The Beginner’s Guide to Resistance Training

Resistance workouts are everywhere! From Instagram to TikTok, social media is full of workout videos. However, what really makes an effective resistance workout and how do you design your own? In order to attain the best training results when resistance training it is important to understand the basic physiological responses to different training approaches. Whether you prefer working out at the gym or with resistance bands at home there are 3 basic principles that all training programs should be based on.

  • Specificity

The principle of specificity says training should closely match the activity that you wish to improve. In short, what you train is what you become good at. This happens because the body is extremely task specific. And when it comes to training, the more relatable the training is, the more it will help you reach your goals. This means if you want to get better at running, the best way to improve is by running.

  • Overload

The overload principle states to get better at something you have to make it more challenging. Overload is needed because the body adapts. You might have even noticed that continuing to do a tasks gets easier over time. However, stressing the body at a higher level than it is used to is how you make continued gains. Some subtle changes in your program could include increasing the number of sessions per week, adding exercises or sets, or decreasing the length of the rest periods.

  • Progression

Progression is continuing to increase your exercise program and use the overload principle over time. Ultimately, following the progression principle will produce higher levels of performance. 

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Program Design

It is important to keep specificity, overload and progression in mind when creating and following any fitness program. However, designing a resistance training program requires the recognition and manipulation of additional factors called the ‘seven program design variables’. We are going to go over the seven variables in the next two blogs!

The seven program design variables include:
1. Needs analysis
2. Exercise selection
3. Training frequency
4. Exercise order
5. Training load and repetitions
6. Volume
7. Rest periods

1. Needs analysis:

A two step process, usually performed by a specialist, that includes an evaluation of the requirements for the sport/activity and an assessment of the athlete. This step can further be broken down into 3 other categories: 

  • Movement analysis (body and limb movement analysis and involvement of the muscles)
  • Physiological analysis (strength, power, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance priorities)
  • Injury analysis (common sites for joint and joint analysis)

2. Exercise selection:

This means remembering to keep specificity in mind and choose an appropriate exercise. It should meet the goals and be appropriate when meeting the sport, available equipment, time, and the training level requirements.

3. Training frequency:

Frequency is the number of training sessions completed in a given time period. For a resistance training program, a common time period is one week. When determining the training frequency, it is important to note level of fitness because it affects the number of rest days needed between the sessions. For example, a beginner might get more sore and need more time to recover between session. Overall, the most common recommendation is 3 times per week with one rest in between training. As you adapt and excel in training, training days could increase to even 6 or 7 days a week. However, no more than 3 days of rest should happen between the training sessions. 

Training Status Frequency guidelines (sessions per week)
Beginner 2-3
Intermediate 3-4
Advanced 4-7

Stay Tuned

Next weeks blog will give more detail on the remaining program design variables. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about BeneFIT or physical therapy, give us a call today! New Jersey has direct access which means you can come see us without seeing your doctor! We can see you quicker than you could get in to see the doctor, while also saving you both time and money!  

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.