Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men – Research Review

Schoenfeld BJ et. al. “Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men.” J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Apr 7. 

Regimented resistance training has been shown to promote marked increases in skeletal muscle mass. Although muscle hypertrophy can be attained through a wide range of resistance training programs, the principle of specificity, which states that adaptations are specific to the nature of the applied stimulus, dictates that some programs will promote greater hypertrophy than others. Research is lacking, however, as to the best combination of variables required to maximize hypertophic gains. The purpose of this study was to investigate muscular adaptations to a volume-equated bodybuilding-type training program versus a powerlifting-type routine in well-trained subjects. 17 young men were randomly assigned to either an HT group that performed 3 sets of 10RM with 90 seconds rest or an ST group that performed 7 sets of 3RM with 3 minutes rest. After 8 weeks, no significant differences were noted in muscle thickness of the biceps brachii. Significant strength differences were found in favor of ST for the 1RM bench press and a trend was found for greater increases in the 1RM squat. In conclusion, this study showed both bodybuilding- and powerlifting-type training promote similar increases in muscular size, but powerlifting-type training is superior for enhancing maximal strength.


Ok, so assuming you made it through the Categories of Weight Training series re-run/re-write, you hopefully saw that there is a general belief/schema whereby different loading parameters (intensity, volume, etc.) generate differential results in terms of muscular endurance, muscle growth, muscle strength.


Strength and Neuromuscular Adaptation Following One, Four and Eight Sets

Marshall PW, McEwen M, Robbins DW. Strength and neuromuscular adaptation following one, four, and eight sets of high intensity resistance exercise in trained males. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Mar 31. 

The optimal volume of resistance exercise to prescribe for trained individuals is unclear. The purpose of this study was to randomly assign resistance trained individuals to 6-weeks of squat exercise, prescribed at 80% of a 1 repetition-maximum (1-RM), using either one, four, or eight sets of repetitions to failure performed twice per week. Participants then performed the same peaking program for 4-weeks. Squat 1-RM, quadriceps muscle activation, and contractile rate of force development (RFD) were measured before, during, and after the training program. 32 resistance-trained male participants completed the 10-week program. Squat 1-RM was significantly increased for all groups after 6 and 10-weeks of training (P < 0.05). The 8-set group was significantly stronger than the 1-set group after 3-weeks of training (7.9% difference, P < 0.05), and remained stronger after 6 and 10-weeks of training (P < 0.05). Peak muscle activation did not change during the study. Early (30, 50 ms) and peak RFD was significantly decreased for all groups after 6 and 10-weeks of training (P < 0.05). Peak isometric force output did not change for any group. The results of this study support resistance exercise prescription in excess of 4-sets (i.e. 8-sets) for faster and greater strength gains as compared to 1-set training. Common neuromuscular changes are attributed to high intensity squats (80% 1-RM) combined with a repetition to failure prescription. This prescription may not be useful for sports application owing to decreased early and peak RFD. Individual responsiveness to 1-set of training should be evaluated in the first 3-weeks of training.


There has been a literally decades old argument going on regarding the optimal volume of strength training (and here I’m primarily focusing on the argument about doing a single set vs. multiple sets) for various goals including strength, hypertrophy and the training of athletes.


Physiological Elevation of Endogenous Hormones Results in Superior Strength Training Adaptations – Research Review

Rønnestad BR et. al. Physiological elevation of endogenous hormones results in superior strength training adaptation.  Eur J Appl Physiol. (2011) Feb 16.

The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of transiently elevated endogenous hormone concentrations during exercise on strength training adaptations. Nine subjects performed four unilateral strength training session per week on the elbow flexors for 11 weeks. During two of the weekly sessions, leg exercises were performed to acutely increase the systemic anabolic hormone concentration immediately before the exercises for one of the elbow flexors (L + A). On the two other weekly training sessions, the contralateral elbow flexors were trained without prior leg exercises (A). By randomizing one arm of the subjects to serve as a control and the other as experimental, both conditions have the same nutritional and genetic environment. Serum testosterone and growth hormone was significantly increased during the L – A training session, while no hormonal changes occurred in the A session. Both A and L + A increased 1RM in biceps curl, peak power in elbow flexors at 30 and 60% of 1RM, and muscle volume of the elbow flexors (p < 0.05). However, only L + A achieved increase in CSA at the part of the arm flexors with largest cross sectional area (p < 0.001), while no changes occurred in A. L + A had superior relative improvement in 1RM biceps curl and favorable muscle adaptations in elbow flexors compared to A (p < 0.05). In conclusion, performing leg exercises prior to arm exercises, and thereby increasing the levels of serum testosterone and growth hormone, induced superior strength training adaptations compared to arm training without acute elevation of hormones.


A long-held belief that has floated around the world of strength and hypertrophy training is that training legs (for a variety of reasons including hormonal) has a positive effect on either strength or size.  Many, many systems of training are based around that (including Dan John’s Mass Made Simple which I recently reviewed and others).


Static Stretching and Refined Grain Intake by Paleo Man – Research Review

Taylor KL et. al. Negative effect of static stretching restored when combined with a sport specific warm-up component. J Sci Med Sport. (2009) 12(6):657-61.

There is substantial evidence that static stretching may inhibit performance in strength and power activities. However, most of this research has involved stretching routines dissimilar to those practiced by athletes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the decline in performance normally associated with static stretching pervades when the static stretching is conducted prior to a sport specific warm-up. Thirteen netball players completed two experimental warm-up conditions. Day 1 warm-up involved a submaximal run followed by 15 min of static stretching and a netball specific skill warm-up. Day 2 followed the same design; however, the static stretching was replaced with a 15 min dynamic warm-up routine to allow for a direct comparison between the static stretching and dynamic warm-up effects. Participants performed a countermovement vertical jump and 20m sprint after the first warm-up intervention (static or dynamic) and also after the netball specific skill warm-up. The static stretching condition resulted in significantly worse performance than the dynamic warm-up in vertical jump height (-4.2%, 0.40 ES) and 20m sprint time (1.4%, 0.34 ES) (p<0.05). However, no significant differences in either performance variable were evident when the skill-based warm-up was preceded by static stretching or a dynamic warm-up routine. This suggests that the practice of a subsequent high-intensity skill based warm-up restored the differences between the two warm-up interventions. Hence, if static stretching is to be included in the warm-up period, it is recommended that a period of high-intensity sport-specific skills based activity is included prior to the on-court/field performance.

My Comments: As I discussed recently in The Importance of Context, people these days seem to love them some absolutes and there tends to be no shortage of them to go around, especially when it comes to training.  Always do this, never do that, you get the idea.   The situational context is irrelevant, there are simply black and white absolutes that apply across the board.


Casein Hydrolysate and Anabolic Hormones and Growth – Research Review

I want to try something a little bit different for today’s research review.  Rather than looking at a single study in the kind of obsessive detail that only I and three readers really care about, I want to look at multiple studies but in lesser detail.  Not only will this hopefully make the article a bit more relevant and readable, it will let me address more than a single topic at once.

With the sheer volume of research appearing on a weekly basis, this will at least help me to look at data in a more timely fashion.  I’d mention that, for anyone who wants an even better look at a lot of studies, you’d be well served to consider Alan Aragon’s monthly Research Review which I reviewed in the confusingly titled Alan Aragon Research Review – Product Review.

In any case, today I want to look at two recent studies which are:

  1. Deglaire et al. Hydrolyzed dietary casein as compared with the intact protein reduces postprandial peripheral, but not whole-body, uptake of nitrogen in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. (2009) 90(4):1011-22.
  2. West et. al. Elevations in ostensibly anabolic hormones with resistance exercise enhance neither training-induced muscle hypertrophy nor strength of the elbow flexors. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Nov 12.

For each study I’ll give a brief background to the topic, look at what was done and then jump straight to the conclusions with some final summing up.  As noted above, some of the detail will be left out but I figure that anyone who is that interested in the details of methodology and such will simply get ahold of the full paper and read it themselves.