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6 Essential Variables in Weight Training

Custom-Build Your Exercise Program

-- By Lonnie Soloff, Cleveland Indians' Head Trainer
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Weight training is a critical component to the success of an athlete.

By becoming stronger and increasing muscular endurance, an athlete is able to perform more efficiently and is better able to avoid injury. Furthermore, there are a number of other physiological adaptations to weight training. The strength of tendons and ligaments are increased. Bone density increases, making the bone stronger and more resistant to fractures. And maximal heart rate is improved, thus increasing metabolism.

Designing a weight training program is often an annoying process for the non-professional. Hopefully the following information provides some insight into the process and encourages some of you to implement resistance training in your weekly fitness sessions.

There are 6 essential program variables to consider when designing a weight training program. These include a needs analysis, exercise selection, training frequency, exercise order, training load and repetitions and rest periods.

1. Needs Analysis
Refers to a two-stage process that considers the activity or sport the athlete is training for and the training history of the athlete. The unique characteristics of the sport or goal of training must be considered in planning a training regimen to make the training as specific as possible. Specific muscular movement patterns, cardiovascular endurance needs and flexibility requirements are all important considerations. The current level of fitness, training experience and medical history of the athlete are also integral when planning a regimen. For example, if an athlete has a history of ankle sprains and at present has an unstable ankle joint, balance and intrinsic foot and ankle strength will be included in their program.

2. Exercise Selection
Deals with choosing exercises that reflect the needs of the athlete’s sport with consideration paid to their training history. Baechle and Earle refer to two different types of weight resisted exercises; core exercises and assistance exercises. Core exercises recruit larger muscles that are primary movers at one or more joints. These core exercises stabilize the proximal segments of the body, allowing for fine motor patterns at the extremities. Assistance exercises recruit smaller muscles, such as the biceps or calf, that are considered less important in athletic performance. In addition, exercise selection should be as sport specific as possible. Specificity training provides the best likelihood of transfer to performance. For example, forward and lateral lunges would be a sports specific exercise for a tennis player or a pitcher in baseball.

3. Training Frequency
Refers to the number of training sessions in a given period of time. Again, the goals of training and experience of the athlete must be taken into consideration when planning training frequency. Traditionally, three workouts per week are recommended for many athletes, as the intervening days allow for sufficient muscular recovery between sessions. Athletes with less experience with weight training should begin with fewer sessions per week.
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About The Author

Lonnie Soloff Lonnie Soloff
Lonnie has a master's degree in physical therapy and is the head physical therapist for the Cleveland Indians.

Member Comments

  • JULIEROTACH
    Good article. It will help me expand my weight program to help my fitness. Thanks for a well-written article. - 2/3/2014 9:40:21 AM
  • Thanks for the info. I don't exercise anymore with weights. I have to start back. - 10/1/2013 12:13:52 PM
  • Good article, it confirmed some thing for ordinary people who are now adding strength training to exercise routine. Example whether to lift heavy or light weights, when to rest and for how long, the order of the exercise. So newbies could benefit from article. - 10/6/2012 2:30:55 PM
  • I think this is good material in one sense, HOWEVER, I agree w/ a previous poster, "How is an untrained person supposed to apply / use this information???"

    This is NOT helpful because I don't have the training of progression, nor the knowledge of "do this to build this." -- Not sure what is the purpose of this article! - 9/7/2012 7:33:58 PM
  • VAINVT
    This article was very informative. Although I do weight training three times a week, I did not realize it benefits your heart, tendons, and ligaments. As an older person, this is very important to me because I want to do everything possible to avoid injury.
    The information about core and assistance exercise was also new to me. Part of my weight training is Les Mills' Body Pump, where the sequence is Squats, Chest, Back/Glutes & Hams, Triceps, Biceps, Lunges, Shoulders, Abs. After reading Mr. Soloff's article, I have more understanding about this sequence. Thank You! - 7/3/2012 7:33:54 AM
  • How is a normal person supposed to go about this process? Even pr - 1/2/2012 2:20:32 PM
  • This was a very good article. I really appreciate when there is solid useful information, not just fluff, in an article so I'd like to see more from this author. A related series of articles would be a great idea. He is obviously well qualified and will rank at the top of my list of favorite Spark authors, along with Dean Anderson and Becky Hand. - 7/10/2011 1:08:07 PM
  • This article convinces me that having a personal trainer is pretty important. Kind of scares me away from any "do-it-yourself" training plans. - 2/1/2011 1:17:44 PM
  • DAGGERKIND
    I keep looking for information on setting a balanced workout. I am not seeing a definitive balanced workout. - 12/17/2010 11:32:29 PM
  • I was hoping for a link or a list of an idea example workout for a non-athletic office worker trying to stay in reasonable shape. - 9/28/2010 11:33:50 AM
  • This article would've been better if it actually had some depth to it. It just seems to reiterate the same common knowledge that's been touted for decades - nothing new; no original ideas. - 9/28/2010 9:44:30 AM
  • Great article... I just started workouts with a kettlebell and love it. I am really out of shape physically, and have a 10 lb. bell. I am used to working out but illness took me away from it. I am back exercising and I do so with extreme caution knowing the condition my body is in. I am gradually adding exercises to my regimine and I listen to my body. - 9/28/2010 6:55:18 AM
  • DIVANANA
    Articule very helpful! If you have not excerise with wgts this a good pointer. - 9/15/2010 4:51:36 PM
  • Thanks for the tips. I workout at home and this article was helpful! - 3/25/2010 11:29:45 AM
  • I have been doing strength training thru out my life time and I learned very valuable points today on the website! I usually will alternate every other day of resistance training and then the other day cardiovascular. However, I find that circuit trainingh helps me burn more fat and I need to get rid of body fat! So I am kind of torn between weather or not to do the strength training every other day because when you mix it with cardio, you get a blast of a workout! Stay motivated and keep exercising! - 3/25/2010 10:25:08 AM
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