Resistance Training Protocols

When it comes to the actual lifting of the weights, there are a number of different protocols which can be used.  


So what is an exercise protocol?  Defined succinctly it is; "a training methodology adhered to in order to govern the safety, consistency and effectiveness of a specific resistance training program so that the resultant muscular strength gains can be accurately measured."


There is a considerable difference between the protocols, although they are simply different resistance training techniques.  Some people like the feel of a specific protocol while others find that particular protocol less appealing.  (Superslow, for example, tends to polarise clients opinions.)  My advice is always results driven, so yes it is possible to get excellent results from a protocol that you don't like, however your progress and hence your results, will likely have the most influence.


Given all of the protocols are safe, "like" is a lessor consideration, after results! 


Nevertheless, when choosing a particular protocol all things must be considered to enable the best results being obtained and it is preferable that you respect and to some extent enjoy the particular method you currently employ.


So let us briefly look at some of the protocols below.

(Click on the Youtube link to enlarge the video.)

 Classic Nautilus 


Classic Nautilus is the most common protocol used when doing Resistance Training.  It is relatively easy to learn and some of the more advanced techniques are readily added on for those who ultimately seek to take their training to a higher level.  According to Arthur Jones, Nautilus founding chairman, the lifting phase of the movement should be completed in around 2 seconds, followed by a brief pause, then the lowering phase of the movement should be completed in approximately 3 seconds, resulting in a total repetition time of about 5-6 seconds.  Thus a 12 repitition set should take somewhere between 60- 70 seconds if this protocol is strictly adhered too.  

Advanced traineees who reach momentary muscular failure after 8 repetitions could however, complete a set in around 48 seconds.

 Superslow or Slow burn


Superslow is a more structured approach. Also known by the monikers Slow Burn or Max Contraction it aims for each repetition to take approximately 15 seconds.  Commencing with a 10 second positive, brief pause, then a 5 second negative.  Resultantly, a set of 6 repetitions should take something approaching 90 seconds.  We have found this technique particularly effective for individuals who have joint problems as it enables them to work with a lighter weight (but certainly no less intensity, given the slower speed) and do less actual repetitions.  Thus while not necessarily being a better approach, there is argueably more "bang for your buck" ie less repetitions at an arguably higher intensity.

So for individuals who are better served by doing less repetitions and lighter weights, it works very well. (The trade-off being a lighter weight, but it does foster excellent results, with a longer time under load or TUL.)

Negative or Concentric Training

"Negatives", or "doing negatives" as it is affectionately known is quite an advanced technique.  Credit again goes to Arthur Jones as it is not only likely that under his tuition at Nautilus it was conceived, it certainly was at that time popularised.  It is simply completing the negative phase of the movement, i.e. the lowering phase.  So once the resistance is lifted into position, the trainee then lowers the weight.  An individual is always stronger in the lowering phase of a repetition, hence the level of resistance chosen to do a negative repetition is at least 30-50% heavier than that which could normally be lifted.  The trainee is exposed to a resistance level they could not normally be exposed to, therefore it is obvious that the intensity is higher and the gain in strength is likey to be more significant.


It is an very high intensity technique, generally for advanced clients only.

 Static Contractions 


Static Contractions are a method of training whereby no actual movement of the weight occurs.  As the name suggests the weight is held motionless, usually somewhere near the fully contracted position, eg at the top of the range for a Bicep curl.  The resistance is generally heavier than what the client would normally use for full rang of motion (ROM) exercise, with the immediate aim being to hold the weight until it is no longer possible to do so. (This could be tempered with a client who has joint problems, for example, but it is also highly beneficial for them given the absence of repetitions.)  As a general guide the selected weight should enable the client to hold the fully contracted position for in excess of 60 seconds and anything above 90 seconds probably means the selected weight is too light.  "Statics" are very intense, very challenging, and very productive however most people find them somewhat mundane and we have generally found that while they are a good variation to the normal protocol; again they are excellent for clients with joint issues that inhibit or prevent full ROM exercise.

Other notable protocols


There are a number of other protocols certainly worth mentioning such as Negative Accentuated exercise, 30/30/30 second repetitions and Rest Pause just to name a few.  Some of these techniques are quite advanced and it is advisable to use such protocols cautiously and generally as a variation rather than the norm, in my experience.


It is relevant to mention that one of the great over-riding variables for every protocol is the rest period between exercises.  For example, to take a workout to it's zenith of intensity, which is certainly not for everybody, the client should move between the exercises without delay (See the video to the left, which is just over 13 minutes.)  The intensity of the workout increases almost exponentially and the normal 25-35 minute duration can be reduced to less than 15 minutes (assuming around 10-12 exercises are performed.)


The so called "cardio effect" of such a workout is dramatic and I have seen some clients unable to finish their session, some practically collapse on the floor afterwards and others become physically ill at the completion of such a session.  This can occur even if they have been lifting weights for many years given that they have built their strength up significantly (thus have a greater muscle mass to inroad) and have probably grown accustomed to moving through at a more comfortable pace.  The absence of the normal rest periods between exercises sends the intensity skyrocketing!


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