Is Training Intensity the Key to Strength & Muscle Hypertrophy?

Strength training, performed on a regular basis, is an important tool in any training toolbox especially when the goal is to increase strength and muscle hypertrophy.

Looking at the Training Intensity or Volume Question

Research from the University of Central Florida, published in Physiological Reports, tested a group of 33 active, young men, who had a strength training background, to determine the best training variable for increasing strength and muscle hypertrophy.

The purpose of the study was to compare a moderate intensity, high-volume training program using short rest intervals to a program that used high-intensity, lower volume utilizing a longer rest interval in resistance-trained male individuals. Subjects were tested at the start and finish of the 8-week study. Among the many items tested, muscle strength, hypertrophy, and endocrine response were the main outcomes that the research group wanted to explore.

“It has been suggested that high volume, moderate-to-high intensity resistance exercise programs utilizing short rest intervals primarily target muscle hypertrophy with secondary strength increases (Baechle, 2008; Ratamess, 2009). Conversely, high-intensity, low-volume programs utilizing long rest intervals primarily target muscle strength increases with secondary improvements in muscle hypertrophy (Baechle, 2008; Ratamess, 2009). However, it has been hypothesized that muscle hypertrophy may increase substantially across a larger spectrum of intensity and volume combinations (Schroeder, 2013).”

Physiological Reports (2015)

Exercise Prescription Pinpoints Training Intensity

One group followed a high volume training plan (4 x 10–12 repetitions with ~70% of one repetition maximum (1-RM) with 1-minute rest intervals). The second group followed a high-intensity plan to prep for the study (4 x 3–5 repetitions with ~90% of 1RM with 3-minute rest intervals). Subjects were randomly placed in one of two groups for a 2-week preparatory training period prior to the study.

4-Day Exercise Prescription used in the study.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

  • Back squats
  • Deadlift
  • Leg press
  • Lat pull down
  • Barbell bent-over row
  • Barbell biceps curl
  • Bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Dumbbells fly
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Lateral dumbbell raise
  • Triceps extension
  • Barbell squat
  • Deadlift
  • Barbell lunge
  • Seated row
  • Dumbbell pull-over
  • Dumbbell bicep curl
  • Bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Incline dumbbell fly
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Lateral dumbbell raise
  • Tricep extension

Research Study Findings

Study findings determined high-intensity (3–5 RM), low-volume strength training was the best option to stimulate strength gains and muscle hypertrophy. The high-intensity group used longer rest intervals (3-minutes) in their training sessions. Subjects, in group 2, used a moderate intensity, high-volume (10–12 RM) training program with shorter rest intervals (1-minute).

As a by-product of this research, Jefit developed a new strength training protocol called 4×5 Muscle Building (4-day) which is a great follow-up to Jefit’s 5×5 Split Routine (3-day). The emphasis should be placed on training intensity in both programs. Give this science-backed 4-day exercise prescription a try and let us know what you think. Stay Strong with Jefit.

REFERENCES

Baechle, T., R. Earle, and M. Wathen. 2008. Essentials of strength training and conditioning. 3rd ed. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.

Ratamess, N. A., B. A. Alvar, T. K. Evetoch, T. J. Housh, W. B. Kibler, W. J. Kraemer, et al. 2009. American college of sports medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 41:687.

Schroeder, E. T., M. Villanueva, D. D. West, and S. M. Phillips. 2013. Are acute post-resistance exercise increases in testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 necessary to stimulate skeletal muscle anabolism and hypertrophy? Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 45:2044–2051.

Mangine, G.T., Hoffman, J.R., Townsend, J.R., et. al. The effects of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiol Rep, 3 (8), 2015, e12472, doi: 10.14814/phy2.12472

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