Components of a weight training program

This is an excerpt from Fitness: STS by Nancy Louise Naternicola.

Components of a Muscular Strength and Endurance Routine

Although you may have a specific weight training goal, there are several components for all weight training programs. First and most important, beginning and intermediate exercisers should start with a 5- to 10-minute aerobic warm-up, such as walking on a treadmill or jumping rope. This allows the blood flow that is concentrated in your core to be shunted out to the extremities, thereby supplying additional blood to the working muscles to warm them up. Then perform gentle, static preexercise stretching for the muscle groups that will be worked. If you are a more advanced exerciser, active stretching (moving joints through the full range of motion) as a warm-up may be sufficient. Note that if your weight training goal is power, stretch your muscles at the end of your routine. You should perform static stretching on all muscles after resistance training. If you perform static stretching before completing power activities such as sprinting and jumping, you may impede performance.


Next, complete the weight training exercises in your program. These exercises should start with larger muscle groups followed by smaller muscle groups, because many of the smaller muscle groups are used as stabilizer (or helping) muscles. If these smaller muscles are fatigued first, the larger muscles may not be worked sufficiently. Finally, perform postexercise stretching. You have the option of stretching each muscle group after all the reps are completed for that specific muscle group or stretching all the muscles at the end of your workout.


You can perform numerous weight training exercises and combinations depending on equipment available. Following are examples of general weight training circuits where you complete exercises for the entire body in one workout as well as a split routine for a more complex weight training program in which muscle groups of the body are split and exercised on different days. The number of days depends on your schedule as well as your personal preference.


General Weight Training Circuit

8 to 10 exercises for a total-body workout in one session

  • Machine leg press (glutes, quads, hamstrings)
  • Multi-hip machine (abductors and adductors)
  • Machine back extension (lumbar)
  • Seated cable row (lats, traps, rhomboids, rear delt, biceps)
  • Machine chest press (pecs, anterior delts, triceps)
  • Machine shoulder press (deltoids)
  • Machine arm extension (triceps)
  • Machine arm curl (biceps)
  • Abdominals

Split Routine (2 Days)

Day 1: Upper Body

  • Chest (machine pec fly and dumbbell chest press)
  • Back (lat pull-down machine and T-bar row)
  • Shoulders (dumbbell lateral raise and military barbell shoulder press)
  • Biceps (preacher curl and dumbbell curl)
  • Triceps (cable triceps push-down and seated triceps extension)

Day 2: Lower Body

  • Glutes, quads, hamstrings (leg press machine and body-weight lunge)
  • Hamstrings (hamstring curl machine)
  • Quadriceps (leg extension machine)
  • Abductors (side leg raise with ankle weights)
  • Adductors (inner-thigh machine)
  • Calves (seated calf raise and standing body-weight calf raise)

Split Routine (3 Days)*

Day 1: Chest and Back

  • Chest (bench press, incline dumbbell press, pec fly machine)
  • Back (lat pull-down, one-arm dumbbell bent-over row, body-weight pull-up)

Day 2: Legs and Shoulders

  • Legs (sled leg press, step-up, walking lunge with dumbbells)
  • Shoulders (seated dumbbell shoulder press, rear delt machine, front dumbbell shoulder raise)

Day 3: Biceps and Triceps

  • Biceps (hammer curl, barbell curl, cable curl)
  • Triceps (seated dip, triceps kickback, arm extension machine)

*Another combination could be chest and triceps, back and biceps, legs and shoulders. There is no wrong way to combine muscle groups.

Split Routine (4 Days)

Day 1: Chest

  • (bench press, flat-bench dumbbell fly, decline dumbbell chest press)

Day 2: Legs and Biceps

  • Legs (barbell squat, deadlift, seated calf raise)
  • Biceps (arm curl machine, concentration curl, hammer curl)

Day 3: Back

  • (T-bar row, lat pull-down, barbell bent-over row)

Day 4: Shoulders and Triceps

  • Shoulders (shrug, incline reverse lateral dumbbell raise, machine shoulder press)
  • Triceps (standing dumbbell overhead extension, cable push-down, body-weight dip)

Learn more about Fitness: Steps to Success.

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