The Beginner’s Guide to Resistance Training (Part 2)

Strength training is recommended a mimimim of two times a week by the American College for Sports Medicine. However, starting strength training might feel like a daunting task. Last week we started breaking down how to create a resistance training program for beginners. Today, we are going to go over the remaining design variables involved in program design.

4. Exercise Order:

The order of resistance exercises performed during one session is important. The general rule when choosing the order of exercises is making sure that performing one exercise, will not affect quality and technique of the exercise to follow. There are four common methods of determining the order:

  • Power exercises first- Power exercises such as snatch, hang clean, power clean, followed by non-power core exercises).
  • Upper and lower body exercises (alternated)- This is an example of circuit training. This style allows the lower body gets to rest while the upper body is being worked and vise versa. This is ideal for untrained individuals).
  • Push and pull exercises (alternated)- Another way of improving recovery between the exercises is alternating push and pull movements. A push exercise is anything you are moving away from your body such as bench press and a pull exercise comes toward your body like a bicep curl).
  • Supersets and compound sets- A superset involves 2 separate exercises which stress 2 opposing muscles such as bicep curls paired with tricep extension. However, a compound set involves using 2 separate exercises to stress the same muscle group. For example, a compound set would be doing bicep curls with a barbell and immediately switching to a dumbbell curl.

5. Training load and repetitions:

Training load is to the amount of weight used for an exercise. The weight is often characterized as the most critical part of resistance training. In addition, repetitions are the number of times an exercise can be performed. And together, repetitions and load are inversely related because the more the load is increased, the less repetitions will be able to be performed.

Some terminology commonly used in relation to load and repetitions are:

  • One Rep Max (1RM)- the greatest amount of weight that can be lifted with proper technique just once.
  • Repetition Max (RM)- the greatest amount of weight that can be lifted with proper technique for a specific number of repetitions. 

6. Volume:

Volume is the total amount of weight lifted in a training session. The most commonly used recommendation for the amount of sets and repetitions is 8-12 repetitions for 1-3 sets.  However, as the level and status of training changes, and for the best results, the volume of training should increase as well. 

Recommended volume based on training goal:

Training Goal Goal repetitions Sets
Strength ≤6 2-6
Power 3-5 3-5
Hypertrophy 6-12 3-6
Muscle endurance ≥12 2-3

7. Rest Periods:

A rest period is the time dedicated to recovery between sets and exercises. The length of rest period is dependent on the goal of training, load lifted and training status.

Recommended rest periods based on training goal:

Training goal Rest Period Length 
Strength  2-5 min
Power  2-5 min
Hypertrophy  30 seconds to 1.5 min
Muscular endurance  ≤30 seconds 

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Please, call us to schedule your evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!



Haff, G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Fourth edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.