NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts 5

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Chapter Goals:

  • Make a summary of 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 exercise variables to produce the desired outcomes. 

Fitness professionals need to understand fundamental principles, scientific nature, and resistance training applications. This allows the trainer to be effective in guiding the client toward their desired results.

Principle of Adaptation

The ability of 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 in 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. Many changes are occurring here that will lead to the adaptions that promote increased performance due to a program.

After many sessions, the body will increase the ability to recruit muscle fibers and distribute 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 as a 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. 

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The body’s adaptations will be representative of the type of exercise done and the muscle groups 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.

We look at the types of specificity for training: 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 movements that are put on the body. An example would be light weights building endurance.

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

Metabolic specificity refers to the energy demands that are placed on the body. Resistance training must be longer to develop aerobic endurance, with minimal rest between the sets.

Progressive Adaptations from Resistance Training

Many goals 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 of 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 eccentric forces. 

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

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 to develop tension levels in resistance training.

With the hypertrophy of muscles, we see the cross-sectional areas of the muscle fibers increasing due to the myofibril proteins. 

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


This is simply the ability of 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 as a result of neuromuscular activation. 

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


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

As 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, also called the exercise training variables, give the foundation of any exercise program.

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They will be used to find the amount of stress put on the body 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 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 look 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 at that each rep is done. This usually follows the order of the eccentric action first, the isometric action, the concentric action, and then the isometric contraction.

The rest interval is about the time to rest the body 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 a week.

Intermediate exercisers should do 3 per week using total body training sessions and 4 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. The many factors of specificity of training can influence this. The easiest ways to control this are by starting with the most complex moves and then down to the most isolated movements. The same goes for exercise orders.

Resistance Training Systems

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

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

A 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 ordered fashion.

Supersets are done by performing two exercises rapidly together with very little rest.

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

A 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 a series of exercises are done one after the other with very little rest.

Peripheral heart action refers to various circuit training where you alternate between upper and lower body exercises in the set.

A split routine is a resistance training routine where you train different body parts on separate 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 stays safe throughout their session and the program in general. There is always the risk of 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. Then it is in the scope of practice that you should keep them safe and instruct the exercises well.

Proper Equipment Setup

Fitness professionals should know the placement of the equipment and the specific equipment their client is using during their session so that they can put everything back and keep the environment organized.

Never use or let the client use any damaged equipment.

Spotting Techniques

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

The spotter must stand in a stable, wide stance to increase maximum safety.

The trainer is greatly encouraged to spot at the wrists instead of the elbows when 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 focusing on stabilization and muscular endurance. So, these training styles will 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 are 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 6
NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts 7
NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 20: Resistance Training Concepts 8
Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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