How to Design a Strength Training Program How to Design a Strength Training Program


Design a Strength Training Program

Design a strength training program that will improve your health and help you reach your fitness goals. The process isn't difficult, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your workout is both safe and challenging.

Types of Programs

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) identifies three basic designs of strength training programs: full body workouts, alternating upper and lower body workouts, and routines that split training by specific muscle groups.

When doing a full body workout, you will work the major muscle groups of both the upper and lower body in one session. This design works for beginner to advanced exercisers and is effective at improving your health and fitness. It serves as a convenient way to workout because you can do cardiovascular exercise one day and strength training the next.

Splitting upper and lower body workouts can serve two purposes: 1) The exerciser can develop the upper or lower body to benefit sports-specific needs, or 2) It can make workouts shorter. While you will need to train most days of the week to meet recommendations, you can make these sessions shorter by doing exercises for the lower body one day and for the upper body the next.

Separating workouts by muscle group is a practice most often used in bodybuilding. It allows you to give each muscle group more attention to develop strength and muscle mass.

Exercise Order

The right exercise order is important to ensure that you don’t wear out the smaller muscle groups that assist larger muscle groups in movement. Begin your workout with exercises that target larger muscles and that involve multiple joints. For example, chest press, lat pull-down, and squats should be performed at the beginning of the workout. Then proceed with exercises that target the shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps, triceps, and calves. According to general guidelines from the NSCA, when performing a full body workout, exercises that target the core can be worked in between sets during the rest period of other exercises.

Days, Sets and Repetitions

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that adults perform resistance training for all major muscle groups 2 to 3 days per week. Positive strength gains are seen with 2 to 4 sets of each exercise, but research shows that new exercisers can improve strength with as little as 1 set. For general fitness, aim to perform 8 to 12 repetitions for each set. If muscular endurance is a major goal, you can perform 15 to 25 repetitions, but the ACSM recommends limiting the number of sets to 2.

Progression and Strength Gains

As your muscles grow and you gain strength, you will find that lifting the same amount of weight you started with becomes easy. If you continue to lift this amount, your muscles will no longer be challenged. In order to continue gaining strength, you must progressively increase the resistance or weight. You will know you are at the correct weight for your fitness level when you feel muscle fatigue after lifting 8 to 12 repetitions of an exercise. This does not need to result in complete exhaustion. If you do feel complete muscle exhaustion, you may be lifting too much weight. If the exercise is so easy that you feel no fatigue, it’s time to increase the resistance.

Spiced Meringue Cookies RecipeSpiced Meringue Cookies


Spiced Meringue Cookies Recipe

Meringue cookies are a lighter option when you want a sweet treat. While they do contain sugar, they are made without butter and egg yolks, which eliminates saturated fat. This version has festive holiday spices added.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
0%Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 11mg
Total Carbohydrate 10.2g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 10.1g
Protein 0.7g
Vitamin C 0%Vitamin A 0%
Iron 0%Calcium 0%
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Yield: 20 cookies

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Baking time: 2 hours


  • 4 large egg whites
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove
  • Extra spices for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Add the egg whites to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high until the eggs are frothy, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
  3. With the mixer on medium-high, add the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn the mixer to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Fold in the vanilla and spices. Scoop the meringue onto the baking sheet using about 2 generous tablespoons for each cookie. Leave about 1 inch between cookies.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the cookies in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with extra ground spices and serve.

Healthy Holiday FoodsHealthy Holiday Foods


Healthy Holiday Foods

While it may seem that every food you encounter this time of year is loaded with calories, fat, sodium, and sugar, there are plenty of holiday foods that are healthy. Eat these seasonal favorites to give your holiday eating plan a nutritional boost.


Since citrus can be found in the supermarket year round, it’s sometimes forgotten that it is truly a winter fruit. Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are most delicious during the holiday season. They contain flavonoids that may have the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells. Citrus is also rich in vitamin C, which improves the absorption of iron and acts as an antioxidant to prevent free radical damage to cells. Whether eaten whole or juiced, citrus is a healthy addition to holiday meals.


Cranberries are often served as a sweet sauce or dried with added sugar. But the natural, tart flavor of fresh cranberries can be enjoyed with little sweetener. Cranberries provide vitamin C and fiber, and they are full of disease-fighting antioxidants. Cranberries have been found to block bacteria that leads to urinary tract infections, and preliminary research shows they may also block bacteria that leads to stomach ulcers. Chop fresh cranberries and add them to salads or cook them with steel cut oatmeal. Whole cranberries can also be roasted in the oven and added to savory side dishes or blended into sauces.


While it’s still loaded with sugar, molasses has some qualities that make it stand out among other sweeteners. Blackstrap molasses contains iron as well calcium and potassium. When you need to add a touch of sweetness during cooking, try adding some blackstrap molasses and experiment with it as a sweetener for holiday baking.


Nuts provide a lean source of protein and heart-healthy fats. Research shows that eating nuts can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nuts offer a unique variety of nutrients, including vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber. Choose lightly salted or unsalted nuts to reduce sodium intake, and enjoy a few as a snack or added to a holiday side dish.


Pomegranates are available October to January, making the holidays the perfect time to find the whole fruit in the supermarket. Pomegranates contain vitamin K and potassium. They are also loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, including punicalagin which is unique to the fruit. These antioxidants have been found to protect cells from the free radical damage that may lead to some chronic diseases. The crunchy, edible seeds in the arils also supply fiber. Sprinkle them into salads or onto your morning oatmeal.


Potatoes have long been labeled as unhealthy because they are most often eaten as French fries. The truth is, potatoes are rich in potassium and provide vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, and iron. There are also many varieties available, which allows you to get creative when preparing healthy meals. Try roasting potatoes with herbs and olive oil, or make mashed purple potatoes for a flavorful side dish that is perfect for a holiday meal.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a healthy holiday staple as long as you go easy on the sugar and butter when preparing them. They supply calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. For a healthier side dish, try cubing and roasting sweet potatoes, or you can also bake them and then stuff the sweet potatoes with your favorite healthy ingredients.

Healthy Ways to Celebrate the HolidaysHealthy Ways to Celebrate the Holidays


Try replacing high-calorie cocktails with apple cider flavored with cinnamon sticks.

Step back from the high-calorie foods and stop stressing about missed workouts. Grab the family, and have fun with these healthy ways to celebrate the holidays.

Recipe Redo Competition

Everyone is looking for ways to lighten up favorite holiday foods without sacrificing traditional flavor. Create a competition within your family to see who can creatively adapt the most delicious dish. Assign everyone a recipe and give them the challenge of making it healthier. This might be by reducing the calories or saturated fat, increasing vitamins and minerals, or using fewer processed ingredients. Select a healthy reward for the person who creates the best dish.

Get Your Friends Moving

This time of year offers many opportunities to connect with friends. Instead of meeting for lunch or for happy hour, find ways to make your quality time beneficial to your physical health and emotional health. Sign up for a walk or run to support your favorite charity. Volunteer to pick up donations in your neighborhood or to make and deliver healthy holiday meals on bike or foot. The time together will allow you to catch up, incorporate activity, and feel good about helping others.

Create a Holiday-themed Workout

Get your workout in as a family and get into the holiday spirit. You don’t need much space to create a circuit workout, and if the weather is tolerable, bundle up and take it outside. Think of all the ways you can incorporate the holidays into the session. Play upbeat holiday music. Use a string of garland as a jump rope or as a marker on the ground for a side-to-side hop. Let a heavier, non-breakable wrapped gift serve as a weight to hold during lunges or squats. Make it fun and let each family member create a station. Do each exercise for 60 to 90 seconds, and then switch until you have completed a 20 to 30 minute workout.

Host a Party to Help Others

Invite friends over for your traditional holiday party, but change the focus of the afternoon. Grab the boots and coats and help shovel snow for neighbors who are unable to do so, or volunteer to help put up holiday decorations. There are many people who can use assistance this time of year, and the activity will help you burn calories.

Turkey Meatballs with Polenta RecipeTurkey Meatballs with Polenta


Your favorite comfort foods can be made healthier when you cook them at home. Ground turkey breast is used in this recipe for a leaner source of protein with less saturated fat than traditional meatballs. Homemade sauce and polenta allows you to cut the sodium content nearly in half when compared to other versions.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.5g
3%Saturated Fat 0.6g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 71mg
Sodium 599mg
Total Carbohydrate 27.1g
Dietary Fiber 5.6g
Sugars 8.4g
Protein 32.2g
Vitamin C 29%Vitamin A 22%
Iron 11%Calcium 7%
The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes



  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • 2 (14 oz.) cans no salt added, diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


  • 1 lb. ground turkey breast
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  • Shredded parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil for garnish


  1. To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, sugar and pepper. Let simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Remove from the heat, and use an immersion blender to carefully puree the tomatoes into a chunky sauce. Return to low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 to 30 minutes while you make the rest of the recipe.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground turkey with all the herbs and spices.
  4. Form into 16 meatballs and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the meatballs once halfway through baking. The meatballs should be cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. While the meatballs bake, make the polenta.
  5. For the polenta, bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in the cornmeal until smooth. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.
  6. To serve, divide the polenta among 4 shallow serving bowls. Place 4 meatballs on top of or next to the polenta, and cover the meatballs with ¼ of the sauce (use less sauce, if desired). Garnish with cheese and basil.
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