How To Design A Resistance Training Program: Part I

For those that are not strength coaches, it may be difficult to design a workout program that is effective for you. There are thousands of workouts/programs online, but they may not directly fit your needs. In these next two posts I will lay out the foundation of what an effective workout program looks like.

Needs Analysis

When designing a program for yourself, or others, a needs analysis should always be the first step. This is simply making goals for what you want to get out of the program. Do you want to get bigger? More explosive? More in-shape? The list goes on. If you are an athlete the needs analysis can be broken down further into a movement analysis, physiological analysis, and an injury analysis (Haff & Triplett, 2016). The movement analysis identifies frequent movement patterns within your sport/position (Haff & Triplett, 2016). The physiological analysis is the type of energy demands needed to be successful in the sport  (Haff & Triplett, 2016). Will you be making maximum-effort movements for a short period of time (football) with long rest? Or will you need to have great aerobic capacity in sports like soccer? Lastly, the injury analysis addresses injuries that are common within the sport.

After this you need to determine your training level.  This will influence the types of exercises you select in your program, as well as your training frequency per week. A beginner would have a training age of less than 2 months, intermediate would be a training age of 2-6 months, and an advanced training level would be a training age of at least a year  (Haff & Triplett, 2016). It is important to note that the training age is the amount of time you consistently resistance train. You could train consistently for 1 year which would technically place you in the advanced training age. But if you take 6 months off, you will lose all the adaptations, and your training level will decrease. Also, your technique can influence your training status. If you consistently train for a year, but do it with bad technique on core lifts, that can influence your training age as well.  The training age is a general guideline for training status, but in reality training status is determined by technique in different exercises and how much volume your body can handle.

The last part of the needs analysis is the testing. Based on what your goals are for the program, you need to develop a baseline so when you finish the program you can retest and see if you made the desired improvements. Some examples include a 1 repetition-maximum for strength, vertical jump for power, 40 yard dash for speed, pro agility for change-of-direction, or skinfold measurements for body composition (Haff & Triplett, 2016).

Exercise Selection

After the needs analysis is complete, you need to determine what exercises are going to be used in the program. This aspect is the most variable because it is based on a lot of preference. First, the most important thing when selecting exercises is how it will transfer to your sport, or whatever you are training for. A term that is often used to describe this is choosing sport-specific exercises (Haff & Triplett, 2016). For example, if you are a basketball player adding bicep curls to your program does not make sense if you are trying to improve athleticism in basketball. However, if you are trying to body-build, bicep curls would be more applicable. With that being said, you don’t want to be extremely sport specific and develop major muscle imbalances. It is more on a continuum so you can transfer the things you do in the weight room to the field/court, but also not to develop major muscle imbalances that can expose you to injury. For example, if you are a rower you may think that incorporating a high volume of pulling exercises would be beneficial. This thought process is not wrong, but if you do that at the expense of upper body pushing exercises there will be a large muscle imbalance between the back (pulling) and chest (pushing).

Other factors that need consideration when selecting exercises are equipment availability, available training time, and technique on certain exercises. You NEVER want to consistently perform a high volume of something that you do not have the proper technique for. Instead, you can incorporate progressions of certain exercises so you can still elicit the desired training adaptations and do so safely.

Training Frequency

Now we have determined our needs for analysis and exercise selection we need to determine the appropriate amount of workout sessions during the week. Like mentioned previously in the table, training frequency is largely dependent on training status because a person with a higher training status will need more stimulus to achieve the desired adaptations compared to someone with a lesser training status. Along with training status, frequency also depends on the sport season. Generally, the training frequency will be more during the offseason, and less in-season (Haff & Triplett, 2016).

Stay tuned for part 2 of how to design a resistance training program where I talk about exercise order, training load and repetitions, volume, and rest periods.


Haff, G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Fourth edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


This site has content that is subject to my thoughts and opinion. Implement the content at your own caution as the author is not responsible for your actions. If you have pain, discomfort, or symptoms of any kind you should seek formal medical care from a medical professional.

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