Resistance Training

General Principles

  • Resistance training is the most potent form of exercise to strengthen tissues and help prevent injury and improve sports performance. Appropriately prescribed and implemented resistance training programs are necessary to achieve these goals.

  • The size principle of motor unit recruitment demonstrates that the recruitment of motor units and their associated muscle fibers occurs in an orderly manner from low- to higher-threshold motor units, and as one climbs the recruitment ladder, greater amounts of force can be produced.

  • Strength (maximal force production) is a key factor in highly trained athletes; however, other trainable variables (e.g., power [force ÷ time] or rate of force development, local muscular endurance, and hypertrophy of muscle) are equally important.

  • For athletes, a total conditioning program (i.e., resistance training, aerobic conditioning, flexibility, speed and agility, plyometrics, nutritional components, body composition, and psychological aspects) is needed; however, such a program must be appropriately designed, or else, it could result in incompatibility (e.g., too much endurance training can interfere with power development).

The Needs Analysis

  • The development of a resistance training program depends on matching individual needs of an athlete with demands of the sport.

  • A sport must be analyzed by its biomechanical movements (e.g., isometric or dynamic; concentric or eccentric) that have to be reflected in the resistance training program. If a range of motion is not trained, then the tissues become more susceptible to injury because of a lack of adaptation.

  • The metabolic profile of a sport can vary and differ from a cross-country runner to a wrestler. What is the basic metabolism that predominates? Most sports played at high school and collegiate levels rely on a high adenosine triphosphate–phosphocreatine (ATP–PC) and glycolysis involvement supported by a basic aerobic endurance component.

  • Understanding the injury profile of a sport is important to strengthen tissues and movements of the affected joint.

  • Testing is needed for informed decisions regarding the needs of an exercise prescription.

Specificity of Training

  • The specificity of training is related to the recruitment of muscle tissues reflected in the “size principle.” Considering the need for greater force and power demands, more motor units must be recruited. The recruitment of motor units always occurs in an orderly manner from lower-threshold motor units composed of type I slow twitch muscle fibers to higher-threshold motor units (i.e., type II muscle fibers, fast twitch).

  • The amount of force or power needed determines how much of the muscle is activated and thus trained in a given exercise. Heavier resistances in a program ensure that all muscles have been trained.

  • It is important to use resistances and velocities across the entire force–velocity spectrum (i.e., light to heavy, reflecting high to low velocities). Training for maximal power should be performed with no deceleration except for gravity in the exercises performed (e.g., Olympic-type lifts).

  • Ultimately, the specificity of training is related to the physiologic systems that are used to support the motor unit recruitment demands of an exercise.

Development Of A Workout

  • A key factor in the prescription of exercises in resistance training is the acute program variable and choices made because these determine the exercise stimuli.

Choice of Exercise

  • Exercise choice involves the type of weight-training equipment and type of muscle action that will be used in a workout.

  • Exercises are classified as structural (i.e., involving multiple joints) or body part (i.e., involving an isolated joint).

  • Structural exercises include whole-body lifts that require coordinated actions of muscle groups and joint movements (e.g., closed kinetic chain exercises). Most primary or core exercises are structural (e.g., squats or power cleans). These should be included in the training program of every athlete.

  • Body-part exercises attempt to isolate a particular muscle group or joint (e.g., bicep curl). Most assistance exercises can also be classified as body-part or single-joint exercises.

Order of Exercise

  • Larger muscle group exercises should be performed first to allow higher resistances to be lifted.

  • New or complex exercises should be performed first in a workout to allow development of better exercise techniques because of less fatigue.

  • When creating a circuit weight-training workout, one has to decide whether the order and choices are going from arm to arm or leg to leg exercises or arm to leg exercises or upper to lower body exercises.

  • The fitness level of an athlete and exercise tolerance are important considerations when designing a workout or training program.

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