Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults

Nicholas A. Ratamess, Ph.D.; Brent A. Alvar, Ph.D.; Tammy K. Evetoch, Ph.D., FACSM; Terry J. Housh, Ph.D., FACSM (Chair); W. Ben Kibler, M.D., FACSM; William J. Kraemer, Ph.D., FACSM; N. Travis Triplett, Ph.D.


March 01, 2010

In This Article

Program Design Recommendations for Increasing Muscular Power

Maximal power production is required in the movements of sport, work, and daily living. By definition, more power is produced when the same amount of work is completed in a shorter period or when a greater amount of work is performed during the same period. Muscular power is the scalar product of force generation and movement velocity, is demonstrated as the highest power output attainable during a given movement/repetition, and has been viewed as an exceedingly important testing variable and training objective.

Neuromuscular contributions to maximal muscle power include 1) maximal rate of force development (RFD), 2) force production at slow and fast contraction velocities, 3) stretch-shortening cycle performance, and 4) coordination of movement pattern and skill. Several studies have shown improved power performance following traditional RT,[1,88,156,277] demonstrating the reliance of power production on muscular force development. However, programs consisting of movements with high power output using relatively light loads have been shown to be superior for improving vertical jump ability than traditional strength training.[98,99] Considering that power is the product of force and velocity, it appears that heavy RT with slow velocities improves maximal force production whereas power training (utilizing light to moderate loads at high velocities) increases force output at higher velocities and RFD.[98,99]

Heavy RT could decrease power output over time unless accompanied by explosive movements.[25] The inherent problem with traditional weight training is that the load is decelerated for a considerable proportion (24-40%) of the CON movement.[60,197] This percentage increases to 52% when performing the lift with a lower percentage (81%) of 1 RM lifted[60] or when attempting to move the bar rapidly in an effort to train more specifically near the movement speed of the target activity.[197] Ballistic resistance exercise (explosive movements which enable acceleration throughout the full range of motion resulting in greater peak and average lifting velocities) has been shown to limit this problem.[48,121,198,276] Loaded jump squats with 30% of 1 RM have been shown to increase vertical jump performance more than traditional back squats and plyometrics.[276]

Exercise Selection and Order

Although single-joint exercises have been studied, multiple-joint exercises have been used extensively for power training.[139] The inclusion of total-body exercises (e.g., power clean and push press) is recommended as these exercises have been shown to require rapid force production[82] and be very effective for enhancing power.[263] It is recommended that these exercises be performed early in a workout and sequenced based on complexity (e.g., snatch before power cleans and variations such as high pulls). Additionally, performing high-velocity power exercises before a multiple-joint exercise such as the squat has been shown to improve squat performance,[247] for example, via postactivation potentiation.

Evidence Statement and Recommendation.Evidence Category B. The use of predominately multiple-joint exercises performed with sequencing guidelines similar to strength training is recommended for novice, intermediate, and advanced power training.[82,139,247,263]

Loading/Volume/Repetition Velocity

The intensity of which peak power is attained has been variable and shown to be dependent on the type of exercise, whether it is ballistic or traditional, and the strength level of the individual.[139] Peak power during ballistic exercises has been shown to range between 15% and 50% (upper body exercises), from 0% (body weight) to 60% (lower body exercises, primarily the jump squat), and peak power for traditional exercises ranges between 30% and 70% of 1 RM.[41,42,43,139,260] Peak power for the Olympic lifts typically occurs approximately 70-80% of 1 RM.[42,140] Although any intensity can enhance muscle power and shift the force-velocity curve to the right, specificity is needed such that training encompasses a range of intensities but emphasis placed upon the intensities that match the demands of the sport or activities performed.[139] Fast lifting velocities are needed to optimize power development with submaximal loading, and the intent to maximally lift the weight fast is critical when a higher intensity is used.[19]

Evidence Statement and Recommendation. Evidence Category A. It is recommended that concurrent to a typical strength training program, a power component is incorporated consisting of one to three sets per exercise using light to moderate loading (30-60% of 1 RM for upper body exercises, 0-60% of 1 RM for lower body exercises) for three to six repetitions.[19,41,42,43,139,260]

Evidence Category B. Progression for power enhancement uses various loading strategies in a periodized manner. Heavy loading (85-100% of 1 RM) is necessary for increasing the force component of the power equation, and light to moderate loading (30-60% of 1 RM for upper body exercises, 0-60% of 1 RM for lower body exercises) performed at an explosive velocity is necessary for increasing fast force production. A multiple-set (three to six sets) power program be integrated into a strength training program consisting of one to six repetitions in periodized manner is recommended.[74,199,206]

Rest Periods

Rest period length for power training is similar to strength training. Taking the needed rest is vital to ensure the quality of each repetition being performed in a set (achieving a high percent of peak velocity and achieving a high percentage of maximal power output). In addition to the technical quality of each repetition performed in a power training program, accentuated rest periods are also needed for preservation of the appropriate training intensity to occur, which will elicit the desired neurological response.

Evidence Statement and Recommendation. Evidence Category D. Rest periods of at least 2-3 min between sets for core exercises are recommended. A shorter rest interval (1-2 min) is recommended for assistance exercises.


Power training is typically integrated into a periodized strength training program due to the important inherent relationships between the two variables.[97,198,199]

Evidence Statement and Recommendation. Evidence Category A. The recommended frequency for novice power training is similar to strength training (2-3 d·wk−1 stressing the total body).

Evidence Category B. For intermediate power training, it is recommended that either a total-body or an upper/lower-body split workout be used for a frequency of 3-4 d·wk−1.

Evidence Category C. For advanced power training, a frequency of 4-5 d·wk−1 is recommended using predominantly total-body or upper/lower body split workouts.