Three Resistance Training Methods for Best Results

complex training programming recovery resistance training
Woman. Man. Strength Training. Pushup Exercise.

To get the most out of your time in the gym use these three methods.

  • Foundation exercises.
  • Complex training.
  • Complete Recovery.

Foundation Exercises

Foundation exercises work the major muscle groups. Because they target the largest muscle groups and increase metabolism, they work best for general fitness and weight loss goals. Foundation exercises are broken down into the four categories:

  • Bilateral lower body exercises.
  • Unilateral lower body exercises.
  • Upper body exercises.
  • Core exercises.

Please note that the exercises here are not a comprehensive list. They are suggested exercises and a good place to start to ensure all major muscles are included.

Bilateral lower body exercises


    • Front
    • Back
  • Modified deadlift exercise
  • Seated leg press

 Unilateral lower body exercises

 Forward or walking lunge

    • Side lunge
    • Back lunge
  • Bulgarian split squat
  • One-legged squat
  • Step up

 Upper body exercises

 Barbell or dumbbell bench press

  • Cable, machine, or band row
  • Barbell or dumbbell bent-over row
  • Dips

 Core exercises


    • Modified knee plank
  • Bicycle crunch
  • Reverse crunch/leg raise
  • Swiss ball crunch

 Sample Foundation Exercise Workout





Rest Between Sets

Barbell Bench Press

2 - 4

8 – 15

65 – 85% 1 RM

0 – 60 seconds

Barbell bent over row

2 - 4

8 – 15

65 – 85% 1 RM

0 – 60 seconds

 The workout here is an agonist-antagonist superset. To modify and/or progress the routine, increase or decrease the number of sets or repetitions, resistance, or intra-set recovery periods. Other programming suggestions include super-setting upper and lower body exercises, including core exercises in supersets, and utilizing circuits of three or more exercises.

Complex Training

Complex training is combining a resistance exercise with a plyometric exercise. This type of training is designed to increase muscle strength (how much force a muscle can produce) and power (how quickly muscle force is produced). Because one of the primary goals of complex training is power development it is favored in athletics training, however with strategic modifications it can be an extremely effective training tool for general fitness and weight loss for anyone.

Referring to the foundation exercises, to design a complex workout pair a foundation exercise with a plyometric exercise from the list below.

  Suggested plyometric exercises

 Squat jumps

  • Box jumps
  • Tuck jumps
  • Bulgarian jump split squat
  • Cycled split jumps
  • Single leg push off
  • Depth and/or plyometric push-ups
  • Smith machine explosive press

 Once exercises are selected, the best practice is to superset two to four sets of the foundation exercise with two to four sets of the plyometric exercise as shown in the sample workout below.

Sample Complex Training Workout





Rest Between Sets

Front squat (foundation)

2 - 4

8 -15

65 – 85% 1 RM

20 – 60 seconds

Tuck jumps (plyometric)

2 - 4

6 - 10

Bodyweight only

20 – 60 seconds

 Trainer’s Tips:

  • Because the intensity is higher for the plyometric drill than the foundation exercise, the suggested number of repetitions is lower.
  • The recovery period should be longer after the plyometric set versus the foundation exercise.
  • Where appropriate, you can add external weight to the plyometric drills but it is advised to complete at least one set without resistance to check the mechanics prior to adding weight.

To modify the level of difficulty within a complex training set, increase or decrease external weight to change intensity. Volume can be increased or decreased by changing the number of repetitions. And finally, incorporate shorter or longer intra-set recovery periods to modify the intensity of the entire workout.

Complete Recovery

Recovery is an active physiological process that plays a key role in conditioning, building muscle, and performance. During a session, active recovery is something like jogging in place or dynamic stretching between sets. Moving around between sets readies the muscles and other supporting systems like the heart for what is next. It also keeps metabolic rate up, improving cardiovascular fitness and increasing the utility of exercise for weight loss.

After training, recovery is even more vital and when the actual rebuilding of muscle tissue occurs and muscles gain mass and strength. During training, muscle is broken down or catabolized while during post session recovery muscles rebuild or anabolize.

When it comes to using recovery as a positive programming tool, intra-set recovery periods are critical, however, the length of time between sessions is equally as important. Research has shown that 48 hours of rest is required for muscles to return to baseline strength after high-intensity training (85% 1RM or higher); however, inactivity for over 96 hours leads to detraining (Carter J & Greenwood M. 2014).

By following these three key programming strategies it is easy to build, modify, and progress individual workouts and programs safely, and effectively.

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Carter J and Greenwood M. 2014. Complex Training Reexamined: Review and recommendations to improve strength and power. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 36 (2). 11 – 19.


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