Clients Adapt to an Existing Exercise Program, so Program Modifications Are Needed

It is a well-accepted fact that the muscles in the human body will only continue to grow in both size and strength by continuously being subjected to new stimulus or an ever changing program. The muscle fibers will adapt to any reasonable training stimulus over time that they are subjected to.

Not only will changing the clients program help provide their body the needed stimulus to assist in additional growth but will also help keep their program new and challenging as well as fun.

This brings in to play the subject of periodization as a technique to provide an ever-changing training regiment to provide the muscles with the stimulus that is required to allow continuous growth. There are, in addition to periodization, many other ways to alter or adapt a clients program to provide the above noted required stimulus. Such as adding or removing any of or many of the following techniques.


Periodization can be defined as changing the clients program over time to provide an ever-changing source of stimulus for his or her muscles to continue development. This technique was originally developed by Eastern European weight lifters as a way to allow for better recovery and therefor more power and more strength. All traditional periodization programs would follow the same general principles. The training year would begin with a high training volume and a low training intensity, which would reverse as the training year progressed to an end with a low training volume and a high training intensity. A classic example of a periodization program would be as follows, The first phase or mesocycle would be the hypertrophy phase which would mainly focus on increasing the muscle size and strength by training with high volume and low resistance exercises.

The next phases would include the strength and power phases which would focus manly on increasing both strength and power as much as possible. These would be followed by the peaking phase with would hope to provide the maximal obtainable gains for a particular event or competition.

The final phase would consist of an active rest phase, which by means of only light physical activity would provide the needed recovery time before the cycle would begin again.


Isometrics can be defined as static resistance training. This is a technique in which no joint movement takes place. Isometrics are normally performed against the force of an immovable object such as a wall or a weight machine loaded with no less then beyond the clientís maximal concentric strength. Isometrics can also be performed by having a weak muscle group contract against a strong muscle group such as contracting the right triceps muscle while resisting the movement of the right arm with the left biceps (holding the right hand or forearm with the left hand). Although Isometrics have been shown to increase strength but not size at the angle that they are performed they have not been shown to provide dramatic strength increases though out the entire range of motion for the joint that that are performed on. Therefor if isometrics are used they should be used at multiple locations thought out the entire range of motion to provide any added gains to the entire range of movement not just at a single point.

Progressive overload,

Progressive overload can be defined as the practice of continuously increasing the stress placed on the muscle as it becomes adapted the higher levels of force applied to it. This can be achieved in the following two ways. One continuously using a higher weight or a higher level of resistance or two increasing the training volume by adding additional sets or repetitions of a given exercise or providing additional exercises for a particular muscle group.


Order of Exercise

Changing the order of the exercises performed may be changing from a "whole body" workout program to a split routine or by say going from working the clientís entire body every other day. To working the clients chest & triceps on Monday then back and biceps on Tuesday then shoulders, traps and abdominal on Wednesday with legs on Thursday. Or any variation of the above.

Reduced Rest Periods.

This can be a very effective way of intensifying a clients work out program. By reducing the time allowed between sets this technique not only will provide additional stress to the muscles being worked but will also add in raising the clientís heart rate which alone will increase there cardiovascular endurance.

Drop sets (descending sets)

The definition of a "Drop Set" is after warming up, starting with a very heavy resistance then immediately upon failure reducing the resistance then continuing with the lower weight until again a level of concentric failure is reached. This can be done two or more times per set and is a very effective way of adding a great deal of added effort to a clients program.

Ascending sets

The definition of a "Ascending set" would be the opposite of a drop set in as follows. After warming up, starting with a moderate amount of resistance then add additional resistance after a few repetitions until a high level of fatigue is reached.

Triangle sets

The definition of a "Triangle set" would be the combination of both an ascending set and a descending or drop set. The client would start with moderate amount of resistance then add additional resistance after a few repetitions until a peak is reached the resistance would be lowered until a high level of fatigue is reached.

Exhaustion set system

The definition of an exhaustion set would be to perform a set until momentary concentric failure. That is the resistance canít be lifted or lowered under control. Many athletes believe that the muscles subjected to this type of stress will be stimulated to a greater extent then not performing a set to failure.

Burn set systems

A burn set systems is a extension if the above mentioned exhaustion set system in as that after momentary concentric failure is reached half or partial repetitions are performed. This will cause a "burning" or aching sensation in the muscle itself, which gives this technique its name.

Forced repetition systems

A forced repetition system is another extension of the exhaustion set system mentioned above.

It would be accomplished by after performing a set to exhaustion a trainer or training partner would provide enough assistance to complete additional repetitions. The risk of injury of muscle soreness is increased with this type of system and great care should be used.

Cheat set systems

As the name implies a cheat set would employ the use of body english (less then strict form) or momentum to assist in using more resistance then may be possible for the client to raise the weight with strict form and proper technique. Although this technique does have itís advocates, due to the less then strict form the name implies and possible injury or liability that may result from its use this technique should be avoided by all but the very advanced athlete.

Circuit set systems

A circuit set would consist of a series of exercises performed in rapid succession with a minimal amount of rest in between each exercise. This may not only increase muscle strength but due to the short amount of time between exercises the clientís cardiovascular endurance may also be increased.

Peripheral heart action system

A Peripheral heart action system is a variation of the above mentioned circuit set system. This system would be divided into many sequences. Each body part would be worked out with four to six different exercises, normally eight to twelve sets. Each group of exercises would be performed three times as in a circuit set then each additional sequence would be performed for the additional parts of the body.

Compound-set systems

The compound-set system can be used to develop muscle endurance as well as growth. The definition of a compound-set system would be performing an exercise for one muscle group and then with minimal or no rest moving on to an exercise for another muscle group. This allows for a much larger volume of training to be done in a short amount of time as while one muscle group is recovering from the set it just performed the client is performing a another set for a different muscle group entirely. An example of this might be to perform a biceps curl then a prone leg (Hamstring) curl.

Double progressive systems

A double progressive system would consist of changing both the number of repetitions in a set and the amount of resistance used. The system would start with a small amount of repetitions such as four and a small amount of resistance such as 120 Lb. Then the repetitions would increase with the same amount of weight until the number of sets has more then doubled, say twelve. Then the amount of resistance being used would increase with each additional set until the amount of resistance had increased by fifty percent plus say 185 Lb., As the number of repetitions was reduced until the amount of repetitions was once again at four.

Rest-Pause systems

The rest-pause system is done by using near maximum poundage ( 1 RM ) multiple times. It is done by performing one set ( one repetition ) then resting ten to fifteen seconds then performing the repetition again with the same amount of weight. The followers of this type of training believe that by using near maximal resistance they are stimulating the highest possible muscle growth.

Super sets

The super set systems can be classified in two ways. The first of which is as follows, It would consist of doing two exercises each for an opposing muscle for each set. An example of which might be performing biceps curls then following with triceps extensions, or abdominal crunches followed by back extensions. The second definition would be to do one set of several different exercise for the same muscle group or muscle such as squats followed by leg extensions then jumps or bench press then peck deck (Butterflies) then cable crossovers or push ups. Both types of super sets would usually consist of eight to ten repetitions. Not only is this type of system believed to increase muscle growth (hypertrophy) but it is also believed to increase local muscle endurance.

The preceding are only a few of the many different types of training styles or systems that can be utilized by a personal trainer to always keep the clientís exercise program new and exciting. As well as provide the ever changing amount and type of stimulus required to obtain the continued muscle growth and strength increases that are expected by any one employing the use of the said personal trainer.

It should always be remembered by anyone in this profession that one of their many responsibilities as a personal fitness trainer, is to not only provide the necessary instruction for the client to perform their routine safely but to always keep the client learning and improving.


Designing Resistance Training Programs, second edition

Author; Steven J. Fleck & William J. Kraemer

The Personal Trainers Handbook

Author; Teri S. Oírien