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August 4, 2014, 12:00AM PT in Exam Preparation Blog  |  0 Comments

Practical Application of the ACE IFT Model—Phases 3 and 4: Load and Performance Training

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Successful completion of the movement phase means that your client is ready to progress in their training. The last two phases of the Functional and Resistance Training Component of the ACE Integrated Fitness TrainingTM (ACE IFTTM) Model focus on incorporating external load and power. It is important that your client establishes proper form in the primary movement patterns—bend-and-lift, squat, single leg, push, pull and rotation—before advancing to exercises with external load or with an emphasis on improving power.

Phase 3: Load Training

Although in the movement phase some external load is added, in this phase specific training goals and objectives are established. The training goal or objective in this phase may be to increase muscular endurance, strength or hypertrophy for the purpose of improving body composition, function, movement or health. When programming this phase for your client, including stability and mobility exercises in the warm-up and cool-down portions is recommended. If there is a significant break in training, it would be ideal to reassess posture and movement prior to resuming training, to determine if there is a reappearance of deviations or compensations.

Primary Training Objectives

Your clients’ goals regarding resistance training will vary, and may include muscular endurance, strength or hypertrophy. Frequency, intensity, repetitions, sets and type (FIRST) provide a guideline for achieving these goals and objectives. Before programming, performing muscular endurance and strength assessments (such as those presented in Chapter 8) may be appropriate, depending on the needs of the individual client.

Muscular Endurance:

Muscular endurance is defined as the ability of a muscle to sustain successive repetitions of an activity and resist or withstand fatigue.

Key recommendations when programming:

  • Typically assessed by increased number of repetitions
  • As muscular endurance increases, so will muscular strength, although not as much
  • Traditionally features a total-body workout
  • Recommended progression of weight load should be in 5% increments upon completion of end range repetitions in all sets

Muscular Strength:

Muscular strength is defined as the greatest force that can be produced by one or more muscle groups, by moving a load one time or repetition.

Key recommendations when programming:

  • Typically assessed by 1-RM weight load in an exercise
  • Training intensity is emphasized
  • Recommended progression is double progressive protocol
  • Recommended increase in load is 5% once the terminal number of repetitions is successfully completed with proper technique

Muscular Hypertrophy:

Muscular hypertrophy is an increase in muscle fiber size achieved through progressive resistance exercise.

Key recommendations when programming:

  • Assessed through the amount of volume performed by targeted muscle group
  • Due to the nature of this training goal, particularly for bodybuilders, assessments through body compositions and circumference measurements are conducted periodically
  • 5% increments, may not be the most effective due to quantity of exercise, short recoveries etc.
  • Plateaus are common due to overtraining; allow for proper recovery of muscles groups between sessions

Phase 4: Performance Training

The fourth and final phase of the Functional and Resistance Training Component of the ACE IFT Model is Performance Training. Clients with competitive or performance goals want to progress to, or start in, this phase. If progressing to this phase, the client should have successfully completed movement or load training and exhibit proper postural stability and mobility. Also, clients starting in this phase should already be proficient in the aforementioned phases.

The emphasis of the Performance Training phase is speed of force production. This phase enhances the clients’ performance abilities through power, speed, agility and reactivity training, elements that are important to the clients with competitive or performance-based goals. In addition, exercises performed in this phase place a greater demand and stress on the musculoskeletal system, so it is paramount that you make sure your clients exhibit proper joint stability and mobility and movement mechanics.

Key recommendations when programming for Performance Training:

  • It is recommended to incorporate dynamic warm-up activities
  • Clients should meet the prerequisites as seen on page 342 of the ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 4th Edition, and page 359 of the 5th Edition
  • Perform the necessary assessments prior to initiating programming (See Chapter 8 for Sport Skills assessments)
  • Performance training is not recommended for clients with poor postural stability and mobility and movement mechanics

The Functional and Resistance Training component of the ACE IFT Model provides recommendations and guidelines for training your clients. Although these recommendations and guidelines are provided, your programming should be based on your client observations and assessments and his or her unique goals. Not everyone will need to begin in Phase 1, and some clients may not need to progress to Phase 4. You may also find that incorporating elements of the different phases is effective in helping clients stick to their programs over the long-term. 

By Makeba Edwards


Makeba is a Study Assistance Representative for ACE, and holds a B.S. in Exercise Science and Sports Studies. She is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer Group Fitness Instructor. She also a Les Mills Certified Group Fitness Instructor and teaches several modalities.

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