Resistance Training for Maximal Strength and Conditioning Article Key Points
- · The researchers analyzed data from 295 resistance training studies that included 6,710 participants.
- · Longer resistance training programs (around 8 weeks) led to greater improvements in maximum strength. Higher-intensity exercises (i.e., ~70% or more of a 1-RM) were more effective for increasing maximum strength. In simpler terms, the intensity of your exercise and the specific type of exercise you do can significantly influence your improvement.
- · Vertical jump performance was maximized with relatively light loads (~30% of a 1RM).
- · If you want to get stronger, lifting heavier weights is probably better. But if you want to improve your vertical jump or power, you might do better with lighter weights.
An Introduction to Resistance Exercise
Resistance training is the cornerstone of any fitness regimen to reduce body fat and obesity, improve mental health and weight loss, metabolic rate, bone density (i.e.reduce osteoporosis), and muscle mass, and improve quality of life.
Regular resistance training is particularly important for athletes aiming to optimize their power, speed, and velocity in the domains of strength and conditioning. A recent study has shed light on the most effective strategies for weight training. This article delves into a recent meta-analysis titled “Dose-response modelling of resistance exercise across outcome domains in strength and conditioning,” which provides valuable insights into this topic into the science behind external resistance training exercises to incorporate into everyday activities.
The study was written by Paul Alan Swinton, Brad J. Schoenfeld, and Andrew Murphy. The study delves into the intricacies of resistance training and its impact on various outcome domains. The review discusses the most effective regiment to improve maximum strength and sprint velocity, offering a comprehensive understanding of the science behind resistance training. This review provides essential information for any personal trainer or coach looking to improve peak performance and coordination.
The Role of Training Specificity in Resistance Training
Training specificity, the concept that training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training, is a critical aspect of any exercise regimen. For example, if you want to improve your barbell bench press, it’s better to train with a free-weight barbell than with weight machines.
A recent large meta-analysis underscored the importance of this principle, revealing that the most significant improvements are made when the training stimulus matches the outcomes assessed, such as traditional resistance training with heavy weight aligning with greater improvements in maximal strength (i.e., 1RM one-repetition maximum) assessment. (Whitehead et al., 2018)
Studies have found that training with heavy and lightweight can increase maximal strength, but training with heavier weights and strength training exercises is better for increasing maximal strength. (Aagaard, 2014; Manresa-Rocamora et al., 2021)
The American College of Sports Medicine physical activity guidelines recommend that individuals engage in resistance training at least twice weekly, targeting all major muscle groups. Older adults who are inactive and have joint issues may want to start with bodyweight exercises such as the push-up for upper body exercises and their own body weight full range of motion squats and resistance bands for the lower body.
The Impact of Training Status on Strength Training
Determining the optimal training dose to maximize various outcome domains, including strength, hypertrophy, power, and muscular endurance, has been the subject of extensive research. (Zaras et al., 2013) Interestingly, the training status of participants, whether they are novices or experienced athletes, may significantly interact with the training dose. (Argus et al., 2012) A previous meta-analysis has shown that untrained participants tend to experience the largest improvements in strength, followed by recreationally trained participants and then highly trained participants. (Hoffman et al., 2004) For beginner athletes, starting with a lower training dose and gradually increasing it is important to avoid injury and burnout.
For trained participants, a higher intensity of load (80% 1RM) and a frequency of two days per week were deemed the most effective. In contrast, untrained participants benefited more from a lower load intensity (60% 1RM) and a frequency of three days per week. (Peterson et al., 2004; Rhea et al., 2003) This interaction suggests personalized training programs could be more effective than one-size-fits-all approaches.
Single vs. Multiple Sets in Resistance Training: What’s More Effective?
The debate between single and multiple sets in resistance exercises has been ongoing. Some have suggested that an Arthur Jones-style one set to maximal failure is all that is needed for strength and hypertrophy. However, the research debunked this by finding that performing three sets was more effective than a single set. (Rhea et al., 2002)
Another large-scale meta-analysis by the same author found a dose-response relationship for strength development further supports the superiority of multiple sets, with four sets per muscle group producing the greatest improvements. (Rhea et al., 2003) A meta-regression analysis by Krieger et al. found a 46% increase in muscular strength when completing two to three sets compared to single sets. However, no further difference was found for more than four sets of resistance exercises. (Krieger, 2009)
The Role of Training Frequency and Volume in Strength Training
Training frequency and volume also play a crucial role in strength training. Grgic et al. concluded that higher training frequencies resulted in greater improvements in strength, primarily mediated through increased weekly volume. (Grgic et al., 2018) Similarly, Ralston et al. showed that when resistance volume was equated across low (1 day/week), medium (2 days/week), or high (≥3 days/week) frequencies, similar increases in strength were obtained for both isolation and multi-joint exercises when the volume was equal. (Ralston et al., 2018)
This finding suggests that increasing the frequency of training sessions could be a viable strategy for enhancing strength gains, mainly by increasing training volume. The optimal frequency and volume can vary based on various factors, including the specific exercises performed, the individual’s current level of fitness and experience with resistance training, and their recovery capacity. It is important to note that regular exercise can also help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Low-Load vs. High-Load Resistance Training
Schoenfeld et al.’s meta-analysis compared low-load (≤60%1RM) versus high-load (>60%1RM) resistance training . The results identified greater improvements in 1RM strength with high-load resistance training. Similar improvements were observed in muscle hypertrophy across conditions, highlighting the potential for different dose-response relationships across various outcomes. Regarding strength training, incorporating free weights into your routine can be a great way for Americans to challenge their muscles and improve their overall fitness. (Schoenfeld et al., 2017)
A New Meta-Analysis on Frequency, Volume, and Intensity for Maximum Strength Gains
A recent meta-analysis aimed to investigate resistance training interventions and explore relationships between training variables such as frequency, volume, overall intensity, and intensity of load. The researchers analyzed data from 295 studies that included 6,710 participants. The study also considered participant characteristics (training status, sex) and various outcome domains, including maximum strength, power, vertical jump, agility, and sprinting performance. These are key targets in strength and conditioning program design, including the quadriceps.
Factors Influencing the Magnitude of Change in Resistance Training
The results showed that the training program’s length and the exercises’ intensity, resistance training exercises, were important factors in determining the improvements in physical performance. For example, longer training programs (~8 weeks) tended to lead to greater improvements, and higher-intensity exercises were more effective for increasing maximum strength.
It is important to note that the meta-analysis found a non-linear relationship, with increases in strength starting to slow down around an inflection point of approximately 70% 1RM. The researchers also found that different outcomes responded differently to the training programs. For instance, vertical jump performance improved best with light loads, while power was maximized with low to moderate loads (i.e., 40-70% of a 1-RM). The hamstrings are one of the muscle groups that can be targeted with resistance training exercises.
Maximum strength was best increased by a heavyweight (i.e., > 70% of a 1-RM), whereas vertical jump performance was maximized with relatively light loads (~30%1RM). The study also found that the duration of the intervention and participant characteristics, such as training status and sex, can influence the results. However, more research is needed to understand these relationships better.
According to the current meta-analysis, evidence was lacking to support different effects across the training status categories. Previous meta-analyses have shown rank-order effects, with the largest improvements obtained by untrained participants, followed by recreationally trained and then highly trained participants. However, the current meta-analysis did not find significant differences in effects based on training status. It is important to note that the results obtained in this meta-analysis may differ from previous analyses due to differences in study design and assessment of training status.
Resistance training effectively improves power, speed, and velocity, especially when tailored to the individual’s training status and goals. The intensity and the outcome domain measured predominantly influence the expected magnitude of improvement.
Performance of resistance training with a higher intensity results in greater improvements in maximum strength. When considering the magnitude of the load lifted as a %1RM, the profile that creates the greatest improvements depends on the outcome domain.
Improvements in maximum strength are likely to be maximized with the heaviest loads. In contrast, vertical jump performance may be maximized with relatively light loads (~30%1RM) and power with low to moderate loads (40-70% 1RM). Sprinting performance represents the most difficult outcome domain to improve with resistance and resistance-dominant training. Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance or a coach seeking to enhance your team’s strength and conditioning program, understanding the impact of resistance training on maximum strength is crucial. The science is clear: high-intensity resistance training is key to maximizing maximum strength.
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Is it okay to use weight machines for strength training?
Beginners can use weight machines for strength training because they provide controlled movement and are easy to use. Experts recommend that experienced lifters use free weights like dumbbells and barbells since they demand more stabilization and activate more muscle groups.