Weight Training Regimens


Ordering of Exercises

Basic Program:

A core of exercises covering the whole body is used. Exercises that work several muscle groups over a wide range of movement are ideal-avoid highly skilled movements. The number of repetitions varies according to the training aims but should be between 10-20. The number of sets for each exercise is 1-3 and the program should be repeated 3 times per week. The program is useful for beginners or for individuals returning to training following a layoff.


Circuit Program:

Circuit training involves performing one set of a variety of exercises in a row with little or no rest between sets. A circuit usually consists of 8-20 stations which can be repeated 1-4 times. By using low weights and performing high repetitions, circuit training can be extremely effective in promoting muscular endurance and even some aerobic fitness. By alternating body parts in consecutive stations local muscle fatigue can be delayed.

Ex) Station 1 = bench press

Station 2 = leg press

Station 3 = shoulder press

Station 4 = leg extension

Station 5 = arm curl

Station 6 = leg curl, etc…

Superset Program:

Supersets are essentially a series of mini-circuits. You alternate exercises within one circuit to delay fatigue but complete several sets of each exercise before moving to the next mini-circuit. Since there is usually little rest time between sets, this program can be completed in a short amount of time and is well suited for beginning lifters.

Ex) bench press, leg curl, bench press, leg curl

shoulder press, arm curl, shoulder press, arm curl

Push-Pull Program:

This program is a type of superset but it emphasizes working antagonistic muscle groups in alternating sets. Very little time is provided between sets (< 1 minute) since the muscles can relax during the opposite exercise. The advantage of this program is that it is fast and works the agonist and antagonist groups together for balanced development.

Ex) bicep curl, tricep extension, bicep curl, tricep extension

bench press, lat pull, bench press, lat pull

Pre-exhaustion Program:

This program is a type of superset involving the consecutive use of muscles that work the same muscles. Typically, exercises that work a muscle in isolation are performed prior to a more general exercise for that area. The rationale is that by tiring out the main muscle group other motor units as well as other muscles get a better exercise stress. Do not get this confused with "cheating" exercises in which the target muscles never get a full workout due to overemphasis by other muscle groups.

Ex) lat raises followed by shoulder press would preexhaust the lats and force other shoulder muscles to work harder during the next exercise.

Giant Sets Program:

This program involves performing several exercises for the same muscle in quick succession to make one large giant set. Limited rest is provided within the set but rest is given before the individual performs another set of exercises. This type of program produces a very thorough state of muscle fatigue in a short period of time. It is an advanced form of training that is useful when there is a limited amount of time.

Ex) lateral raise, upright rowing, military press.

Split Routine Program:

Instead of working the whole body in one routine, this program works some muscle groups in one day and then trains another group on another day. This program enables you to have more energy and time for each muscle group while still providing rest for each muscle group. Workouts become shorter but are often of higher quality. This type of program is typically the choice of advanced weight lifters but is not generally recommended for beginning lifters. There are a number of different ways to divide up the body. Some examples are as follows:

Ex) M/W: chest, shoulder, triceps

T/Th: back, legs, biceps

Blitz Program:

This program is a specialized type of split routine in which a single body part is emphasized for a given days workout. It can be extremely stressful but may be helpful if an individual’s performance is limited by a particular muscle group.

Ex) M: arm

T: chest

W: leg

Th: trunk

F: back

S: shoulder

Isolated Exercise Program:

This program is even more specific than the blitz program. A single exercise is performed for a whole days workout. Different exercises are chosen for different days. Like the blitz program, this program is very stressful and is not recommended for beginning or even intermediate lifters.

Ex) M: bench press

T: squat


Format for Repetitions and Sets:

Single Set System:

A single set of 8-12 repetitions is performed for each exercise. Significant strength gains can occur with this system but in general the gains are smaller than those achieved with multiple sets.

Multiple Set System:

Several sets with the same resistance are performed for each exercise. Usually a warm-up set is recommended so that maximal effort can be used for the other sets. The resistance and number of repititions determine the effects of this type of system. Most training systems are some type of variation of this basic multi-set concept.

Bulk System:

This multiple set system emphasizes the use of heavy loads and fewer repititions to maximize strength. Generally, 3 sets of 5-6 repititions per exercise.

Heavy to Light System (Oxford):

After a brief warmup the heaviest set is performed first followed by progressively lighter loads. This allows the resistance to more closely match the strength levels of the muscles as they begin to fatigue.

Ex) set #1 100 lbs.

set #2 90 lbs.

set #3 80 lbs.

Light to Heavy System (DeLorme Watkins):

This system recommends progressively greater loads with each set to maximally stress the muscle groups. Significant strength gains have been demonstrated using this program, however, most research suggests that the heavy to light system is better for increasing strength.

Ex) set #1 50% 50 lbs.

set #2 75% 75 lbs.

set #3 100% 100 lbs.

Point of Failure System:

This system emphasizes doing as many repititions as possible before muscular fatigue sets in. It is a very challenging system but continually stresses the muscles to their full capacity.

Ex) bench press 150 lbs. / 3X (POF)

Forced Repititions System:

Perform repititions to muscular fatigue and then have a spotter assist with two additional "forced" repititions.

Ex) bench press 150 lbs. / 3X (POF + 2)




Pyramid System:

Pyramid sets involve performing a series of sets with low weight/high reps progressing to high weight/low rep sets and finally back to low weight/high rep sets. This system is often used by power lifters.

Ex) 175 X 6

165 X 8 165 X 8

155 X 10 155 X 10

145 X 12 145 X 12

135 X 15 135 X 15

Reverse Pyramid System:

Several sets of exercises are performed in quick succession using progressively lighter weights to compensate for the increasing muscular fatigue. The number of repititions stays the same while the weight is reduced. In this type of set, large amounts of lactiv acid are formed which contributes to the impending fatigue. This type of training will increase tolerance to fatigue and will help train both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers.

Forced System:

A spotter gives assistance through the "sticking" point of a movement usually only on the last few repititions of the last set to help the lifter overload the muscle. The spotter should help keep the bar moving at a constant speed. Forcing someone to strain against a stationary bar can cause serious injuries and conditions (passing out).

Nautilus System:

The Nautilus principle recommends the use of 1 set of 8-12 repititions designed such that total muscular fatigue is reached in the last repetition. The exercises are very high intensity and should be performed in a circuit like fashion (8-14 exercises) for optimal benefits.

Ex) 1 set 8-12 X bench press

1 set 8-12 X incline press

1 set 8-12 X seated military press

Cheat System:

The object of the cheat system is to use other muscle groups and movements to get an individual past the "sticking point" of an exercise. This, theoretically, allows heavier weights to be used which permits the muscles to contract at near maximal force through a greater range of motion. It is effective in increasing strength but it is not recommended since it can lead to serious injuries.