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Resistance Training Facts

By John Litteral 12-8-22

Resistance Training

Resistance training is obviously a vital part of bodybuilding. There are many different types of routines, techniques, variations, methods, and philosophies when it comes to resistance training for bodybuilding. A seasoned and experienced noncompetitive bodybuilder who has taken their training seriously for many years has often learned different ways to train with resistance training and has probably tried a number of different methods. I have experimented with a wide variety of resistance training myself, and I am going to cover many of those techniques in this chapter.

In bodybuilding, it is important to understand that there is not a one size fits all way of training. Everyone has particular goals, potential, stage in life, level of experience, body-types, and genetics that need to be taken into consideration when deciding what form of training that they are going to pursue. Somebody who is in their 50’s, training for the first time, will probably have priorities that vary from someone in their early 20s. I remember many years ago hearing a friend of mine who was in his later stage in life say, that “when you are young, you workout to look good. When you are middle age you workout to feel good. And when you get to my age you workout to survive.” Ha ha! That is a fairly accurate statement for the most part. After working in the fitness industry for a number of years, I got to see the benefits of resistance training. I saw beginners make wonderful progress from being out of shape, to transforming their bodies into looking like a superhero. I saw older people come in who had really bad arthritis, and after doing weight training they significantly increased their mobility and improved their quality of life. I remember one older gentleman who came into the gym for the first time, and he could barely raise his arms slightly above his shoulders, and he had lots of shoulder pain. But after I showed him some resistance training exercises and worked with him for a while, he got to where he was able to do overhead presses and was increasing his strength and decreasing the pain in his shoulders. I remember how much joy that gave him. I have worked with younger people and taught them the basics for resistance training, and they went from being skinny little guys to surpassing me throughout the years.


When it comes to resistance training, there are a variety of ways it can be done. For the optimum way to reach your maximum bodybuilding potential you will need weight training equipment, either your own equipment or a membership to a gym or a training facility that has equipment to train on. A good weight training facility will have equipment that will allow you to do the basic strength training exercises such as the bench press, squats, and deadlifts. Any facility that has even the bare minimum equipment to do those three exercises will also have the potential to allow you to do more exercises. But most gyms have more than enough equipment to allow you to do many variations of the three basic movements and a multitude of other exercises. Most gyms have barbells, dumbbells, and machines. I highly recommend everyone to join a gym if they do not have access to weight training equipment anywhere else.

Another option, though much less effective for building muscle and strength is bodyweight exercises and stretch bands. I did an experiment years ago by doing all of my resistance training with nothing but bodyweight exercises and stretch bands. I trained like that for about a year. I did lose muscle mass and strength during that time, but I was still able to maintain a fair amount of muscle and definition. Former NFL football star Herschel Walker is well known for his great physique many years ago by doing mainly bodyweight exercises for resistance training. Not only did he train hard and have impressive muscle definition and size with bodyweight exercises, but he also had superior genetics that many people are not born with. The average person can have respectable gains with bodyweight exercises, but you will have much greater results with barbell and dumbbell training. After I give an analysis below on how to train with weights and machines, I will also give an analysis on how to train effectively with only bodyweight exercises and stretch bands.     


I have learned throughout the years that to maximize your gains for building muscle and strength, it is very important to have a plan set in place. Just going into the gym and doing random exercises is not very effective. Of course, doing something is better than nothing, but a well-thought-out plan will help you make the best out of your time and raise your fitness gains to much higher levels.


For adequate gains, one should do resistance training at least three times a week. I personally train five and six days a week. It is important to work all parts of the body at least one time a week. For example, you need to make sure that you train your chest, back, shoulders, legs, arms and abs (core) at least once a week. For a single workout session, you should be able to get a complete resistance training workout within 30 to 60 minutes. Oftentimes workouts that last over 60 minutes are not any more effective than 60 minutes or less.  


Below are some examples ONLY. Everyone has different responsibilities and schedules.

DAY 1 (Monday): Chest, shoulders, and triceps

DAY 2 (Wednesday): Back and biceps

DAY 3 (Friday): Legs and abs

The reason why I arranged the body parts in the order that I did is because, for example, on day 1, when you train your chest, your shoulders and triceps will be highly involved when doing exercises such as the bench press and the incline bench press. Your chest, shoulders, and triceps are all pushing muscles. On day 2, when you train your back, your biceps are highly involved in just about any back exercise, because both the back and biceps are pulling muscles. It is important to start off with your chest exercises first before doing shoulders and triceps because your chest is bigger and stronger, therefore it needs to be done while you are not fatigued. Then you should follow your chest training with shoulders, because if you train shoulders before chest, you will not be able to use as much weight for your chest exercises because your shoulders will be fatigued. It is wise to (almost) always work your bigger muscles first before the smaller muscles, therefore maximizing your gains. Your smaller muscles like shoulders and triceps will already have gotten trained hard during your chest exercises. After working chest, then go to shoulders exercises before triceps exercises, because triceps are smaller muscles than shoulders. And triceps are also involved in your shoulder pressing exercises, which means that by the time you get to your triceps exercises they will be pre-exhausted and they have played their part helping you perform your chest and shoulder exercises.

The same principle goes for training your back and biceps. If you do your bicep exercises before your back exercises, then you will not be able to train your back nearly as effective because your biceps play a large part in your back exercises.  

Legs are your biggest and strongest muscles, which means that having a day for just training legs is oftentimes preferred because those bigger muscles require more blood and oxygen, which will lead to greater fatigue than the other smaller muscles. I don’t recommend training abs before legs because your abs (core) are involved in the squat exercise.   


The schedule below is ONLY an example. Adjust the schedule for what works best for you.

DAY 1 (Monday): Chest and abs (core)

DAY 2 (Tuesday): Back and shoulders

DAY 3 (Wednesday): Triceps and Biceps

DAY 4 (Friday): Legs

The above example for a 4 day a week training schedule will allow you to make greater gains for your smaller muscles than the 3 day a week training schedule. The reason is, because on the 4 day a week schedule, your smaller muscles are not getting pre-exhausted, but rather they are getting trained while those muscles are fresh. This means that you will be able to use more weight during those exercises for those smaller body parts, therefore they will get stronger and bigger. For example, by not training your shoulders on the same day as chest, you will be able to use more weight for shoulder exercises, especially the pressing movement such as the overhead shoulder press. Also, by training your triceps on another day from your chest and shoulders, you will be able to use a lot more weight for your triceps exercises, which will lead to bigger and stronger triceps. Also, by training your biceps on a different day than your back, you will grow bigger and stronger biceps because the biceps will not be pre-exhausted from the back exercises.

The reason why I combined the back and shoulder training together is because training both of those together will not cause much pre-exhaustion for either. The reason is because the back muscles are pulling muscles and the shoulders are pushing muscles. There is a benefit to training your back before shoulders, and that is the back training will help your shoulders get good and warmed up, which will help prevent shoulder injuries. I will discuss the necessity of warming up a little later.


The schedule below is ONLY an example. Adjust the schedule for what works best for you.

DAY 1 (Monday): Chest

DAY 2 (Tuesday): Shoulders

DAY 3 (Wednesday): Back and abs (core)

DAY 4 (Thursday): Legs

DAY 5 (Friday): Triceps and biceps

The 5 day a week training schedule is what I prefer for myself. This allows me to split up every muscle group individually. It is very effective because it allows each muscle group to be trained fresh without any pre-exhaustion, and it makes for shorter workouts at a time because no body parts are having to be trained together. The arrangement of the body parts per day does have a purpose because even though the body parts are trained on separate days, there is some level of pre-exhaustion to the muscles when you train two days back-to-back. If you work your shoulders on Monday and then your chest on Tuesday, your chest workout may be somewhat hindered because your shoulders will probably be a little fatigued from the shoulder workout the day before. If you work your triceps the day before working chest or shoulders, then your chest and shoulder workout may be impacted and suffer because your triceps will still be pre-exhausted. The same goes for back and biceps. If you train your biceps one day and then train your back the following day, then there is a chance that it will impact and hinder your back training because your biceps will likely be fatigued.

Note, if you work your chest first, it does not matter what order of days that you work your back, shoulders and legs, so pick what best works for you.

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