NSCA CPT Chapter 13 – Resistance Training Exercise Techniques
Chapter 13 – Resistance Training Exercise Techniques

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    Chapter Objectives:

    • Know the fundamental techniques for the performance and instruction of proper form for resistance exercises.
    • Discuss the right way to spot in situations where that is needed.
    • Know the right equipment and apparel for training.
    • Find common resistance exercise errors with technique.

    Fundamental Exercise Technique Guidelines

    Handgrips and Widths

    Pronated grip is when your palms are gown and the knuckles are up. We also call it the overhand grip.

    Supinated grip is with the palms up and the knuckles down. Also called the underhand grip.

    Neutral grip is when the palms face in and the knuckles face out like with a handshake.

    An alternated grip is when you have one hand pronated and the other hand supinated. 

    Closed grip is when the thumb is wrapped around the bar and it is fully held b the hand.

    Open grip is the opposite of closed and is when the thumb does not wrap all the way around the bar. Also called a false grip.

    The placement of the hands-on the bar is known as grip width. We typically have close, hip-width, shoulder width, and wide grip lengths.

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    Starting Position

    Every new exercise demonstration for a client should start with a stable starting position being shown. 

    With standing exercise, we see the position best when you are at shoulder or hip-width with the feet. 

    With machines it is important to adjust the seat and pads to the height of the person doing the move. 

    Five-Point Body Contact Position

    This is the optimal position of the body when you are performing seated or lying down exercises.

    The five points of contact are:

    • The back of the head.
    • The upper back and the rear shoulders.
    • The lower back and the butt.
    • The right foot.
    • The left foot.

    When we are prone and on our stomachs, the five points are: the chin, chest and stomach, hips and front of thighs, right hand, and left hand. This is rarer and specifically for the leg curl and similar moves.

    Breathing Considerations

    During all movements, there is a sticking point. This is the point in the movement where the exercise is most difficult. This point happens right after the transition in the movement.

    We inhale when doing the lowering motion, and then breathe out for the harder part of the motion which is most of the time raising the bar.

    Valsalva Maneuver

    Resistance trained clients that perform structural exercises that load the spine or stress the lower back will benefit from holding their breath during the exercise. This is because the Valsalva maneuver builds pressure in the torso and gives you more force in a way. The client will be better able to maintain the proper posture and alignment of the body when doing this.

    One way to do this is to inhale in the eccentric portion of the move and then hold through the sticking point , with an exhale after. 

    The other way would have you inhale before the repetition starts, hold the breath through the sticking point, and then exhale. 

    Trainers shouldn’t allow clients with known cardiovascular, metabolic, or respiratory conditions to hold their breath while resistance training. 

    Weightlifting Belt Recommendations

    Weight belts are often used to increase intraabdominal pressure and protect the vertebral column. They can contribute to preventing injury in this way. 

    If clients constantly use weight belts, they may become unaccustomed to supporting the torso. So, when they perform without the belt, they are much weaker than they would have been. 

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    Weight belts are recommended for ground-based, structural exercises involving lifting near max to max loads.

    Spotting Resistance Training Exercises

    Done mostly with free weight exercise, due to the increased risk associated with that training. 

    Spotters can help to teach form while in the movement, provide safety, or encourage clients and help them to get reps.

    Spotting Overhead or Over the face exercises

    Barbell exercises

    Personal trainers should spot over the face exercises by grabbing the by with an alternated grip so that the bar will not rotate. The trainer needs to be as close as possible to the client. They need to make themselves stand in a stable position for a quick save. Their back should be flat and not rounded. 

    Overhead exercises being spotted while standing require the trainer to be taller than the client. If they are not, then they should be done in a seated position.

    Dumbbell Exercises

    It is important to spot these exercises as close to the dumbbell as possible at the wrists, as spotting at the elbows or forearms leaves a lot of room for something to go wrong and injury to occur in a joint. 

    Spotting Exercises with the bar on the back or the front of the shoulders

    The trainer should be strong enough to take on the weight or there should be more spotters. The trainer should be in a position where they will not impede movement, but can quickly hug and lift the client if they cannot complete their rep.

    Spotting Power Exercises

    These exercises are never spotted as thy are too dangerous. They are rapid movements where a lot of things can go wrong. 

    Number of Spotters

    If one personal can safely handle the weight as a spotter, one is good, as it doesn’t require communicating to more than one person. With the introduction of more spotters, the chance of something going wrong goes up, but it could also beneficial for higher weight and even unfamiliar spotting situations.


    This is the responsibility of the trainer and the client. The client, or person lifting, will tell the trainer when they are ready and then proceed to the starting position. If help is needed, they will signal that to the spotter. The trainer/spotter should assist with putting the weight into the racing position. 

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    NSCA CPT Chapter 13 – Resistance Training Exercise Techniques 1
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