NSCA CPT Chapter 15 – Resistance Training Program
Chapter 15 – Resistance Training Program

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    Chapter Objectives:

    • Know how to apply specificity, overload, progression, and sequencing.
    • Be able to select exercises, decide on frequency of training, and arrange the sequences of exercises.
    • Find the proper loading through the use of 1 rep max, body weight, and rep max testing.
    • Give loads, volumes, and rest periods times using the client’s needs and appropriate sequential training methods.
    • Put variation in training sessions, days, and weeks.
    • Know when loads should be changed.

    General Training Principles

    Any program not addressing all of these problems can result in a failure of meeting the client’s goals, bad adherence to programs, and possible litigation due to risk injury increases.


    This is at the foundation of every training program. When speaking about specificity in training, as we use it, we define it as a specific way of training someone in order to produce some kind of targeted change.

    If someone is specifically looing to strengthen their legs and lower body, the trainer is of course going to implement moves that focus on these parts. We also call this muscle group specificity.

    We implement this into programs by looking at what someone desires to train. If they enjoy some sport such as volleyball, you would see that jumping is a major aspect, and thus o train with this principle, their program would implement moves specifically for the desired increases in jump strength. With volleyball and jumping we would most likely look at Olympic lift.


    This is the training stress or intensity being greater than the usual loads of the client. If there is no overload in the programs, then there will be limited results.

    To use overload, we simply increase the weight being used in exercises.


    This is the manipulation of very specific variables like rest interval, intensity, frequency, exercise selection, and speed of movement.

    Periodization is the best way to apply training variation.  This is the use of logical phases and the manipulation of training factors within them.

    We may have periods of strength focus followed by periods of power focus, and that is the use of periodization.


    Training stress and intensity are altered so that we can continue making positive adaptations. 

    Changing the stress as someone is adapting is known as progressive overload. This allows someone to become better trained.

    Initial Fitness Consultation and Evaluation

    This initial meeting is used to see the compatibility of the trainer and client, establish an agreement, talk about goals, and determine commitment levels.

    Initial Resistance Training Status and Experience

    The first step is to answer five basic questions.

    • Are you currently participating in a resistance training program?
    • For how long have you followed a resistance training program?
    • How many times per week do you train?
    • How intense are your workouts?
    • What types of exercises are performed in your workouts and how many are done with proper technique?

    The combination of these questions will be used to determine the training status of the client from beginner to advanced.

    Fitness Evaluation

    This is an essential assessment of the heart rate, blood pressure, weight, height, body comp, girth, flexibility, endurance, and strength of the body. 

    This is used to determine where the client is and find the strengths and weaknesses to work on.

    Primary Resistance Training Goal

    This is imperative for the specificity potion of a client’s program. 

    Muscular Endurance

    This type of training is used to enhance the ability of muscles to perform at Submax levels for many reps over a greater time.


    This is in reference to an increase in muscle size. It is training that leads specifically to an increase in fat free mass and reductions in body fat.

    Muscular Strength

    This is the type of training that is for someone wanting to increase their ability to carry heavier loads. 

    It could be for daily activities, or for strictly in gym activities.

    Muscular Power

    This type of training is only used for athletes looking to improve their performance in their sport of choice.

    Determination of Training Frequency

    Frequency is the number of workouts someone will do within one week.

    Influential Factors

    Trainers need to look at the training status of a client and the overall level of fitness that they have.

    Training may need to decrease for some clients in times of a lot of stress in their life.

    Guidelines for Determining Training Frequency

    Recovery is an important thing to consider when looking at the frequency of training. 

    Typically, we follow the rule that you should wait at least one day (but not any more than 3 days) before working out the same muscle group.

    The level of response to resistance workout depends highly on the client and their level of experience.

    Novice or Beginner Resistance Training Status

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    • Recommendation is 2 – 3 sessions per week.

    Intermediate Resistance Training Status

    • Recommendation is 3 when doing full body routines and 4 when doing a split routine.

    Advanced Resistance Training Status

    • Recommendation is 4 – 6 workouts sessions per week.

    A split routine is typically something along the lines of 3 days on and one day off. We target specific muscle groups that are different in the three days that are on, and then the fourth day is for rest.

    Exercise Selection

    This can be influenced by the specificity, the equipment, the client’s experience, and the time trained.

    Influential Factors

    The clients’ needs and the goals discussed in the initial consultation are of the utmost importance. 

    Types of Resistance Training Exercises

    Core Exercises

    These should make up the bulk of the program because of their effectiveness in helping achieve specific goals.

    Core exercises are called such when they:

    • Involve two or more main joints, thus it is a multijoint exercise.
    • Engage larger muscles while activating the synergists, too.

    When a core exercise loads the axial skeleton, it will also be classified as a structural exercise. These exercises require the torso muscles to work to keep the body upright. This could be an exercise like a squat.

    Assistance Exercises

    These are supplementary exercises that are done to keep muscular balance in a joint, prevent injury, rehabilitate some old injury, or isolate specific muscles.

    An exercise is called an assistance exercise if it:

    • Is single joint, meaning it only uses one main joint.
    • Recruits small amounts of muscle mass.

    A basic exercise example would be the bicep curl with a barbell. 

    Guidelines for Choosing Exercises

    For novice and beginning clients, trainers need to look at having more of a training base building focus. Typically, this is with the use of assistance exercises and basic core exercise. A basic philosophy is choosing one exercise for each of the major muscle groups of the body to focus on for each workout.

    When training an athlete, it is important to have exercises that will train relevant movement patterns for their sport.

    When working with clients with special needs, like injuries to the back or other recent pains, you should adapt the program to suit them.

    Exercise Order

    This is basically defined as the arrangement of the exercises to be done within an exercise session. 

    Influential Factors

    The influencing factors for exercise order are things like the goals of the client, the potential of fatigue for the exercise, and the type of exercise.

    Guidelines for Arranging Exercises

    Placing Power and Core Exercises Before Assistance Exercise

    One way would have power exercises at the start, and then core exercises, followed by resistance exercises.

    Another form is your multijoint exercises followed by the single joint exercises.

    The third way is with large muscle exercises followed by small muscle exercises.

    These are more or less just ways to describe the same thing, which is that you start with your bigger, more complicated movements, and end with the least complicated and more focused ones.

    The theory behind them is that the powerful moves will require the most effort, and to do them the best, you must have energy.

    Alternating Push and Pull Exercises

    This has one day with all of your pushing exercises followed by another day of your pulling exercises.

    This allows you to rest the muscles from the day before, as you don’t use the same muscles pushing as you do with pulling.

    Alternating Upper and Lower Body Exercises

    This exercise type is like the push and pull, but now it is upper body one day and lower body the next. You will again be resting the one you didn’t work the previous day. 

    Combination Arrangement Methods

    This is using two or three of the previous methods. So, you’d focus on one, rest, and then do another one.

    Secondary Arrangement Methods

    This involves completing a set of two different exercises with intervening rest times. If you are training the same muscle group with two exercises coupled together, it is known as a compound set. If it uses two opposing muscle groups in succession, then it is called a superset.

    Training Load: Resistance and Repetitions

    The training LOAD is the amount of weight that is going to be used in a program and is possibly the most important part of the program in terms of design. The load and reps is determined by the training program and the desired goals from it.

    Influential Factors

    Percentage of 1 rep max relationship

    Repetition maximum is the max load the client can take in a certain exercise for a set number of reps. For example, it would be the absolute max weight someone can bench press 5 times. That would be your 5 rep max.

    One rep max is the typically used term and factor when dealing with assigning load. This is the most weight you do for only one rep. 

    Loads are often assigned based on a percentage of someone’s one rep max. This would be a rep max, depending on the amount of reps desired.

    We can also assign a range that is called the rep max range. 

    Limitations in the percent 1 rep max relationship

    1. The %RM and number of reps may are related to some degree, but not as robustly as once thought.

    2. Trained status affects the rep numbers at given percentages, with the more trained people being able to do more.

    3. When doing multiple sets, the fatigue may add up and thus the percent max may not be the same.

    4. Percent rep research is largely focused bench press, squat, and power clean.

    5. Resistance training mode affects the max.

    6. More reps can be done at percent rep maxes for core exercises.

    7. Exercise order affects the rep maxes.

    Guidelines for Assessing Load Capabilities

    Methods for assessing load capabilities:

    Directly testing 1RM.

    Estimating the 1RM.

    Using percent of body weight for testing.

    Repetition max testing.

    Assessing the 1 rep max

    This is the gold standard for the assessment of muscular strength.

    The biggest issue to worry about is the technique of the client. If that is good, the test should be reliable and accurate.

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    We assess the 1RM directly by warming up and working up to the 1RM slowly. Then the weight at which only one rep can be performed and no more, is the one rep max.

    Estimating the 1 rep max

    We can use a rep max test or use a prediction equation.

    The rep max test is like the 1RM test, but we aim to do a set number of reps instead. Or we have a weight and do the most reps and then base that off the standard percentages.

    The chart in the book provides the percentages and rep maxes. 

    Percent of Body Weight Testing

    This is for untrained and inexperienced clients, as there is a big correlation with 1RM and weight for them, but not for the well-trained clients.

    A trial load is determined based on their weight.

    Repetition max testing

    This is where we choose a goal rep for a set and reach that with the weight and no more. 

    The higher the reps, the more likely fatigue will add up and be less accurate.

    Guidelines for Assigning Load

    Depending on the goal of the training for all of these load assignments, the reps will change, but the percentages are consistent with the reps.

    For example, someone going through a hypertrophy training phase would shoot for 6 – 12 reps and the percentages would be between 67 and 85%.

    Training Volumes: Repetitions and Sets

    Volume load is equal to the total reps multiplied by the load used.

    Volume is a big indicator for the level of work done in resistance training.

    Guidelines for Assigning Volume

    Resistance Training Goals

    Muscular Endurance: This is typically seen as more repetitions, in the realm of more than 10 per set, with sets varying depending on status of training.

    Hypertrophy: the plan focuses on higher training volume of 6 – 12 reps, with moderate to high loads of 67 – 85%.

    Muscular Strength: For core exercises we see plans of 6 or less reps with sets of three or more per exercise. Assistance exercises use 8 or more reps with 1 – 3 sets.

    Power Exercises: These shouldn’t be done with untrained and new clients. Strength should be focused on first. Here we see 3 sets of 3 – 6 reps for intermediate people and 3 – 6 sets of 1 – 6 reps for the more advanced clients.

    Resistance Training Status

    Starting out we can see the need for only single set programs, but we eventually have to progress to multiple sets in our training. We also get more proficient with our movements and may progress to one rep max testing or other things like power exercise training over time.

    Rest Intervals

    This is the time interval between multiple sets of work.

    The amount of time is predicted by the goals of the client. 

    Influential Factors

    The heavier the load taken on, the more rest that will be needed for recovery. 

    Training status should also be taken into account, as beginners may need a little more time.

    Guideline for Establishing Rest Intervals

    Resistance Training Status

    Much more rest is needed for beginners until their bodies can adjust to the workloads of resistance training. 2 – 5 minutes is the typical rest interval we see used for these clients.

    Resistance Training Goal

    Muscular Endurance: These have relatively short rest intervals of about 30 seconds between the sets during circuit training, and 3 minutes of rest between exercises of similar muscle groups.

    Muscular Hypertrophy: Rest intervals here are short to even moderate. They range from 30 seconds to about 1 and a half minute. 

    Muscular Power: These have typical rest times of 2 – 5 minutes between the max effort sets.

    Muscular Strength: The general time is 2 – 5 minutes here, too.


    This is simply the alteration of training variables for the production of adaptations over time.

    Within Session Variation

    Varying the intensity throughout the session, the rest intervals, and the changing of the training stimulus are the common ways to vary our workouts.

    Within Week Variation

    Varying the intensities throughout the sessions in the week along with load are the most popular ways.

    Between Week Variation

    Here we can vary the volume, intensity, frequency, exercises, and the focus of training in order to bring variation.


    This is the process of clients going toward their goal that was determined beforehand. This can be seen through increases in the load, volume, or frequency. The load and volume is the most common way to progress. Periodic rep max tests are used to assess the need for progressing the program and varying loads and volumes.

    The 2 for 2 rule says that if a client can do two or more reps than the goal in an exercise on two consecutive training sessions, they should then increase the load.

    If you want assistance wrapping your head around this material, make sure to check out Trainer Academy for some awesome NSCA study materials. They have Practice tests, flashcards, and a fantastic study guide. They even offer an exam pass guarantee.

    NSCA CPT Chapter 15 – Resistance Training Program 1
    NSCA CPT Chapter 15 – Resistance Training Program 2
    NSCA CPT Chapter 15 – Resistance Training Program 3

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