CSCS Program Design for Strength & Power

training for power training for strength Oct 03, 2022

Photo Credit: Lazy Artist Gallery/Pexels

By: Danielle Abel, MSN, FNMS, CSCS(c)

CSCS Program Design

Program Design is one of the most challenging sections of the NSCA CSCS Exam. So, to help you study, we're going to break down program design for strength and power for the CSCS Exam. 

Programming Strength

Suppose you're working with an athlete on strength or power progressions. In that case, you might be wondering how to set up your program to manage recovery while also promoting progressive overload.

Table 17.7 from the Essentials of Strength Training & Conditioning book (NSCA) provides a nice framework that may be helpful for you. The purpose of the table is to provide rep maxes (equivalent to a 1RM) at a given number of repetitions.

Hers's the abbreviated version of table 17.7. This is what I recommend you memorize for the exam.

Importantly, these numbers refer to approximately the average number of repetitions an athlete could do with a given %1RM.

While there will be individual variability between athletes, this should give you a good reference for what is the approximate max load you can assign for a set of 2, 4, 6, etc.

For example, if you're working within a strength block, you might start with back squat 3x3 (3 sets of 3 reps) at 85% and progress upward over 4 weeks up to 93%. Each week might look like 3x3 at 85%, then 87%, then 90%, and end with 93%. The 93% would be what the athlete "could do," maximally, for strength, for 3 reps.

The key piece of data that you will need to program this is the athlete's 1RM of the selected movement, in this case, a back squat. If you don't have this information available, it is possible to figure out their estimated 1RM by using a Training Load Chart from multiple repetitions completed. 

Programming Power

For athletes working on power, you'll want to keep in mind that power is typically programmed a bit differently than strength. 

For example, an athlete will typically use closer to an 8RM load to perform 4 reps when training for power. This will allow the athlete to focus on faster bar speed and increasing velocity at a submaximal load.

This might look like programming 3x4 reps (3 sets of 4 reps) at 70%, then 75%, then 77%, and end with 80%. The 80% would be what the athlete "could do," maximally for power, for 4 reps, given the maximum repetitions at 80% would be 8, 4 reps would be 50% of the maximum reps allowed. 

For both of these examples, don't forget to keep documentation of the logic behind your programming decisions so you can refer back to them when programming your athlete's next block of training; trust us, it makes programming progression so much easier


Support & Courses Available

Ready for even more support? Our Program Design 101 Course teaches you exactly how to organize an annual training plan and provides sport-specific examples, and even includes done for you programming templates by phase. Click the link here to check it out.

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