December 1, 2014

Designing a Well-Rounded Resistance Training Program

By Jonathan Lester, Graduate Assistant, Exercise Science M.S. Program

When designing a fitness program, the first step is to determine which goals are most important for you. Whether it be weight loss, muscle building, or athletic performance enhancement, a well-rounded resistance training program is crucial for progress towards your specific goals. Resistance training is beneficial for improving muscular strength, size, and endurance, as well as restoring good posture and reducing the difficulty of everyday activities.

There are numerous ways to implement a strength training program into your workout routine. To add resistance to movement patterns, you can utilize your own body weight, resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, or any other object that is heavy enough to challenge your own abilities. Exercises are performed in groups, called sets, of repetitions, which are the actions of pulling or pushing a resistance. The goal of resistance training is to reach momentary muscular fatigue, which is the point where you are not able to perform another repetition of a certain exercise. In order to do this, you need to add sufficient resistance to reach this point within a certain repetition range for each set you perform. The American  College of Sports Medicine recommends healthy adults to resistance train 2-3 times per week, for 8-12 repetitions (while reaching momentary muscular fatigue), and with 2-4 sets for each major muscle group of the body.

Strategic exercise selection is crucial for optimal muscular development. Every major muscle group of the body should be addressed.

These groups include:

Lower Body Muscles

Upper Body Muscles       

Core Muscles


Latissimus Dorsi
Rhomboids and Trapezius

Rectus Abdominis
Internal Oblique
External Oblique
Erector Spinae

One way to ensure that all major muscle groups are addressed during a single workout is to implement a “full-body” resistance training routine. This implies that the entire body is exercised in a way that each of the above muscles is stressed. Below is a table with six different exercise movements that should be accounted for during each routine in order to stress each of the aforementioned muscles. If you program at least one exercise from each movement pattern from the table into your routine, you will be well on your way to improve your muscular strength, athletic performance, body composition and much more.

Movement Pattern

Major Muscle Groups Addressed



Upper Body Push


• Upper body strength, hypertrophy, and power
• Improves shoulder stability

Push Up
Bench Press
Shoulder Press
Chest Press Machine

Upper Body Pull


• Upper body strength, hypertrophy, and power
• Improves shoulder stability
• Improves posture for those with rounded shoulders

Pull Up
Dumbbell Row
Row Machine
Lat Pull-down Machine

Lower Body Push (Quad Dominant)


• Lower body strength, hypertrophy, and power
• Improves balance under a heavy load
• Improves core stability

Bodyweight Squat
Goblet Squat
Step Up
Leg press Machine

Lower Body Pull/Hip Hinge


• Lower body strength, hypertrophy, and power
• Improves grip strength
• Improves core and postural stability

Barbell/Dumbbell Deadlift
Stability ball leg curl
Good morning
Hamstring curl machine

Core Stability

Low Back

• Improves ability to transfer forces in multiple planes of motion (sports)
• Reduces back pain occurrence and severity
• Improves ability to absorb force by stabilizing the trunk under a load

Palloff Press
Side Plank
Prone Lying Extension
Trunk Extension Machine

Locomotion (Weighted movement that mimics walking/running)

Grip (forearms)
Core muscles

• Improves grip strength
• Core stability
• Sprinting speed

Farmers Walk
Suitcase Walk
Prowler Push
Sled Pull

Please feel free to contact me via email or phone with any questions regarding the information in this article.




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