Workout Essentials Resistance Training


We’re kicking off a 4 part blog series on 4 major areas of exercise that will include: resistance training, cardiovascular, balance and flexibility.  This week’s edition is on resistance training.  We’ll look to define what resistance training is, some foundational principles, benefits of resistance training and what type of resistance training you should incorporate.


According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic exercise (i.e., brisk walking) every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). By following these guidelines it is believed that we can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and other adverse health outcomes.


What is resistance training?


Resistance training is sometimes referred to as strength training, although incorrectly. Whereas if someone does resistance training they can increase not only their strength but also power, endurance and hypertrophy or increase in muscle mass.  Here are the differences:


1) Strength – the maximal force that a muscle or muscle group can generate at a specified velocity OR “the weight that a person can lift” (6)


2) Power – outside of the scientific realm may also be termed “strength, might, force” but scientifically is the “time rate of doing work”, the product of force applied over a distance in the shortest amount of time OR “how fast can you move” (6)


3) Endurance – endurance relating to resistance training involves the conditioning of muscles to handles higher levels of fatigue.  Think of the push up test you had to do in high school gym class.  


4) Hypertrophy – refers to muscle enlargement resulting from training primarily due to the increase in cross sectional area of the muscle. (6) Think of your traditional body building programs to gain muscle mass. 


Very good physiologically sound exercise programs will include all four of these components while maintaining emphasis on the overall greater goal.


The Foundational Principles


There are three foundational principles to remember regardless of the type of program your embarking on.  They are specificity, overload and progression.  Without some thought on these your program will not yield the results you want.


The first, specificity, is to train in a specific manner to produce a specific adaptation or training outcome. (6)  This basically states that your going to get the adaptation based upon the way you train and the exercises you choose.


The second, overload, refers to assigning a workout or training regime of greater intensity then a person is accustomed to. (6) Put simply, increase the loads of the exercises, frequency of the workouts, changing rest periods, adding exercises or sets or a combination of all of the above.

Last, progression, is as simple as it sounds systematic and gradual increasing the intensity of training. (6)  This enables the stimulus (resistance training) over time to produce the optimal results.  Small progressive changes also minimize the risk of injury.

There are four more additional principles, the F.I.T.T. principle, that aren’t considered foundations but provide guidance in figuring out your resistance training program.

  • FrequencyHow often your resistance training sessions occur during a week and manipulated for overload and progression
  • Intensity – How much weight or force/stress/weight is used relative to how much a person is able to lift (that person’s 1 rep max); can also be manipulated by changing sets and repetitions
  • Type – The type of exercise the person will be performing
  • Time – How long is your workout going to be.  Take into account rest periods.


What are the benefits of resistance training?


1)  Increase in muscle mass –  the disruption and damage done to the muscle from resistance training results in the repair and remodeling process by which the cross sectional area (CSA) of the muscle increases; hypertrophy.


2) Development of bone strength – the mechanical stress or “load” stimulates the development of new bone.  The stimulus must be above the minimal essential strain (MES) in order for new bone formation.

3) Improved neuromuscular system – an increase in neural drive occurs allowing for greater levels of muscle recruitment leading to maximal levels of force and power.  An overall more efficient system.

4) Overall health improvement – lower risks of some of the following:

  • Premature death
  • Diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis
  • Risk factors for disease, such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol
  • Functional capacity (the ability to engage in activities needed for daily living)
  • Mental health, such as depression and cognitive function


What type of resistance training?


Any type of activity causes the body’s muscles to work or hold against an applied force or weight is good. The weight can be your own body, bands, cables, machines and free weights to name a few.  Just remember our foundational principles when planning your exercises: specificity, overload and progression.


As we started out saying, it’s important to work all the major muscle groups of the body: the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.  The incorporation of large muscle groups (squats, deadlifts, power cleans) are especially nice because of their effect on increased hormonal release and those hormones’ role in muscle production.

The choice to incorporate a certain type of resistance depends on level of physical fitness, how familiar a person is with specific exercise movements, and individual goals.

Of course the other concern is recovery. All of the resistance training in the world will be worthless if special attention isn’t placed on how you recover from your workout.  You won’t be able to reach your goal if your constantly sidelined with injuries.  We dedicated a whole blog on recovery before, which you can take a look at here.


Final Key To Remember!


There is no one workout plan that works for everybody. The key is to pick a plan that matches your current fitness level and stays in line with your goals.  Have more questions about your workouts? Know somebody interested in benefiting from exercise just like you? Contact us!

Workout Essentials Resistance Training CTA


  1. “Resistance Training for Health and Fitness”. Accessed 1, July 2015. American College of Sports Medicine.
  2. “Physical Activity has Many Health Benefits”. Accessed 1 July 2015. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
  3. “2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary”. Accessed 1, July 2015. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
  4. “Strength Training for Bone, Muscle and Hormones”. Accessed 1, July, 2015. American College of Sports Medicine.
  5. “Physical Fitness FITT Principles”. Accessed 6, July 2015. Teaching and Learning to Standards. Oregon Department of Education.
  6. Baechle, T.R. & Earle, R.W. (2008).  Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning.  Human Kinetics: Champaign.




President, Personal Training Manager at Body By Brent LLC