Starting a Weight-Training Program

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Weight Training Program design
Your weight-training program should be designed to meet your specific goals. First, ask yourself what you want to accomplish during training. Some athletes are most concerned about adding strength, while others are more focused on building endurance.

Whatever your goals, your training should condition the "core" area of the body. The core area encompasses the hips, thighs and abdominal region. This area is the prime mover and power region in any sporting activity. Rotational, horizontal, frontal and transverse movements rely on the core area.

General weight training guidelines
There are three main components, or "energy systems," that are part of a well-rounded weight-training program. These components include the following:

  • Strength Development: Perform 3 to 10 repetitions, 6 to 10 sets per body part, with 2 to 4 minutes for recovery between sets. (This training is most effective for short-burst sports, such as football and baseball.)

  • Anaerobic Endurance: Perform 8 to 15 repetitions, 4 to 8 sets per body part, with 30 to 60 seconds for recovery between sets. (This training is effective for intermediate sports, such as soccer and volleyball.)

  • Endurance: Perform 12 to 20 repetitions, 1 to 5 sets per body part, with 0 to 30 seconds for recovery between sets. (This training is most effective for long-duration activities, such as distance running.)

Every activity draws from each of these three energy systems. For example, soccer is mostly an intermediate activity: the movement lasts approximately 30 to 60 seconds before there is a brief rest. In the middle of the action there may be some explosive movements such as jumping or all out sprinting, which is a power component lasting approximately 1 to 10 seconds.


A well-rounded training program should be designed to condition all three energy systems. The percentage that you train in each component will be based on your sport or activity. In soccer, the majority of training, approximately 60% to 70%, should be intermediate (anaerobic endurance). Twenty to 30% of the training should be power or short burst activities. The remaining time, 5% to 10%, should be spent developing endurance.

Pre-adolescent Conditioning Program
The young athlete needs a well-rounded approach to physical fitness. The most often asked question is "When should my son or daughter start weight training?" There is no exact answer to this question. Most people believe in letting participation in multi-directional activities be the conditioning for the child. Sport participation does lead to strength increases and functional development of motor neurons. Children can benefit from a well-rounded conditioning program that is fun and uses light weight and high repetitions for increased motor function. A pre-pubescent child will not develop large muscles and gains in strength will be minimal due to lack of testosterone. Children this age can increase the number of motor neurons that innervate the muscle.

Weekend Warrior Conditioning Program
Weekend athletes complain mostly of Monday morning soreness. This soreness is due to the lack of conditioning throughout the week. A general conditioning program that encompasses all the energy systems will be very beneficial in not only decreasing soreness but also in making competition more enjoyable.

Mature Athlete Training Program
Muscular strength and flexibility are the two areas that decrease the most as we age. A program for the older athlete must include components to increase strength and elasticity of the muscles to help delay the aging process.

Definition of terms

  • Sets: A group of repetitions.
  • Repetitions: Complete range of motion of a particular exercise.
  • Intensity: The amount of weight you lift for a particular number of repetitions.
  • Recovery: The amount of rest between sets or number of days of rest between exercise sessions.
  • Speed: The ability to move from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
  • Agility: The ability to change direction without the loss of speed.


This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional written health information, please contact the Health Information Center at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771 or visit This document was last reviewed on: 10/27/1998