NASM Chapter 14 Integrated Program Design and the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) Model

Intro to program design

  • At a minimum personal trainers should be able to answer the following questions
    • 1. what exercises are most appropriate for my client
    • 2. What exercises are contraindicated for my client
    • 3. How many exercises are appropriate
    • 4. Other questions regarding the appropriateness of rate, length and intensity of exercises.

Program Design

  • Program design
    A purposeful system or plan put together to help an individual achieve a goal.
  • Personal trainers need to understand the acute variables of the client.
  • How and why must physiologic, physical, and performance adaptations of stabilization, strength, and power take place.
  • Important- Tempo controls the amount of time that the muscle is active or producing tension in eccentric, isometric, and concentric contractions. NASM writes tempo as, a=eccentric, b=isometric, and c=concentric. Example: A medium tempo used for Hypertrophy Phase 3 of OPT model would be 2/0/2. Using biceps curl as an example, decelerate one,two down, no pause, one, two up, one, two down, one two up for two reps.

Acute Variables of Training

  • Acute Variables
    Important components that specify how each exercise is to be performed.- They determine the amount of stress placed on the body and, ultimately, what adaptations will occur.
  • image00 (2)


  • Repetition (AKA “Rep”)
    One complete movement of a single exercise. Most reps will involve three muscle actions: concentric, isometric, and eccentric.
  • A single rep includes the number of movements within a given time against the direction of resistance.
  • Also reps are a  means to count the number of movements performed in a given amount of time. They can be a means to count time under tension.
  • Each phase of OPT model has specific goals and therefore requires specific number of reps to achieve these goals. Number of reps performed in a given set is dependent on client’s work capacity, intensity of exercise, and specific phase of training.
  • Personal trainers must keep in mind that all acute variables are interdependent.
  • Research shows training in a specific rep range yields specific adaptations.
  • Muscular endurance and stabilization is best achieved by performing 12 to 20 reps at 50 to 70% 1RM
  • Hypertrophy best achieved using 6 to 12 reps at 75 to 85% 1RM
  • Maximal strength is achieved from 1 to 5 at 85 to 100% 1RM
  • Power adaptations require 1 to 10 reps at 30-45% 1RM
  • Typically the beginning phases of OPT consists of high rep schemes necessary to build proper connective tissue(tendons, ligaments) strength, stability, and muscular endurance.
  • A common mistake of advanced clients is to not use a planned training program that provides periods of low-rep training alternated with periods of high-rep training.
  • Higher intensities of training can only be sustained for a short period without running the risk of overtraining.
  • The use of the OPT model enables a personal trainer to use a systematic training approach to prevent overtraining and yield specific results


  • Set
    Group of consecutive repetitions.
  • The quantities of the other acute variables determine how many sets are appropriate for clients.
  • There is an inverse relationship between sets, reps, and intensity. Individual usually performs fewer sets when performing higher reps at a lower intensity(endurance adaptations) and more sets when performing lower reps at a higher intensity(strength and power adaptations).
  • Muscular endurance and stabilization, 1 to 3 sets, 12 to 20 reps 50 to 70% 1RM
  • Hypertrophy 3 to 5 sets, 6 to 12 reps, 75 to 85% 1RM
  • Maximal strength 4 to 6 sets, 1 to 5 reps, intensity of 85 to 100% 1RM
  • Power adaptations 3 to 6 sets, 1 to 10 reps, 30 to 45% 1RM

Training Intensity

  • Training Intensity
     One of the most important acute variables to consider when designing an integrated training program.
  • Training intensity is defined as an individual’s level of effort compared with their maximal effort
  • Muscular endurance and stabilization is best developed with intensity of 50 to 70% 1RM
  • Hypertrophy achieved with 75 to 85% 1RM
  • Maximal strength with 85 to 100% 1RM
  • Power with 30 to 45% 1RM
  • Training in an unstable environment also increases the training intensity because it requires greater motor unit recruitment, leads to greater energy expenditure per exercise.

Repetition Tempo

  • Repetition Tempo
    The speed with which each rep is performed. 
  • This is an Important variable that can be manipulated to achieve specific training objectives such as endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power.
  • Because movement occurs at different velocities, to get most appropriate results from training, personal trainers must select appropriate speed of movement(slower tempo for endurance and faster tempo for power).
  • Muscular endurance and stabilization is best developed with slow rep tempo. One example would be 4 sec eccentric, 2 sec isometric, 1 sec concentric(4/2/1).
  • Hypertrophy is achieved at moderate tempo, one example would be 2 second eccentric, 0 isometric, and 2 second concentric.(2/0/2)
  • Maximal strength are best achieved with fast or explosive tempo.
  • Power adaptations best achieved with fast or explosive tempo that can be safely controlled.
  • OPT model places major emphasis on rep tempo because it has significant impact on functional outcome of the stressed tissues.
  • By emphasizing eccentric and isometric muscle actions at slower velocities during stabilization phases of training, more demand is placed on connective tissue(as well as stabilizing muscles) and better prepares nervous system for functional movements.

Rest Interval

  • Rest Interval
    The time taken to recuperate between sets. 
  • Studies show that this has a dramatic effect on the outcome of the training program.
  • Muscular endurance and stabilization 0 to 90 seconds rest.
  • Hypertrophy short rest periods between 0 and 60 secs.
  • Maximal strength 3 to 5 min rest.
  • Power 3 to 5 min rest.
  • Dynamic resistance training and isometric training significantly reduce ATP and PC supplies.
  • 20 to 30 seconds allows approx 50% recovery of ATP and PC
  • 40 secs 75% of ATP and PC
  • 60 secs 85 to 90% of ATP and PC
  • 3 mins approx 100% of ATP and PC
  • Rest interval between sets determines to what extent energy resources are replinished before next set. Shorter rest interval, less ATP and PC will be replenished, and less energy will be available.
  • For new clients this fatigue can lead to decreased neuromuscular control, force production, and stabilization by decreasing motor unit recruitment. Therefore inadequate rest intervals can decrease performance and could lead to altered movement patterns and even injury.
  • If rest periods are too long, potential effects include decreased neuromuscular activity and decreased body temp. If beginner client is then asked to perform intense bout of exercise, this could entail a potential increased risk of injury.
  • Individuals who are starting an exercise routine may respond better to longer rest periods until they adjust to demands of their program. Longer rest periods also help to ensure proper exercise technique. By reducing fatigue, client may be able to perform exercise with greater precision.

Training duration



  • Training programs that exceed 60-90 minutes (Excluding warm-up/cool-down) are associated with rapidly declining energy levels
  • The long length of training causes alterations in hormonal and immune system responses that can have a negative effect on a training program and raise the risk of minor infections, especially upper respiratory infections.

Exercise selection


  • The Human movement system is a highly adaptable system that readily adjusts o the imposed demands of training (Principle of specificity)
  • Exercises should therefore; be specific to training goals.
  • Exercises can be broken down into 3 different types on the basis of number of joints used, movements performs, and adaptation desired.
  • 1. Single joint: These exercises focus on isolating one major muscle group or joint (E.G. biceps curls, triceps pushdowns, calf raises)
  • 2. Multijoint: These exercises use involvement of two or three joints(E.G. squats, lunges, step-ups, chest presses).
  • Total body: These exercises include multiple joint movements(E.G. step-up balance to overhead press, squat to two arm press, barbell clean).
  • For example to develop optimal stability, traditional exercises can be progressed to a more unstable environment, such as standing up(two-leg, staggered-stance, and single-leg) or from a stable environment to an unstable environment(foam pad, stability ball, bosu ball).
  • Research has shown that exercises performed in unstable environments produce superior results for goal of stabilization and training the core stabilization muscles.

Periodization and the OPT Model (Planned Fitness Training)

  • Periodization is a systematic approach to program design that uses general adaptation syndrome and principle of specificity ti vary the amount and type of stress placed on the body to produce adaptation and prevent injury.
  •  Capture2
  • Understanding the importance of designing safe and effective programs using acute variable manipulation is important fundamental information for all personal trainers and ultimately their success in the profession.
  • Periodization involves two primary objectives – divide training into distinct periods(or phases), train different forms of strength in each period(or phase) to control volume of training and prevent injury
  • Capture3

Training Plan

  • Training Plan
    The specific outline, created by a fitness professional to meet a client’s goals, that details the form of training, length of time, future changes, and specific exercises to be performed.
  • Annual Plan
    Generalized training plan that spans 1 year to show when the client will progress between phases.
  • Monthly Plan
    Generalized training plan that spans 1 month and shows which phases will be required each day of each week.
  • Weekly Plan
    Training plan of specific workouts that spans 1 week and shows which exercises are required each day of the week.
  • Much of literature regarding periodization refers to dividing training program into specific cycles termed macrocycles, mesocycles, and microcycles.
  • Macrocycle is largest cycle and typically covers a yearlong period of training. Macrocycle is divided into mesocycles, which are typically 1 to 3 months in length.
  • Each mesocycle in turn is divided into microcycles, which are usually a week in length.
  • Periodization has been shown to be an effective form of program design for many fitness-related goals, and yet to date is not common practice among all personal trainers.
  • Periodization provides for the repeated use of different forms of training at specific times in an annual training program to elicit different adaptations in the body.
  • By intentionally cycling through different periods or phases of training, the acute variables are manipulated to adjust the volume of training.
  • By controlling the volume of training as a function of time in any given program, periodization allows for maximal levels of adaptation, while minimizing overtraining, which is primary benefit of periodization. Overtraining will lead to fatigue and eventual injury.

The OPT Model

  • There are 4 periods (Or phases) of training seen in a traditional periodization model
  • Capture4
  • The OPT model simplifies these phases into
  • 1.Stabilization
  • 2.Strength
  • 3.Power
  • Capture5


  • Capture6
  • This phase is crucial for beginners
  • Stabilization is designed to prepare the bod for higher levels of training that may follow
  • It is necessary to cycle back through this level after periods of strength and power training to maintain a high degree of core and joint stability.
  • The focus of stabilization is
  • Capture8 Capture7
  • Stabilization is normally low intensity, high rep training.
  • There is an emphasis on core and joint stabilization (As opposed to increasing strength in the arms and the legs.
  • Extremely effective for increasing neuromuscular efficiency in healthy, elderly, and unhealthy populations.
  • Another important component is to help ensure activity-specific strength adaptations.

Stabilization Endurance Training (Phase 1)

  • This is designed to create optimal levels of stabilization strength, and postural control.
  • Primary focus when progressing in this phase is increasing proprioception of exercises, rather than just the load.
  • Focuses on:
  • 1.Increasing stability
  • 2.increasing muscular endurance
  • 3.increasing neuromuscular efficiency of the core musculature
  • 4.improving inter-muscular
  • 5. intramuscular coordination
  • It must be remembered that returning to this stage is important in order to allow for proper recovery and maintenance of high levels of stability
  • In addition to increasing proprioceptive demand, acute variables can be progressed by increasing the volume(sets, reps) and intensity(load, exercise selection, and planes of motion) and by decreasing the rest periods. Client in this category will generally stay in this phase for 4-week duration
  • NASM-Table-14.7


  • This is the second level of the OPT model, focuses on main adaptation of strength, includes strength endurance, hypertrophy, and maximal strength.
  • Designed to maintain stability while increasing amount of stress placed on the body for increased muscle size and strength.
  • This period of training is a necessary progression for anyone who desires to increase caloric expenditure, muscle size, muscle strength, and bone mineral density.
  • The main focus of strength level training is to:
  • 1.increase ability of core musculature to stabilize the pelvis and spine under heavier loads, through more complete ranges of motion.
  • 2.Increase load bearing capabilities of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
  • 3.Increase the volume of training.
  • 4.Increase metabolic demand by taxing the ATP-PC and glycolysis energy systems to induce cellular changes in muscle.
  • 5.Increase motor unit recruitment, frequency of motor unit recruitment, and motor unit synchronization(maximal strength)
  • The strength period of training in the OPT model consists of three phases:
  • Phase 2 (Strength endurance training),
  • Phase 3 (Hypertrophy training)
  • Phase 4 (maximal Strength Training)

Strength Endurance Training (Phase 2)

  • Capture9
  • Strength Endurance
    Hybrid form of training that promotes increased stabilization endurance, hypertrophy, and strength.
  • This form of training entails the use of superset techniques in which a more stable exercise(such as bench press) is immediately followed with a stabilization exercise with similar biomechanical motions(such as stability ball push-ups).
  • Thus, for every set of exercise/body part performed according to the acute variables, there are actually two exercises or sets being performed.
  • High amounts of volume can be generated in this phase of training.
  • Similar to phase 1, acute variables can be progressed by increasing proprioceptive demand, volume, sets, reps, and intensity, and by decreasing rest periods. Client will generally stay in this phase for 4-6 weeks.
  • NASM-Table-14.8
  • Capture10

Hypertrophy Training (Phase 3)

  • Capture11
  • Specific for the adaptation of maximal muscle growth (Size), focusing on high levels of volume with minimal rest periods to force cellular changes that result in an overall increase in muscle size
  • Acute variables can be progressed if client with goal of increasing lean body mass and general performance has properly progressed through phases 1 and 2 of OPT model.
  • Because goal of this phase is primarily hypertrophy, the fitness professional will want to increase volume and intensity of the program.
  • the client will stay in for 4 weeks before cycling back through phase 1 or 2 or progressing on to phase 4 or 5.
  • NASM-Table-14.9
  • Capture12

Maximal Strength Training (Phase 4)

  • Capture13
  • Capture14
  • Maximal strength training phase focuses on increasing the load placed on tissues of the body.
  • Maximal intensity improves:
  • 1.recruitment of more motor units
  • 2.rate of force production
  • 3.motor unit synchronization
  • Maximal strength training has also been shown to help increase the benefits of power training used in Phase 5.
  • The goal of this phase is primarily maximal strength, trainer will want to increase load and volume.
  • Rest periods may need to be increased as client trains with heavier loads.
  • Client will stay in this phase for 4-week duration before cycling back through Phase 1 or 2 or progressing on to phase 5.
  • NASM-Figure-14.10


  • The third level of train, Power, is designed to increase the rate of force production(or speed of muscle contraction).
  • This form of training uses the adaptations of stabilization and strength acquired in previous phases of training and applies them with more realistic speeds and forces that the body will encounter in everyday life and in sports.
  • Not a common practice in the fitness environment, but has very viable and purposeful place in properly planned program.
  • Power is simply defined as force multiplied by velocity (P = F x V)
  • Increase in either force or velocity will produce an increase in power. Accomplished by increasing the speed at which you move a load, or increasing the load.
  • Combined effect is better rate of force production in daily activities and sporting events.
  • To develop optimal levels of power, individuals should train with heavy loads(85 to 100%) and light loads(30 to 45%) at high speeds.
  • Focus of power training is to increase the rate of force production by increasing the number of motor units activated, the synchrony between them, and the speed at which they are excited.

Power Training (Phase 5)

  • Capture15
  • Power training phase focuses on both high force and velocity to increase power- this is accomplished by combining a strength exercise with power exercise for each body part(such as barbell bench press superset with medicine ball chest pass).
  • The range of training intensities is important to stimulate different physiologic changes.
  • The 85 to 100% refers to intensity for traditional strength training exercises.
  • The 30 to 45% is used for “speed” exercises.
  • The goal of this phase is power, trainer will want to progress by increasing volume(sets), intensity(load), and velocity. Client will stay in this category for 4 week duration before cycling back through Phase 1 or 2.
  • NASM-Table-14.11

Applying the OPT Model for the Goal of Body Fat Reduction

  • The goal of reducing body fat requires clients to follow the simple principle of burning more calories than they consume. – The best way to increase calories burned is to move more.
  • Weight training provides potent means to burn calories when it is combined with cardiorespiratory training by maintaining or even increasing lean muscle tissue. More activity and greater amounts of lean body mass result in more calories burned during exercise and throughout the day.
  • The following program is a general representation of how the OPT model is used for clients with the goal of body fat reduction.
  • Because the goal does not include maximal strength or power- the client only needs to be cycled through first two phases of OPT model, with phase 3 as optional phase.
  • Cardiorespiratory training will be used in conjunction with the OPT model to help weight-loss clients burn calories and improve health.
  • Clients will progress through stages I, II, and III as their fitness levels improve.
  • capture 16

Applying OPT model for increasing lean body mass

  • With the goal of increased lean body mass, client can be cycled through first four phases of OPT model
  • Muscle hypertrophy can be defined as chronic enlargement of muscles.
  • To accomplish this goal, training programs need to be progressed with higher volumes(more sets, reps, and intensity) to force muscles to regenerate their cellular makeup and produce increased size.
  • Phase 4 is used to increase the strength capacity to allow the client to train with heavier weights in the future (This is only an optional addition to phase 3 workouts)
  • Applying OPT Model for Improving General Sports Performance

  • Goal of improving general sports performance requires client to increase overall proprioception, strength, and power output(rate of force production). Training will need to be progressed from stabilization through power phases of training.
  • Phases 1, 2, and 5 are training periods used in the same month, this is known as undulating periodization
  • Phase 1 and 2 are vital and will prepare connective tissues and muscles for higher demands of training to follow.
  • Without proper prep injury will be imminent.
  • Capture17

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s