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  • Scott Toronto, DPT, Cert MDT

Training Methods for Resistive Exercise Programs

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. ACSM is dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

One of their focuses on scientific research has been in the area of resistance training (RT) and how to progress once an established program has been initiated. “Progression in RT may be defined as the act of moving forward or advancing toward a specific goal over time until the target goal has been achieved.”

In 2009, the ACSM gave their stance on progression of RT in their official statement titled Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. As a part of this position stand they state, in regards to an RT program, that:

“In order to stimulate further adaptation toward specific training goals, progressive resistance training protocols are necessary. The optimal characteristics of strength-specific programs include the use of concentric, eccentric, and isometric muscle actions and the performance of bilateral and unilateral single- and multiple-joint exercises. In addition, it is recommended that strength programs sequence exercises to optimize the preservation of exercise intensity (larger before small muscle group exercises, multiple-joint before single-joint exercises, and higher-intensity before lower-intensity.”

There are 8 areas of RT that will be explained to effectively exercise the body and its muscle groups. They are: number of sets, number of reps, intensity, super-setting, resting between sets, how many times per week to exercise, duration of exercise program, and how much to progress weekly.

  1. Sets per each exercise: 1-3 sets

  • One strength training set to failure of 8-12 reps is as effective as 3 sets for improving strength and muscular endurance in the exercised muscles

  1. Reps per each exercise: 8-12 reps/ACSM

  • Strength

  • High intensity exercises (>90% 1 RM*) 3-9 reps

  • Minimum of 66% of 1 RM

  • Endurance

  • Low intensity exercises (<70% 1 RM) >20 reps

  • Moderate intensity exercises (70-90% of 1 RM) 6-12 reps

  • *1 Rep Max (RM): The most amount of weight one can lift in a single repetition for a given exercise*

  • How many reps to perform? Specificity based on activities

  1. Intensity: 10 RM/MVC @ beginning and at 3 weeks to establish and adjust working weights

  • 60-80% MVC*

  • How do we determine intensity? Omni Scale

  • *Maximal Volitional Contraction: Maximal exertion of force as moment around a joint

  1. Superset format: are when there are reciprocal exercises for agonist and then followed immediately by the antagonist

  • Saves time, Provides muscle with recovery time so efficiency of workouts, efficiency in developing exercise program, work on muscle balance, focus on one muscle group to create a dominant muscle group

  • Increased energy expenditure, greater excess post-ex 02 consumption

  • More effective than traditional sets training in terms of volume load and it’s more efficient

  • Rest agonist muscle group while working the antagonist muscle group

  1. Rest Intervals

  • Isometric exercises: ~ 1 minute recovery between sets

  • Isotonic exercises: ~1/2-1 minute recovery between sets

  • Isokinetic exercises: 2-4 minutes recovery between sets

  1. Frequency: 3 times/week

  • ACSM stance: 3-4x/week and every other day

  • >4x/week-often leads to over training if same muscle group

  • Split sessions-alternate muscle groups or specific activities

  1. Duration: 6 weeks

  • Neural Factors

  • Motor learning

  • Neuro-chemical changes

  • Sensorimotor changes

  • Muscle pre-activation

  • Muscle activation

  • Motor unit firing

  • Motor unit synchronization

  • Central control of training related adaptations

  • Disinhibition which creates increased muscular force

  • Decreases in antagonistic co-activation

  1. How much to progress? (% Progression per week)

  • 2-10% increase/week

  • Periodized fashion

  • Tissue loading

  • Volume dosage based on patient’s injury/surgery, acuteness of condition, pain, soft tissue healing, ROM, clinical reasoning, and patient response

  • Tissue homeostatis model provides the ideal optimal loading

  • Please refer to our “Optimal Tissue Loading Rehab Principles” blog


-ACSM. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. MSSE. 41(3):687-708, 2009

-George Davies: Current Concept

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