Over the past 50 years, resistance training and its acceptance have skyrocketed. We’ve come from few health clubs and gyms to an extraordinary number of choices in today’s world of fitness.  We’ve come from a time when few women lifted weights, to now where there is not even a second glance when a woman is seen in a weight room.  While this progress has made weight rooms more accessible in gyms, health clubs, and athletic facilities, it’s also increased the acceptability of resistance training in both the professional and noncompetitive communities.

For those of you who are new to the concept of resistance training, think about an exercise that requires you to work against an opposing force – one that “resists” your movement. A well-known example of resistance training is weight lifting with barbells or dumbbells, but bodyweight movement, sled pulls, resistance bands or even swimming can fall under the resistance training umbrella.

Regardless of your niche, some fundamental principles remain at the core of any successful resistance training program.  Tweet This! It’s important for everyone involved in a resistance training program to know how to perform an exercise chosen for the program and how to physically support those performing resistance movements (i.e. spotting an exercise).  When injuries in resistance training occur, it’s oftentimes due to an improper exercise technique, lack of proper spotting techniques, or careless accidents.  Properly maintained and positioned equipment is also key to a safe resistance training environment.

In addition, every training program should be individualized.  Tweet This! Not everyone starts at the same level of fitness or age, nor do they have the same medical and physical capabilities, so it’s not a bad idea to consult with your physician prior to beginning a training program. You have to remember: goals change over time, and so your program should change too!  Program analysis is a real time process that continues throughout your training progression, ideally over a lifetime.

In 1945, Dr. Thomas DeLorme developed the concept that progressive resistance training is needed in a resistance training program. (2, 7) In short, this means that we have to demand more of our musculature as it improves in strength over time.  Tweet This! You may start out with a lighter weight or volume during the early stages of your program, but you should gradually advance to a heavier weight or volume as your body begins to adapt and your program progresses.

However, it’s important not to take on more than your body can handle. To avoid the various types of “overreaching” or “overtraining” syndromes, we must vary our training programs as well using the concept of program periodization. (3, 5, 6) This just means that we should change up our resistance loads and volumes on a regular basis, along with formally placing “rest” days into the program progression. (1, 4) This becomes even more important as you begin to move toward your genetic ceiling for muscular and strength fitness.

Training cycles can also be developed for the week, month and the entire year. Several different workouts can be created up front and then varied over different periods of time to address your specific needs and training goals.

Have you ever heard of the SAID principle?  It stands for the Specific Adapation to Imposed Demands, meaning your body will adapt to the imposed demands of your workout.  Your body begins to adjust to the resistance loads and volumes of your workouts as they progress and change over time. Several factors will dictate the demands placed on the body, such as:

  • choices on what exercises to perform
  • the order and sequence of the exercises
  • the amount of resistance
  • the number of sets
  • how much rest is allowed between sets and exercises

Each of these variables is critical in the design of a workout, and understanding the impact of each is the essence of intelligent design of resistance training programs.

While there are really no program differences for men and women, it’s important to pay attention to recovery capabilities, especially for sessions where you are lifting heavier loads. This is where the program may vary, as it may require a longer span of days between the “heavy days.”

Resistance training has been an effective tool in working to help treat different chronic conditions such as joint function, along with almost every disease state from cancer to cardiac rehabilitation. Resistance training truly is for everyone – we all have an “athlete within” waiting to break through.  Tweet This!

Good luck and good training!


1) Bompa TO and Haff G. Periodization : theory and methodology of training. Champaign, IL.: Human Kinetics, 2009.

2) Delorme TL and Watkins AL. Technics of progressive resistance exercise. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 29: 263-273, 1948.

3) Fry AC and Kraemer WJ. Resistance exercise overtraining and overreaching. Neuroendocrine responses. Sports Med 23: 106-129, 1997.

4) Kraemer WJ and Fleck SJ. Optimizing strength training : designing nonlinear periodization workouts. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007.

5) Schwellnus M, Soligard T, Alonso JM, Bahr R, Clarsen B, Dijkstra HP, Gabbett TJ, Gleeson M, Hagglund M, Hutchinson MR, Janse Van Rensburg C, Meeusen R, Orchard JW, Pluim BM, Raftery M, Budgett R, and Engebretsen L. How much is too much? (Part 2) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of illness. Br J Sports Med 50: 1043-1052, 2016.

6) Soligard T, Schwellnus M, Alonso JM, Bahr R, Clarsen B, Dijkstra HP, Gabbett T, Gleeson M, Hagglund M, Hutchinson MR, Janse van Rensburg C, Khan KM, Meeusen R, Orchard JW, Pluim BM, Raftery M, Budgett R, and Engebretsen L. How much is too much? (Part 1) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of injury. Br J Sports Med 50: 1030-1041, 2016.

7) Todd JS, Shurley JP, and Todd TC. Thomas L. DeLorme and the science of progressive resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res 26: 2913-2923, 2012

Scientific and Medical Advisory Board Members are compensated for their role on the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board.
William Kraemer Ph.D., FACSM, FNSCA, FISSN, FACN
Professor of Human Sciences at Ohio State University
  • More than 450 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts related to sports medicine, exercise, sports science and sports nutrition
  • Over 100 book chapters, author of ten books

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