By Patrick McHenry

Before putting weight on the bar, the athlete needs to know some of the basic terms used in weight training.

Repetition or rep refers to the number of times you perform a movement in a single set. If a program calls for 10 reps of a bench press, then the athlete will perform 10 reps or move the bar from eyes to chest 10 times before putting the bar back on the rack.

Sets refer to the number of times the exercise is performed. If the program calls for 3 sets of 10 reps (also written as 3×10) then perform 10 reps rack the weight, wait, perform 10 reps rack the weight and then perform 10 reps and rack the weight. That would be performing 3 sets of 10 reps on the bench press.

As the chart shows, the fewer the reps the more strength used. As the reps increase less strength is needed and more endurance is used. As the reps move past 12 then type I fibers are engaged.


Taking the weight, performing 30 reps and then setting the bar back on the rack is not the same as perform 3 sets of 10 reps. The energy system and muscle type would be different and therefore the

athlete would not be achieving the goals of the program. The rest between sets has a two fold purpose; one it is needed to replenish the glycogen stores in the muscles and two, it allows the correct muscle fiber type to be activated. By performing 30 reps the Type I fiber is activated and not the Type II fibers which are intended to be activated.

Exercise Order is the sequence that the exercises are performed and will have an impact on the individual workout as well as the goals of the program. The athlete wants to work on major muscles first then smaller or stabilizing muscles. If the stabilizing muscles are worked first, then they will become fatigued and the major muscles will not get the workout needed to stimulate them.


Strength is defined “as the ability of a given muscle or group of muscles to generate muscular force under specific conditions”. (34) It can be measured by the amount weigh lifted. Type II fibers are used in this type of training. An example of sports that use this type of muscle fiber would be football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, baseball or field events in track.

There are different types of strength such as maximal, explosive (also known as power), or training maximum. (34) Maximal strength is demonstrated when a person moves as much weight as possible regardless of speed. A power lifter1 performing a 1RM in competition demonstrates this. The weight moves at a slow speed. An example of an explosive lift is an Olympic lifter 2 because they must moves as much weight as possible as fast as possible. This is more sport specific because it replicates sport movements. Training maximum “ is the heaviest load which one can lift without substantial emotional excitement”. (Zatsiorsky) In elite level athletes this could be as much as 12% of their competition maximum.


Muscular endurance is defined as “submaximal contractions extended over a large number of repetitions with little recovery allowed between each set” (essentials). Type I muscle fibers are used in this type of training. An example of sports that use this muscle fiber type are cross country running, bike races lasting longer then 5 minutes, swimming events lasting longer then five minutes or running races that cover more then one mile.

Another aspect of Exercise Order is muscle balance. When lifting, muscles in the front /back and upper / lower need to be worked equally to prevent an imbalance. The program should alternate front exercise then back or upper body then lower body. This allows for proper rest between exercises so that the correct muscle fiber type is worked. An alternative term to opposing muscles is antagonist and agonist. Agonist is the main muscle involved in a movement (i.e. in a bicep curl the biceps brachia would be the agonist). Antagonist is the opposing muscle that would be a decelerator in a movement. (i.e. in a bicep curl the triceps brachii is the antagonist) The agonist / antagonist role

1) Power lifting is a sport where the lifter gets three attempts to lift as much as possible. Each attempt is for 1 rep only. The lifts are the bench, squat and dead lift. Strict rules on form must be followed for the lift to be allowed.

2) Olympic lifting is a sport where the lifter gets three attempts to lift as much as possible. Like power lifting, each attempt is for 1RM. The lifts are the clean &jerk and snatch switches as the movement changes. (i.e. in a triceps push down the triceps brachii is the agonist and the biceps brachii is the antagonist)

NOTE: If the athlete is incorporating Plyometrics in the workout then they should be performed first. This ensures that the fatigue will not affect the athlete’s technique when executing complex exercises.

Load is the amount of weight the athlete uses with each rep. The weight is based off a percentage of the athlete’s 1 RM and is specific for the sets and reps. If an athletes performs 10 reps at 135 pounds this is said to be their 10 RM which should be approximately 70% of the 1 RM.

NOTE: If an athlete puts weight on the bar for a set of 8 reps the weight should be roughly 85% of their 1 RM. If the athlete has chosen the correct weight, they will not be able to perform more then 8 reps. If the athlete performed 8 reps and can continue on for another 5 reps then the weight on the bar is not 85% 1RM. When the athlete does not use the correct amount of they will not be working the muscle to its fullest capacity and the desired results will not be achieved.

Figure 1.1 demonstrates the amount of muscle fibers it takes to perform different percentages of a 1RM. “Only muscle fibers that are activated by the resistance training are subject to adaptation” (3) When an athlete uses too light of a weight on a consistent basis then they will not be stimulating the enough muscle fibers and their will be no neural stimulation. This will cause the athlete to plateau or go down in weight.

Machines vs. Free Weights: Many people ask which the best is. That depends on the level of the lifter, the objective of the program and equipment available.
Machines are the easiest to use because they lock the movement in one plane which allows for the correct movement pattern to be utilized, however, the stabilizing muscles will not be used. Machines can
be used with anyone, are the safest and do not require a spotter. The downside is that may restrict the range of motion which in turn will change the neural patterns and affect sport specific movements. Other
negatives regarding machines is that they take up more space, can cost more then free weights, only one exercise is performed on the machine and the do not work the stabilizing muscles.
Free weights are the more popular form of training for athletes. Free weights allow the lifters to develop the major and stabilizing muscles because they work in multiply planes. Free weights are also useful because many different exercises can be performed with one piece of equipment. On the negative side,
free weights can also be dangerous if the spotter is not watching, the lifter could drop the weight causing it to land on a foot or other person. The lifter needs to have correct technique when using free weights because they are working in multiple planes which allows more movement.

Training Frequency refers to the number of times the athlete workouts, which includes both lifting and speed/agility workouts and can be expressed daily, weekly or monthly. “Without proper training frequency, training may be unproductive and possibly dangerous” (Wathern nsca) There are many ways to structure the Training Frequency of a program. Some programs like to go four days a week with Monday/ Thursday being upper body days and Tuesday/ Friday lower body days. Another way is to go three days a week with Monday / Wednesday / Friday lifting days and Tuesday/ Thursday speed or agility days. Theses are just a few possibilities to put together the workouts. Which ever format chosen, the program should allow for rest between muscle groups and incorporate a heavy, a medium and light day to it. The heavy day stresses the muscle which breaks the actin / myosin down. The medium or light day allows the actin / myosin to rebuild so it can grow and be ready for the next heavy session.

NOTE: Many young athletes want to go heavy all the time on the same lifts. This causes the actin/ myosin to break down and does not let it rebuild. After several weeks of continuously going heavy the athlete will reach a plateau and cause overtraining. Overtraining will lead to injuries and a decrease in performance.

DURATION: Refers to time it takes to perform the program. Typically a program should last between 1 hour and 1:30 including the warm up and cool down. Research has shown that a training session should last approximately an hour. The hormone levels start to drop significantly after and hour (**find paper) and the athlete will not benefit from the longer session. If the program is lasting longer then several factors need to be looked at; number of exercises being performed in the workout, number of athletes working at one time, amount of equipment available or the intensity of the athletes’ workout. If the athlete is working at the correct pace (i.e. not talking or playing between sets) and the working for more then an hour, the coach should see which exercises can be changed, modified or eliminated from the workout. If the workout is for the other reasons, the coach will have to work on the configuration of the schedule.

PERIODIZATION: (see program design) is the process of organizing training into specific phases to achieve the greatest training effect from the workouts. Olympic level athletes have an Olympic Cycle that covers 4 years and includes National Championships, World Championships, Olympic trials and of course the Olympic Games. (appendix ) Elite (professional & college) athletes have a year long training schedule. (appendix ) The most common way to break up the training is: preparatory, hypertrophy, basic strength, power, competition (preseason / in-season/ postseason/off season) (3) The idea of breaking training into different phases or parts goes back to the Romans, Greeks and Chinese who used it with their military. Siff “One of the earliest texts on this subject was written by Koto (Olympic Sport, 1917) who considered it appropriate to dived the training into general, preparatory and specific stages” Over the years the Russians, who were in the forefront when it comes to Periodization, are regarded as innovators in program design.

NOTE: There are many different ways to design a lifting program with no one way being the best; however, following the basic scientific rules will maximize the results and minimize injuries. “If one simple system of X sets and X repitions worked for all players at all time throughout their career, and it was that simple to do, the strength coaching profession would not be needed.(20)

Type of Muscle Contractions
There are three types of muscle contractions, concentric, eccentric and isometric. A concentric contraction occurs when the muscle shortens or when the origin and insertion move closer together. (Figure 1a) An eccentric contraction occurs when the muscle is lengthening or the origin and insertion are moving away from each other. (Figure 1b) If the muscle is generation force but is not moving, it is said to be and isometric contraction. (Figure 1c). An example of the three types of contractions are illustration in this bicep curl, as the weight moves up it is a concentric contraction, as the athletes holds the bar it is isometric and as the bar goes down it is an eccentric contraction.

Muscle fiber types (more details)See section II science

There are two main types of muscle type; fast twitch also called type II and slow twitch also call type I. These can be broken into smaller sub groups but for our purposes we are going to stay with the larger classification.

Fast twitch (type II) use the energy stored in the muscle called glucose so they can fire very quickly and powerful. For this reason they fatigue very quickly. Examples of sports that rely on this fiber type would be weight lifting, lineman play football, or field events in track.

Slow twitch (type I) use the energy that is delivered from the oxygen system and they fire slowly. They are more resistant to fatigue because they do not give you maximum force. Sports that rely on this fiber would be cross country running, long distance in swimming, or biking for distances.

As the chart shows, Fast twitch allows you to develop maximum force very quickly but it will only last a short time. On the other hand, Slow twitch takes longer and does not reach maximum force. How every, it will allow you to go longer duration.

A muscle cell is made up of type I (slow twitch) and Type II (fast twitch) fibers. In training if the % of weight lifted is low (10-40 % of a 1 RM) then the type I fibers will work, NOT the type II. Students who are performing high reps (12-25 reps) are working the type I fiber and not the type II.

Genetics determine the percentage of each fiber type a person has. Training will help maximize the development of the fiber types an athlete has but it will not change the percentages or cause a type I to turn into a type II.

Muscle growth or Hypertrophy is the term used when a muscle increases in size. The size increases because of “an increase in the production of the contractile proteins actin and myosin” (3).

Many young male athletes try to get their muscles to grow as much as possible. The problem they face is that the muscle does not start to increase in size until the long bones have stopped growing which is at the end of puberty or they have reached their full height. Another reason the hypertrophy does not occur in young males is their level of testosterone. When the male reaches their full height the bones stopped growing and their hormone levels and increased. This is not to say that a person does not get stronger as they workout. The increase in strength seen by the athlete is due to neuromuscular adaptations.

Specificity is training that enhances sports performance. “It is not only the exercise which modifies the body, or more specifically, neuromuscular system, but the way in which the exercise is performed.” (34) The exercise should mirror the joint angles / range of motion, speed of movement, type of muscle contraction, and energy system. Simulation is not the same as Specificity. Simulation would be adding weight or implements while performing the movement. An example of this is adding weigh to a bat when taking warm-up swings, throwing a heavier ball or shot in practice, running with a sled or chute. It can have a positive affect on performance, however if done incorrectly, it will have a negative affect. When performing simulation training only 5-10% should be added to the implement.
When an athlete is trying to improve vertical jump, run faster or have better agility, they are training for “Sport Specificity”. This simply means that the athlete is trying to develop the qualities needed to become the best athlete possible. Research has shown that cleans are affective for improving jumping and running because they the same type of movement patterns. The muscles being used, the speed of movement, the range of movement and the application of force are all the same. Thus, improving clean technique will improve running and jumping. “Training specific movement patterns causes adaptations that equate to maximum gains in competitive performance”. (2)

3 Training can include weight training, Plyometrics, or Speed / Agility drills


There is a famous rule in strength training called “SAID or Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands” (Sale 1988). Sale did a study where the subjects squatted for eight weeks. He tested the subjects found they made large gains in their squat strength. He then tested the subjects on the leg press and found they made about half the gains when compared to the squat and no gains in the leg press.

Another rule of specificity is training the whole kinetic chain4. Many times young athletes want to come in and perform single joint exercises’ such as toes raises to improve their vertical jump. Yes, this will work the muscle, but it will not make the athlete a better jumper or help their clean. The body understands whole movements such as a clean or squat which utilize the ankle, knee and hip muscles. The brain sends a message so that all the muscles work together in a coordinated5 effort. When you isolate the muscle, the brain is only firing that specific muscle and so the whole kinetic chain is not being worked. This shows that when training the athlete needs to training remember why he / she are training. Bodybuilders work single joint exercises to train for muscle growth, because single joint exercises isolate the muscle. Athlete’s trying to improve performance (i.e. run faster, jump higher, be stronger on the field or court) need to train multi- joint movements that are similar to the movements they will be performing when the sport is being played.

4 Kinetic Chain is the interaction of muscular, nervous & skeletal system. The ankle/knee/hip work together to produce movement.

5 This coordinated effort is called Intermuscular coordination. The muscles needed for that movement firer in the proper sequence, while the muscles not needed relax.