Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Evidence Based Resistance Training Recommendations

James Steele has had a peer reviewed article published identifying what protocols can be recommended for resistance training based not on tradition or fashion but on evidence!  How novel  ;-)

The full article is available here  and I'd recommend you to download it and have a read.  It challenges some popular  ideas that are out there - like plyometrics - and makes some recommendations based on what the science says.

It is good stuff - similar to the stufy here in fact!


Ben said...

I'm still not sure what to think about the single vs multiple sets question. I've seen evidence for both sides, and I've read critics about meta studies leaving out evidence for both sides..

Ben said...

And now I just read the second paper you linked, and I am non the wiser.

Mario Iwakura said...

With all due respect to James Stell and James Fisher, but their article is pratically a short version of 2004 fantastic article from Ralph Carpinelli, Robert Otto and Richard Winett, reference 18.


Methuselah said...

From the abstract, seems to resonnate with a lot of what Doug McGuff says in Body by Science....

Michael Allen said...

Excellent article. Yes, it's based on the science, but there's also a lot of good, sound, common sense -- especially the bit about ectomorphic types (such as me) never going to be impressive musclemen. Fortunately, in my case, it's not what I'm after... But I'm glad to have my current practices confirmed as evidence-based. As a previous commenter said, Doug McGuff has also reviewed the science and come up with much the same conclusions.

JamesSteeleII said...

Just to clarify, we did initially have some comments during the review process as to what the paper added to the present literature and knowledge based upon the Carpinelli et al. 2004 paper.

The reason we felt our paper was justified was for a number of reasons. 1) The paper includes current research published since Carpinelli et al. 2004's paper similarly supporting and strengthening their arguments, 2) The paper covers novel approaches to resistance training modalities (i.e. Vibration training), 3) It also covers genetic variability and alerts the reader to this consideration in the results obtained from resistance training as recommended, and 4) although the recommendations that are stated are for the most part the same as those in Carpinelli et al. this paper makes a distinction in the recommendation to train to momentary muscular failure based upon the evidence instead of the unquantifiable recommendation from Carpinelli et al. to "at the point where the concentric phase of the exercise is becoming difficult, if not impossible, while maintaining good form."

Thanks for the comments everyone and we look forward to further feedback on the paper.

John W said...

This is an excellent paper and comes to much the same conclusions as Body by Science. I would like to ask, however, why, if low reps increase bone density with no detriment to endurance was a rep range of 8-12 recommended. Reading the paper a rep range of 5-8 would seem more appropriate (approx 80-85% 1RM).
Also, would anyone care to comment on the empirical opinion of many coaches with long experience (e.g Mark Rippetoe) that multiple sets work better. Many seem to be of the opinion that the appropriate science just hasn't been done yet. I make no comment myself and have not read all papers referenced but am well versed in BBS, Starting Strength, Carpenilli's paper etc and remain unsure. Whether this matters to the non elite athlete may be debatable!

Yuneek said...

"It is now widely recognized that resistance training can be of great value, not only for athletes, but also for all those interested in optimizing health and longevity."

There is a lack of evidence to suggest that balance from free weights or use of unstable surfaces shows any transference to sporting improvement...

All resistance types (e.g. free-weights, resistance machines, bodyweight, etc.) show potential for increases in strength, with no significant difference between them, although resistance machines appear to pose a lower risk of injury."

James, I would like to offer up a comment about these quotes from the study, if I may. Balance and stabilization strength from unstable surfaces do in fact contribute to optimizing health and longevity. These are real world skills difficult to quantify through studies. Instability is known to be effective for rehab and I would argue that from a longevity perspective (both in life and in sports) it is a worthy training protocol because it not only rehabs injury but with continued application works to prevent future injuries - longevity. There is more total energy output during unstable activity with less endpoint force production so where is that extra energy going? Into joint and spine stabilization. These outcomes are crucial to back and joint health and longevity. This makes machines the worst choice long term as they maximize stability artificially (externally) calling joint/spine integrity into question. Machines, with their external bracing, also destroy the harmony of real world integrated muscle activation and function and introduce two problems that may or may not be resolved. 1) Achieving correct balance in muscle strength/function throughout the kinetic chain and 2)the diminishment/distortion of the all important neurological component of movement and execution skills. The brain only learns exactly what you ask it to do. Also from a health and longevity perspective balance becomes increasingly important as a training modality because it deteriorates with age and lack of conditioning. I can say with a certainty that while machines may work to produce simple muscle strength they do little to confer stabilization strength, balance, coordination and execution skills, all of which are components of health and longevity. Inevitably science gets tangled up in the particulars of its studies which can, unfortunately, fail to surface their shortcomings. These comments are offered with good will and with the hope that they will foster more research driven by well designed studies.

andrewsaltz said...

@Yuneek I had the same thought about machines v. free weights. However, the authors write ". It is beyond the scope of this article to explore the biomechanical advantages and
disadvantages of resistance types." (151)

Very interesting article (and subsequent discussion).

John D Wilson said...

A few comments. I notice on page 153 the report refers to a study showing that use of heavily weighted bat reduced the velocity of the swing. I read parts of a study with this factoid and was disturbed by naive circumstances of the test. The participants would swing either a heavy bat or a normal bat for practice and then test for speed with a normal bat.

I think a better evaluation would be to test swinging the heavy bat on non-test days.

This is similar to my opinion on the many studies concluding that stretching is counter productive to athletic performance. Again, they usually have the athlete stretch or not-stretch and then sprint 100 meters or something. Again, why not try to determine if stretching the day before the test has any relevance?

Finally, I have a friend who has worked out on machines for years. He has the finest equipment in his home. He is now in his 80's but in his 60's he was very, very strong - but he couldn't tie his shoes without lying on his back or carry in a bag of groceries. Could it be that working out sitting down is not such a good idea?

Anonymous said...

What is the take on Wernbom's 'The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans.'

I may be mistaken, but I didn't see mention of this review.

Anonymous said...

Wernbom's 'The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans.'

Why the exclusion of this review?

JamesSteeleII said...


Thanks for the question.

In the introduction of the review it states

"Therefore, our aims are to consider the evidence and present scientifically-validated guidelines for resistance training for healthy asymptomatic adults looking to improve muscular strength and fitness, as well as dispelling myths, discussing other points of general interest and suggesting areas for future research."

The aim of the review was not to consider muscular hypertrophy specifically and so the review paper on cross sectional area was not included.