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Methods of Resistance Training

This is an excerpt from Developing Endurance by NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association & Ben Reuter.

Methods of Resistance Training

The methods of resistance training are directly related to the way that the training program is designed. The methods used in the application of resistive loads are largely dictated by the overall goals of the training program or the phase of the periodized training plan. The most effective and time-efficient method for developing strength and power that directly affect athletic performance involves combining several modes of training, such as free weights, plyometrics, and medicine ball work.

Regardless of the mode used, the training plan must progressively overload the athlete. Progressive overload is accomplished through the manipulation of various training factors, such as varying the frequency of training, the volume load (sets × repetitions × load), the intensity of the exercise or session, the rest interval between sets or repetitions, and the exercises used. Too often coaches and sport scientists falsely consider only the variation of volume and intensity of resistance training when attempting to progressively overload the athletes. However, other factors, such as the exercises selected and the order of training, can also significantly influence the effectiveness of the training plan.


In its most simplistic form, the volume of resistance training is the amount of work accomplished. The best method for estimating the amount of work accomplished in a resistance training session is the calculation of the volume load (sets × repetitions × load). The volume load is a far superior method for estimating the amount of work accomplished because it includes the load in the calculation. If the load is not included in the calculation (sets × repetitions), the result will provide a false representation of volume.

For example, table 7.1 presents four exercises in which the athlete has performed 30 repetitions, which could falsely be interpreted as an equal volume of training. Looking at the volume load calculation, it is clear that the volume of training can differ greatly in response to the load that is lifted. Volume is a representation of work accomplished, so the load should be included in the volume calculation because the load will affect the amount of work undertaken.

High volume loads generally result in greater caloric expenditure and can stimulate increases in endurance. Because of this, many endurance athletes believe that they should always perform high-repetition resistance training, which may not be beneficial during certain times in the training year. Periods of high volume load can result in substantial amounts of accumulated fatigue. When high volume loads are encountered too frequently, an endurance athlete may experience a decrease in performance as a result of the fatigue that this type of training stimulates. Endurance athletes must consider the relationship between fatigue, performance, and the volume load of training when integrating a resistance training program into their preparation activities.


The intensity of an exercise depends on the rate at which energy is used. Intensity is typically calculated as a percentage of a specified repetition maximum (RM). For example, in table 7.1, three sets of 10 back squats were performed at an intensity of 65 percent (146 kg) of the heaviest weight that could be lifted 1 time, or 1RM, which in this case was 225 kilograms. Working from the initial 1RM is the preferred method of establishing training intensity, but this method does have some potential pitfalls. As the athlete gets stronger, the 1RM increases, and if testing is not undertaken frequently, the training zones become progressively less effective.

One solution for this issue is to work off of goal 1RM values as shown in table 7.2. However, when using this method, the goal established must be realistic so that the athlete does not overtrain. An additional consideration is that the number of repetitions that an athlete can perform at a specific percentage of 1RM varies depending on the exercise and the training experience of the athlete.

Another method is to work from the number of repetitions that can be performed based on percentages of the 1RM, as shown in table 7.3. For example, if an athlete's 1RM is 225 kilograms, his estimated 5RM is approximately 191 kilograms, and his predicted 10RM is around 168 kilograms. Training zones can then be established based on these numbers, as shown in table 7.4. In other words, athletes find their 1RM and then use table 7.3 and the intensity spectrum presented in tables 7.2 and 7.4 to individualize training intensities. This eliminates the need for frequent testing and allows the coach or athlete to use percentages of actual, estimated, or goal RMs.

Learn more about Developing Endurance.

More Excerpts From Developing Endurance



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