The 3 Secrets to Building a Strength Training Program That Gets Results

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The 3 Secrets to Building a Strength Training Program That Gets Results
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Everybody should strength train. Want to lose weight, lift weights. Want to burn fat, strength train. Want to get stronger, add resistance training (and make it progressive). Want to perform better at a sport, strength train. Want to live longer and better, increase your strength.

This isn’t to say all you need to do is strength train and you’ll magically improve your golf swing or hook shot, but strength training provides everybody with enhanced functionality and mobility, increased strength and energy, stronger bones and joints, improved mental clarity, and much more. Strength is one of the foundations of fitness and to keep progressing closer to your goals, you need a well-rounded, results-oriented training program.

Any strength training program worth doing should provide a structure based on periodization and the volume, frequency, and intensity at which you train should be customized to meet your specific fitness goals. I’ve trained clients for over 10 years to meet their health and fitness goals, and these are the three basic foundations on which I build the strength training programs I give to my clients. 

3 Questions to Answer Before Starting a Strength Training Program

If you’re pumped to start strength training, amazing! It’s time for actionable items so you can take what you’ve learned from part I of our strength training 101 series and apply it to your own routine.

To start, answer a few questions. Better yet — work with a certified personal trainer (Kickoff can hook you up) to collaborate on answering these questions:

  • What’s your current fitness level? 

  • What’s your end goal — and how can strength training help you get there?

  • What equipment do you have available? (If you have none, that’s OK! You can start with your own body weight.)

Once you know the answer to these questions, you can get into the nitty gritty. We’ll delve into some basics of any strength training program worth your time (plus definitions so you can use the right words!). 

How the Periodization Protocol Works

When planning a strength training routine, there’s a term called periodization that allows you to prioritize how to structure your training from week to week and month to month. Periodization involves progressive cycling of aspects of a training program during a specific period of time. It’s most widely used in a strength training program to avoid overtraining and alternate high loads of training with decreased loads. This method improves strength, strength-speed, hypertrophy (increase in muscle), functionality, and strength-endurance. 

Three basic terms covered in periodization can help you create a training program and include: volume, intensity, and frequency. Let’s define all of these concepts below.


Volume describes how much work you do, such as the number of repetitions and sets you perform during a training session. For example, if you do 10 reps with 50 lbs. on a barbell and increase to 15 reps with the same amount of weight, you’ve increased the volume. 


The level of intensity is determined by the difficulty of an exercise, typically based on the amount of weight you lift or move. For example, say you completed 6 sets of 2 reps with 150 lbs. on the barbell. The next time you do this set and rep sequence, you can increase the intensity by putting 175 lbs. on the barbell. 


This is how often you work out each week. Most strength training programs involve a training frequency of three to five times per week, meaning you're doing three to five weightlifting workouts per week.

Next, we define three basic terms that’ll help you make sense of how strength training improves your fitness. 

3 Ways Strength Training Makes You More Fit, Healthy (and Generally Badass)


Endurance is the ability to work for prolonged periods and resist fatigue. Muscular endurance is the ability of one muscle group to perform repeated contractions over a period. Bonus: Muscular endurance positively impacts cardiovascular endurance (how well your body supplies oxygen to your working muscles). 

Generally, endurance training is of lower intensity and higher volume compared to training for hypertrophy or strength. As many as 30 to more than 150 repetitions (depending on load percentage you are using) could be completed. For example: 30 reps of 20 lb dumbbell squats (if it aligns with your 1 rep max percentage) will still be considered endurance strength training just like 150 reps of body squats would be. For beginners to intermediates, experts recommend relatively light loads with moderate-to-high volume. 

Advanced lifters can follow various loading strategies for multiple sets per exercise (10–25 repetitions or more) in a periodized manner, leading to a higher overall volume using lighter weights. In most cases, endurance strength training can also create a good foundation for cardiovascular health, as the higher volume typically increases the heart rate.


Hypertrophy means an increase in muscle cells. Larger training volumes are needed when the goal of a resistance training program is increased lean body mass or muscular hypertrophy. 

For beginner to intermediate lifters, experts recommend moderate loads at 70%–85% of 1 repetition-maximum, or RM, of 8 to 12 repetitions per set for 1 to 3 sets per exercise. Advanced lifters can increase the load at 70%–90% of 1 RM and the volume with more sets (3 to 6) in a periodized manner with emphasis on higher repetitions. 

Most experts propose using similar loads for hypertrophy of muscle. For beginners, training two to three days per week is recommended; advanced lifters can train for four to six days per week. A muscle hypertrophy training program can include machine weights and dumbbells with exercises that target the entire body. 


Strength is the ability of the muscle to exert force or torque at a specified or determined velocity. It’s an essential component of life and any program designed to rehab or improve performance. Because all muscles contract, shorten, and lengthen across different planes of motion (front, side, and diagonally), a well-designed training program should tax your muscles in all directions.

Training for strength requires various levels of load, depending on the person. Using loads of 45–50% of 1 RM (and lower) has been shown to increase dynamic muscular strength in beginners. Dynamic muscular strength can also be associated with power output which would be the speed of movement from point A to point B. For example, performing an eccentric barbell squat with 50% of your 1 RM and exploding up as fast as you can once you hit the sticking point. This concept would be better suited for advanced lifters.

Beginners to intermediates should train with loads of 60–70% of 1 RM for 8 to 12 repetitions. A greater challenge is required for more experienced lifters to gain strength. A load of 80–100% of 1 RM with a progression of 1 to 3 sets per exercise is recommended for advanced lifters to increase strength. 

That was a ton of information, so let’s make it easier to understand by providing an example of a routine for each concept above. Remember that the volume, intensity, and frequency will determine whether you’re focusing on hypertrophy, increased strength, better muscular endurance, or increased general fitness.

Goal-based Strength Training Plan Basics

If your goal is hypertrophy

You want to: tone muscles, grow bigger muscles, burn fat

Here’s an example of a hypertrophy-oriented upper body push-pull routine:

  • Bench press: 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps*

  • Bent over row: 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps 

  • Pull-ups: 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps (beginners will likely need to modify with a band to assist or alter the number of reps)

  • Dips: 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps 

  • Shoulder Press: 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps 

*Experience level will determine intensity for all of these moves.

There are many variations of routines you can do using this concept. Ask your Kickoff personal trainer to help you learn more.

If your goal is strengthening

You want to: improve longevity, gain strength, increase muscle size

Here’s an example of a strength-oriented upper body push-pull routine:

  • Bench press: 3–6 sets of 5–8 reps* 

  • Bent over row: 3–6 sets of 5–8 reps 

  • Pull-ups: 3–6 sets of 5–8 reps 

  • Dips: 3–6 sets of 5–8 reps 

  • Shoulder Press: 3–6 sets of 5–8 reps 

*Experience level will determine intensity for all of these moves.

If your goal is endurance 

You want to: improve overall muscle endurance and cardiovascular strength

This workout could be performed as a circuit with 30 seconds or less of rest between rounds to get your heart rate up.

  • Bench press: 3–4 sets of 12+ reps* 

  • Bent over row: 3–4 sets of 12+ reps 

  • Pull-ups: 3–4 sets of 12+ reps 

  • Dips: 3–4 sets of 12+ reps 

  • Shoulder Press: 3–4 sets of 12+ reps 

*Experience level will determine intensity for all of these moves.

Notice how the exercises are the same for each goal (on purpose!), but how variations in amount of weight (or no weight) and the number of reps and sets makes all the difference. Change up the exercises you perform, muscle groups you work (for example, upper body, core, or lower body), and how often you train for the best results. If you’d like a more customized strength training program that’s tailored to your goals, consider getting matched with a certified personal trainer through Kickoff