Tag Archives: exercise set

Resistance Training, Part 5: Training Load and Repetition

8 Oct

Load is the amount of weight lifted (pushed or pulled) during an exercise set.  It is an important component of a resistance training program.

There is an inverse relationship between load and repetitions.  The heavier the load lifted, the fewer the number of repetitions that can be performed.  Load is usually described in one of two ways:

  • One-repetition maximum (1RM) is the greatest amount of weight that can be lifted with proper technique for only one repetition.
  • Repetition maximum (RM) is the most weight that can be lifted for a specified number of repetitions.  For example, if an athlete can perform 10 repetitions with 200 lbs in the bench press exercise, his or her 10RM is 200 lbs.

There are a few different ways for the Strength and Conditioning professional to assess and determine an athlete’s training load:

  • Actual 1RM (directly tested).
  • Estimated 1RM from a multiple-RM test; there are prediction equations and tables available to estimate the 1RM from multiple-RM loads. (see NSCA website)
  • Multiple-RM based on the number of repetitions planned for that exercise (the goal).

Load and repetition assignments should be based on the athlete’s training goal.

  • If the athlete’s goal is Strength development, loads (%1RM) should be 85% or more; repetitions should be 6 or fewer.
  • If the athlete’s goal is Power development, loads should be 75-90%; repetitions should be in the 2-4 range.
  • If the athlete’s goal is Hypertrophy (muscle growth), loads should be 67-85%; repetitions should be in the 6-12 range.
  • If the athlete’s goal is Muscular endurance, loads should be 67% or less; repetitions should be 12 or more.

As the athlete adapts to the training load and repetitions, it’s important for the Strength and Conditioning professional to have a progression strategy.  Advancing exercise loads ensures that improvements will continue over time.  It is necessary for the trainer and athlete to monitor and chart each workout and the athlete’s response to it.

A conservative method that can be used to increase an athlete’s training load is called the 2-for-2 rule.  If the athlete can perform two or more repetitions over his or her assigned repetition goal in the last set in two consecutive workouts for a certain exercise, weight should be added to that exercise for the next training session.  (Baechle, T. and Earle, R.; Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning)

The quantity of load increases, when progression is warranted, should generally be about 2.5-10%.


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