The Effects of Moderate- Versus High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Growth, Body Composition, and Performance in Collegiate Women

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Cholewa, JM, Rossi, FE, MacDonald, C, Hewins, A, Gallo, S, Micenski, A, Norton, L, and Campbell, BI. The effects of moderate- versus high-load resistance training on muscle growth, body composition, and performance in collegiate women. J Strength Cond Res 32(6): 1511–1524, 2018—Twenty young women (20.3 + 1.5 years, 164 + 6 cm, 68.7 + 13.8 kg) without prior structured resistance training experience were recruited for this study. Body composition (BodPod), compartmental water (Bioelectrical Impedance), 7-site skinfold, and arm and thigh cross-sectional area (CSA) were assessed before and after 8-week training. Performance testing consisted of vertical jump, 3-kg chest pass initial velocity, squat 1RM, and overhead press 1RM. After 2 weeks of familiarization training, subjects were matched for body composition and relative squat strength and randomly assigned to either a high-load (HL: n = 10; 4 sets of 5–7 repetitions) or moderate-load (ML: n = 10; 2 sets of 10–14 repetitions) group that completed 6–7 exercises per day performed to momentary muscular failure. Training was divided into 2 lower and one upper body training sessions per week performed on nonconsecutive days for 8 weeks. There were no statistically significant main effects for group or group × time interactions for any variable assessed. Both HL and ML resulted in similar significant increases in lean body mass (1.5 ± 0.83 kg), lean dry mass (1.32 ± 0.62 kg), thigh CSA (6.6 ± 5.6 cm2), vertical jump (2.9 ± 3.2 cm), chest pass velocity (0.334 ± 1.67 m·s−1), back squat one repetition maximum (1RM) (22.5 ± 8.1 kg), and overhead press (3.0 ± 0.8 kg). High-load group and ML group also both resulted in significant decreases in percent body fat (1.3 ± 1.3%), total body water (0.73 ± 0.70 L), and intracellular water (0.43 ± 0.38 L). The results of this study indicate that both moderate-load and high-load training are effective at improving muscle growth, body composition, strength and power in untrained young women.

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