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Fundamental of Resistance Training: Progression and Exercise Prescription. Kraemer and Ratamess Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise 36(4):674-688, 2004. Abstract.

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Fundamental of resistance training progression and exercise prescription l.jpg

Fundamental of Resistance Training: Progression and Exercise Prescription

Kraemer and Ratamess

Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise

36(4):674-688, 2004

Abstract l.jpg
Abstract Prescription

Progression in resistance training is a dynamic process that requires an exercise prescription process, evaluation of training progress, and careful development of target goals. The process starts with the determination of individual needs and training goals. This involves decisions regarding questions as to what muscles must be trained, injury prevention sites, metabolic demands of target training goals, etc. The single workout must then be designed reflecting these targeted program goals including the choice of exercises, order of exercise, amount of rest used between sets and exercises, number of repetitions and sets used for each exercise, and the intensity of each exercise. For progression, these variables must then be varied over time and the exercise prescription altered to maintain or advance specific training goals and to avoid overtraining. A careful system of goal targeting, exercise testing, proper exercise technique, supervision, and optimal exercise prescription all contribute to the successful implementation of a resistance training program.

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Introduction Prescription

  • Resistance training is popular.

  • A key factor to resistance training is an appropriate program design.

  • Progression

  • Supervised

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At-risk individuals Prescription

A needs analysis

Program goals






Program goals (continued)




Weight loss (body fat)

Improved health

Injury rehabilitation

Individualization/Goal Setting

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Program Goals Prescription

  • Recreational versus Performance

  • Performance/Competitive

    • Power lifting

    • Weight lifting

    • Body building

    • Strongman/women

    • Athletes

    • Maintenance

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Weightlifting Prescription

The Snatch is performed in a continuous movement with the arms held straight.

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Weightlifting Prescription

The Clean & Jerk involves two separate efforts. The weight is lifted from the platform to the shoulders in one motion. The Jerk follows with the bar thrust into a position overhead. Then feet are brought together to complete the lift.

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Program Design Prescription

Muscle Action

  • “Dynamic muscular strength improvements are greatest when ECC actions are included in the training program.”

  • WHY?

  • Eccentric muscle action

    • Greater force per unit of muscle size

    • Less MU activation

    • Requires less energy per level of force

    • Critical for optimal hypertrophy

    • However, they also play a role in DOMS

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Program Design Prescription

Muscle Action

  • Isometric (functional isometrics)

  • Supramaximal eccentric

  • Accommodating resistance

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Program Design Prescription

Exercise Selection

  • Single-joint exercises. Advantages?

  • Multiple-joint exercises. Advantages?

  • “The amount of muscle mass involved in a movement significantly impacts the acute metabolic demands and anabolic hormonal response.”

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Program Design Prescription

Workout structure

  • Total-body

    • General, athletes, & Olympic weightlifters

  • Upper/lower

    • General, athletes, power lifters, & body builders

  • Spilt routines

    • Body builders & hypertrophy

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Program Design Prescription

Exercise Order

  • Large muscle before small muscle

  • Multiple-joint before single-joint

  • For power, perform most complicated first

  • Rotate upper/lower or opposing muscle groups

  • High intensity exercises (higher % of 1RM) before lower intensity exercises

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Program Design Prescription


  • Alternate

  • Untrained versus trained

  • Neural adaptations

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Program Design Prescription

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Program Design Prescription

Neural adaptations are crucial to maximal strength development

Muscle hypertrophy results in lower motor unit activity needed to generate a given force

“Maximizing strength, power, and hypertrophy may only be accomplished when the maximal number of motor units are recruited.”







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Loading Prescription

  • Loading is the amount of weight lifted or the resistance

  • Strength = 80-100% of 1RM or 1-6RM

  • Hypertrophy = 70-80% of 1RM or 6-12RM

  • Endurance = 50-70% of 1RM 12-15RM

  • “Optimal strength, hypertrophy, and endurance training requires use of various loading strategies.”

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Loading Prescription


  • Heavy loads increase strength but not speed

  • Recommended light to moderate loads

  • 30-70% of 1RM

  • Ballistic and plyometric exercises with less deceleration

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Volume Prescription

  • Volume is the total weight lifted (reps x sets x number of exercises)

  • Low-volume

    • Strength = high load, low reps

    • Develops some hypertrophy

  • High-volume

    • Hypertrophy = mod-heavy load, mod-high reps

    • Greater hypertrophy

  • Very high-volume

    • Endurance = very light-mod, high reps

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Volume Prescription

  • What is the optimal number of sets?

  • 2 to 6 sets

  • Less sets needed for novice individuals

  • Berger, 1963 (reference #11)

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Volume Prescription

  • Single versus Multiple sets

    • Single set of 8-12 reps

  • Untrained?

  • Either single or multiple sets

  • Trained?

  • Multiple sets have shown more improvement

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Rest Prescription

  • “The amount of rest between sets and exercises significantly affects the metabolic, hormonal, and cardiovascular responses to..resistance training”

  • Strength and power rely on ATP-PC

  • Hypertrophy on ATP-PC/glycolysis

  • Endurance on glycolysis/aerobic

  • Strength/Power 2-5 minutes rest. Why?

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Rest Prescription

  • Hypertrophy 1-2 minutes. Why?

  • Maintain blood flow (w/ amino acids) to muscles and increase metabolites

  • Endurance 1-2 minutes or less. Why?

  • Stimulate increases in mitochondria, capillaries, etc.

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Velocity Prescription

  • Unintentional slow velocities.

  • Due to fatigue.

  • Intentional slow velocities.

  • What is a drawback to intentional slow velocities?

  • “Motor unit activity may be limited when intentionally contracting at a slow velocity [therefore] the lighter loads may not provide an optimal stimulus for improving 1RM strength”

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Velocity Prescription

  • “In order to maximize power training, heavy resistance training needs to be accompanied by explosive exercises.”

  • What is the deceleration phase?

  • How can this phase be avoided?

  • Ballistic resistance exercises (e.g. loaded jump squats, bench throw, and shoulder throw)

  • Velocity/speed/power development is very specific to training velocities

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Frequency Prescription

  • Recovery time may be up to 72 hours.

  • 2-3 days in untrained

  • 1-2 days in experienced

    • Increase volume per exercise and/or number of exercises

  • Advanced individuals?

  • Overreaching and overtraining

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Progression Prescription

  • Progressive overload

  • Specificity

  • Variation

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Progression Overload Prescription

  • “Progressive overload is necessary for maximal muscle fiber recruitment and muscle fiber hypertrophy and strength increases.”

  • Overload options

    • Load

    • Reps

    • Speed

    • Rest

    • Volume

  • 2.5-5% at a time?

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Progression Overload Prescription

  • Neural and Hypertrophy

Interplay between neural and hypertrophy adaptations

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Specificity Prescription

  • Considerations

    • Muscle action

    • Speed of movement

    • Range of motion

    • Muscle group

    • Energy system

    • Intensity and volume of training

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Variation Prescription

  • General Adaptation Syndrome

    • Shock, Adaptation, Staleness

  • Periodization.

    • Benefit over nonperiodization with long-term training

  • Classic.

  • Volume decreases and intensity increases

    • Hypertrophy – Strength - Power

  • Undulating.

  • Variation of intensity and volume within 7-10 day period

    • 3-5 RM – 8-10 RM – 12-15 RM on M, W, F.

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Periodization Prescription

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Rate of Progression Prescription

  • 40% - Untrained

  • 20% - Moderately trained

  • 16% - Trained

  • 10% - Advanced

  • 2% - Elite

  • The majority of increases with first 4-8 weeks

  • With advanced/elite: time spent developing small gains or improving other areas (skills)

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General-to-Specific Model Prescription

  • Untrained individuals have shown great improvements regardless of the type of training

  • Advanced training targeting progression in more complex and requires great variation to specific training goals.

  • Studies by Marx (2001) and Kraemer (2000)

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General-to-Specific Model Prescription


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Strength Prescription


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Power Prescription


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American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand on Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. Vol. 34, No. 2, 2002, pp. 364-380.

In order to stimulate further adaptation toward a specific training goal(s), progression in the type of resistance training protocol used is necessary. The optimal characteristics of strength-specific programs include the use of both concentric and eccentric muscle actions and the performance of both single- and multiple-joint exercises. It is also recommended that the strength program sequence exercises to optimize the quality of the exercise intensity (large before small muscle group exercises, multiple-joint exercises before single-joint exercises, and higher intensity before lower intensity exercises). For initial resistances, it is recommended that loads corresponding to 8-12 repetition maximum (RM) be used in novice training. For intermediate to advanced training, it is recommended that individuals use a wider loading range, from 1-12 RM in a periodized fashion, with eventual emphasis on heavy loading (1-6 RM) using at least 3-min rest periods between sets performed at a moderate contraction velocity (1-2 s concentric, 1-2 s eccentric). When training at a specific RM load, it is recommended that 2-10% increase in load be applied when the individual can perform the current workload for one to two repetitions over the desired number. The recommendation for training frequency is 2-3 d[middle dot]wk-1 for novice and intermediate training and 4-5 d[middle dot]wk-1 for advanced training. Similar program designs are recommended for hypertrophy training with respect to exercise selection and frequency. For loading, it is recommended that loads corresponding to 1-12 RM be used in periodized fashion, with emphasis on the 6-12 RM zone using 1- to 2-min rest periods between sets at a moderate velocity. Higher volume, multiple-set programs are recommended for maximizing hypertrophy. Progression in power training entails two general loading strategies: 1) strength training, and 2) use of light loads (30-60% of 1 RM) performed at a fast contraction velocity with 2-3 min of rest between sets for multiple sets per exercise. It is also recommended that emphasis be placed on multiple-joint exercises, especially those involving the total body. For local muscular endurance training, it is recommended that light to moderate loads (40-60% of 1 RM) be performed for high repetitions (> 15) using short rest periods (< 90 s). In the interpretation of this position stand, as with prior ones, the recommendations should be viewed in context of the individual's target goals, physical capacity, and training status.

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ACSM Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. Vol. 34, No. 2, 2002, pp. 364-380.

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Summary Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. Vol. 34, No. 2, 2002, pp. 364-380.

  • In summary, specific needs and goals should be addressed before resistance training.

  • The resistance training program design should be simple at first for untrained individuals but should become more specific with greater variation in the acute program variables during progression.

  • Manipulation of the program variables may be performed in numerous ways, many of which are beneficial to progression suffice they adhere to general principles.

  • Progression may be maximized by the incorporation of progressive overload, specificity, and training variation in the program.