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Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training


Author: NSCA -National Strength & Conditioning Association

Publisher: Human Kinetics,


Publish Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN-10: 1492506923

Pages: 224

File Type: EPub

Language: English

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Book Preface

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) developed this manual primarily for those preparing for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT), Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS), and Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F) certification exams. When used in conjunction with the online video clips, exam candidates will become especially prepared for questions relating to anatomy, biomechanics, program design (e.g., exercise selection), and exercise technique.

Exercise Technique Manual for Resistance Training, Third Edition, also serves as an excellent resource for strength and conditioning professionals, health and fitness instructors, and personal trainers using resistance training exercises in their own programs or when instructing others. College and university faculty and students will find that this manual and the online video clips complement hands-on instruction and aid in teaching exercise technique without requiring the use of a weight room.

This manual describes proper technique for 54 free weight and 16 machine exercises. The exercise technique checklists identify the primary muscle groups involved and the correct grip, stance, body position, and range of motion for each exercise. Additionally, descriptions of joint actions, spotting suggestions, and tips for avoiding injury are provided.

Although the exercise technique checklists were written by experts, no one should attempt to perform a new exercise without the supervision of a certified professional. It is also recommended that anyone considering participating in an exercise program consult a physician before beginning the program.


This manual describes proper technique for 54 free weight and 16 machine exercises that are categorized into the following groups:

  • Power and explosive (total body)
  • Hip and thigh (multijoint and single joint)
  • Calf (single joint)
  • Chest (multijoint and single joint)
  • Back (multijoint)
  • Shoulder (multijoint and single joint)
  • Biceps (single joint)
  • Triceps (single joint)
  • Forearm (single joint)
  • Core
  • Alternative modes and nontraditional implements

All exercises are illustrated in the online video, which can be accessed at

Multijoint exercises involve two or more joints that change angles during the execution of a repetition (e.g., for the lower body during the power clean, this includes the hip, knee, and ankle joints). Single-joint exercises allow movement in only one joint during a repetition (e.g., the elbow joint during the biceps curl exercise). For the purposes of this manual, the joints of the shoulder girdle are combined with the true (glenohumeral) shoulder joint and, therefore, treated as one joint. For example, the lateral shoulder raise exercise is classified as a single-joint movement, despite the obvious involvement of several shoulder girdle joints in addition to the glenohumeral joint. Additionally, only the predominant muscles are included. Although many other muscles may assist during the exercise or may function as stabilizers, they are not included in the muscular involvement charts.

Each exercise description in this manual includes details about the following:

  • Type of exercise
  • Description of the action of movement
  • Muscle group or body area trained
  • Predominant muscle groups and muscles involved
  • Guidelines for proper exercise technique listed in the order that they are performed
  • Whether the exercise requires a spotter, as designated by the symbol shown here

Spotting Guidelines

There are certain situations that warrant a spotter being present as an exercise is performed. The exercises that meet this requirement are categorized based on the location of the bar or dumbbells in relation to the lifter’s body. Exercises that involve movement over the head or over the face need to be spotted to protect the lifter in case the bar or dumbbell falls on the lifter’s head, neck, face, or torso and to help unrack and rack the bar in its supports, when needed. A spotter is also needed when a bar is placed on the back of a lifter’s neck, across the shoulders, or on top of the anterior deltoids or clavicles.

Spotting Overhead Exercises and Those With the Bar on the Back or Front of the Shoulders

To promote safety, overhead exercises and those with the bar on the back or front of the shoulders should be performed inside a power rack with the crossbars set at an appropriate height based on the type of exercise and height of the lifter. The spotter (or spotters) needs to be as tall as the lifter and strong enough to be able to support the load, if necessary. Out-of-the-rack exercises (e.g., forward step lunge or step-up) with heavy weights can result in serious injury and should be spotted. Exercises in these situations include the following:

  • Any variation of the shoulder press
  • Any variation of the barbell squat
  • Any variation of the barbell lunge

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