routine means a resistance training routine where you train different body parts on separated days.

    Vertical loading is training where strength exercises are done starting with the upper body and moving down to the lower body.

    Horizontal loading is when we perform all of the sets for an exercise before moving on to the next exercise.


    The main goal of a trainer is to ensure that the client is not harmed and stay safe throughout their session and program in general. There is always the risk for injury with clients doing an exercise program.

    Maintaining a Safe Environment

    It is the responsibility of the fitness professional to gather all of the information about the client that will keep them safe, and then it is in the scope of practice that you should be keeping them safe and instructing the exercises well.

    Proper Equipment Setup

    The fitness professionals should know the placement of the equipment and the specific equipment their client is using during their session, so that they are able to put everything back and keep the environment organized.

    Never use or let the client use any damaged equipment.

    Spotting Techniques

    The spotter should be regulating the number of reps the client will do before they start their set.

    The spotter needs to be standing in a stable, wide stance to increase max safety.

    The trainer is encouraged greatly to spot at the wrists instead of the elbows when they are using dumbbells. 

    Additional spotters should be utilized for heavy weights that the fitness professional cannot control safely.

    The five kinetic chain checkpoints to monitor during exercises are:

    • Feet: Approximately shoulder-width apart and pointing straight ahead (unless the exercise requires a different foot position)
    • Knees: In line with the second and third toes (avoid allowing knees to cave inward)
    • Hips: Level and in a neutral position
    • Shoulders: In a neutral position (avoid protracting or elevating the shoulders, unless the exercise requires these positions)
    • Head: Cervical spine in a neutral position

    Guidelines for Resistance Training

    Clients should start their programs with the goal being to focus on stabilization and muscular endurance. So, these training styles are going to be mainly featured at the start of any exercise program for beginners. This is progressed through decreases in the base of support.

    The progression should then lead to a focus on strength focused exercise when there is sufficient levels of stability and endurance of the muscles. The goal is to train hypertrophy and heavier loads in general.

    The last progression, should someone have the desire, is to train for power focus. These are for the increase in the rate of force production. This uses a firm base in the previous progressions from training.

    NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts 2
    NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts 3
    NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts 4

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