The Exercise Prescription – Part 3 – Resistance Training Principles

Principles of Resistance Training

A repetition is a single exercise through the full range of motion that movement allows.

A dumb bell bench press is a repetition you may already know. A set is a collection of repetitions. A training program is designed with sets and repetitions. An example is 4 sets of 8 repetitions or 4x8 – this is what that means.

The first thing to understand is there are different muscle fiber types. Physiologists like to classify muscle fiber types. Some say 2 fiber types, some say 3, some say 7 different muscle fiber types (depending on the source used). To simplify, some fibers predominantly use an oxidative or aerobic system of energy metabolism, and some use a glycolytic or anaerobic system of energy metabolism. The amount of aerobic or anaerobic activity in a muscle fiber type is vastly spread across a spectrum. The importance in knowing this is that all different muscle fiber types need to be trained in resistance training. This can be done by varying the repetition ranges on a set of exercises.

The second thing to understand is that muscle fibers come in all different sizes and are recruited for activation from smallest muscle fibers first for easier tasks to larger muscle fibers which is also why it is important in resistance training to train all the different rep ranges.

Furthermore, since muscle fibers are oriented in a number of different planes even within a given muscle, angles are important. You will train different muscle fibers by doing an incline bench vs a flat bench, for example.

This is why it is imperative in resistance training to train with different angles.

Here are two key principles:

  1. Vary the repetition ranges on an exercise
  2. Vary the angles that are trained.

Another way to break things down in resistance training can be classified by endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power. The number of reps to train each goes in descending order of those four classifications.

Power is sometimes suggested to be a 1 rep max. Strength in general is less than 6 reps, hypertrophy, 6-10, and endurance >12 or more. Don’t get too caught up in this classification but keep it in mind as some muscles need several more reps at a lighter weight for endurance.

If you are mid 30s or so or older, I would not recommend training rep ranges less than 6. You are asking for an injury. Or, if you have a injury to train to improve, also don’t use low reps.