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Challenging the American College of Sports Medicine 2009 Position Stand on Resistance Training

Authors:
Medicina Sportiva
Med Sport 13 (2): 131–137, 2009
DOI: 10.2478/v10036-009-0020-7
Copyright © 2009 Medicina Sportiva
REVIEW ARTICLE
131
CHALLENGING THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF
SPORTS MEDICINE 2009 POSITION STAND
ON RESISTANCE TRAINING
Ralph N. Carpinelli
Human Performance Laboratory, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, USA
Abstract
The new ACSM Position Stand on resistance training is very similar to the 2002 Position Stand, which based the ma-
jority of its claims and recommendations on misinterpretation of resistance training studies and selective referencing. The
addition of a few new references published since the previous Position Stand was supposed to enhance the credibility of
the ACSM’s recommendations for resistance training. Unfortunately, the ACSM’s new Position Stand contains all the flaws
that were pervasive in their previous Position Stand; that is, the authors cited references that failed to support their opinions
and recommendations.
Key words: muscular strength, load, volume, exercises
Introduction
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
released a new Position Stand entitled Progression
Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults
(1). The 2009 Position Stand replaces the 2002 ACSM
Position Stand on resistance training (2) and has some
additional references that allegedly serve “…to bolster
the scientific integrity of the RT [resistance training]
knowledge base” (p.687). However, the failure of the
ACSM to support their claims and recommendations
with resistance training studies is pervasive thro-
ughout the 2009 Position Stand, as it was in the 2002
Position Stand (3).
The comments below are several specific examples
from six sub-sections (Loading, Volume, Exercise Se-
lection, Free Weights and Machines, Exercise Order,
and Rest Periods) of one primary section entitled
Muscular Strength. There are ten primary sections in
the new Position Stand (1). The rationale for choosing
these six sub-sections is that they contain a few new
references that were not cited in the 2002 Position
Stand (2). Nevertheless, these examples are typical of
what is systemic throughout the Position Stand; that
is, many of the references cited failed to support the
ACSM’s claims or recommendations.
Loading
The authors of the Position Stand (1) claimed that
at least 80% 1RM is required to produce neural ada-
ptations in experienced lifters (p.690). A 1RM is the
amount of resistance that can be lifted for only one
repetition. They cited one reference (4) to support that
claim. Hakkinen and colleagues (4) trained the knee
extensors with the barbell squat exercise in 11 young
males three times a week for 24 weeks. The amount of
resistance varied every four weeks (70-80%, 80-90%,
80-110%, 70-90%, 80-115%, and 85-120% 1RM, re-
spectively). Electromyographic activity was measured
during maximal knee extensor muscle actions on a
dynamometer. Although maximal electromyographic
activity significantly increased when the resistance
was greater than 80% 1RM (weeks 4-12), there was
no significant difference between the pre-training
and post-training mean maximal electromyographic
activity in the three muscles tested (rectus femoris,
vastus medialis and vastus lateralis).
Hakkinen and colleagues (4) speculated that
strength gains (~27% isometric knee extension force)
were accompanied by an increase in neural activation
during very intense training. However, there was no
data showing the strength gains during each four-week
cycle and, most importantly, no data for the 1RM squ-
at, which was measured every four weeks. There was
only one training group and consequently no random
assignment of subjects to train at different percentages
of the 1RM squat (e.g., 70% 1RM versus 80% 1RM) or
a specific range of RM (e.g., 3-6RM versus 7-10RM).
Hakkinen and colleagues’ Figure 2 (p.577) depicted
a progressive increase in maximal isometric force
during the first 20 weeks of training. However, this
reported increase does not rule out the confounding
variable of a typical increase in force production with
the duration (20 weeks) of training. Therefore, the
increase in force during the first 20 weeks of training
may have no relationship to the amount of resistance
used in training.
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Carpinelli R.N./ Medicina Sportiva 13 (2): 131-137, 2009
Hakkinen and colleagues (4) noted that the number
of repetitions varied from one to 10 per set but they did
not report the number of repetitions at each percent
1RM. This was the only information regarding the
number of repetitions that Hakkinen and colleagues
provided. Because motor unit activation is depen-
dent on the degree of effort (5) and was not reported
by Hakkinen and colleagues, the level of motor unit
activation during the 24 weeks of squat training is
unknown. Consequently, Hakkinen and colleagues
did not report enough information in this study to
support the claim in the Position Stand that at least
80% 1RM is required to produce neural adaptations
in experienced trainees.
The Position Stand (1) also claimed that 1-6RM
loads were most conducive to increasing maximal
strength (p.690). The authors cited two training stu-
dies (6-7) in an attempt to support their claim. Berger
(6) trained 199 male college students three times a
week for 12 weeks. They performed one set of the
barbell bench press exercise for 2RM, 4RM, 6RM,
8RM, 10RM, or 12RM. Berger’s Table 2 (p.337) showed
that the increase in 1RM bench press was significantly
greater for the 4RM, 6RM, and 8RM groups compared
with the 2RM group, and significantly greater in the
8RM group compared with the 2RM, 10RM and 12RM
groups. There was no significant difference in strength
gains among the 4RM, 6RM and 8RM groups, nor
between the 2RM group (heaviest resistance) and the
10RM or 12RM groups (lightest resistance).
O’Shea (7) trained 30 previously untrained male
college students who performed barbell squats three
times a week for six weeks. They used one of three re-
petition protocols: 2-3RM, 5-6RM or 9-10RM. There
was a significant increase in 1RM barbell squat, static
strength on a lower-body dynamometer, and thigh
girth. However, there was no significant difference
among the groups for any of the outcomes as a result
of training with 2-3RM, 5-6RM, or 9-10RM.
Heavier resistance did not produce greater strength
gains in either of these studies (6-7). Therefore, these
resistance training studies, which were cited by the
authors of the Position Stand (1), failed to support their
claim that 1-6RM loads produce superior strength
gains.
The Position Stand (1) claimed that 80% 1RM
produced the largest effect size for strength gains in
trained subjects. They also claimed that 85% 1RM
was most effective for athletes (p.690). The authors
did not explain how they classified trained subjects,
which should have been a requisite when attempting to
differentiate from those subjects whom they classified
as athletes. The Position Stand cited two meta-analy-
ses (8-9) in an attempt to support those claims. The
meta-analysis by Rhea and colleagues (8) reported
that training with 80% 1RM resulted in an effect size
of 1.8 (E.S. = 1.8), which was almost three times larger
than training with 85% 1RM (E.S. = 0.65). The reason
that such a small difference in resistance (80% 1RM
compared with 85% 1RM) resulted in such a large
difference in strength gains was not addressed by Rhea
and colleagues. In other words, why would training
with a slightly lighter resistance for a couple of extra
repetitions produce such markedly superior strength
gains? There is no known physiological hypothesis to
explain such large differences in outcomes as a result of
such small differences in resistance. Consequently, the
conclusions of Rhea and colleagues and the Position
Stand have no logical foundation and have no practical
application to resistance training.
The meta-analysis by Peterson and colleagues (9)
reported that the effect size for strength gains in athle-
tes was almost double as a result of training with 85%
1RM (E.S. = 1.12) compared with training with 80%
1RM (E.S. = 0.57). They also claimed that training
with 75% 1RM (E.S. = 0.73) was 10 times as effective
as training with 70% 1RM (E.S. = 0.07). For example,
if the 1RM bench press is 100kg and an individual
trains to muscular fatigue with a 75 kg barbell, the
strength gains would be (according to Peterson and
colleagues) 10 times greater than training to muscular
fatigue with a 70kg barbell. In addition, their data
(E.S. = 0.07) erroneously suggest that training with
70% 1RM to muscular fatigue has basically no effect
on strength gains.
Most of the studies included in the meta-analysis
by Peterson and colleagues (9) did not have a control
group. The lack of a control group required the use
of a pooled standard deviation as opposed to the pre-
training standard deviation employed by Peterson
and colleagues. This statistical error apparently was
not questioned by the reviewers of the publishing
journal or the authors and reviewers of the Position
Stand (1).
As with the aforementioned meta-analysis by Rhea
and colleagues (8), Peterson and colleagues (9) did not
hypothesize how such a small difference in resistance
could elicit such a large difference in strength gains.
Readers should question how these data were simply
accepted as valid evidence to support a concept that
is bereft of any physiological explanation. Shouldn’t
it have it occurred to the reviewers of the respective
journals (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,
and the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research)
to challenge these data? And equally importantly,
shouldn’t the reviewers of the Position Stand (1) have
challenged the claims?
Neither Rhea and colleagues (8) nor Peterson and
colleagues (9) distinguished between trained sub-
jects and athletes. They provided no explanation for
differentiating between highly-motivated advanced
trainees, whose goals are to attain the greatest strength
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Carpinelli R.N./ Medicina Sportiva 13 (2): 131-137, 2009
gains and muscular hypertrophy, and competitive col-
legiate or professional athletes—who may have very
limited resistance training experience. For example,
are competitive collegiate or professional basketball
players trained individuals if they do not perform re-
sistance training? As athletes, would they be classified
differently in a meta-analysis if they regularly perfor-
med resistance training? Why would a 5% difference
in resistance result in such dramatic differences in
strength gains, regardless of whether the trainees were
classified as trained or as athletes? The absence of an
objective physiological difference between these arbi-
trarily defined groups precludes any conclusion about
different responses to a specific intensity or volume
of resistance training. The credibility of both these
highly-flawed meta-analyses (8-9) has been previously
refuted (10). Nevertheless, the authors of the Position
Stand (1) cited Rhea and colleagues at least 12 times
and Peterson and colleagues at least six times.
None of these training studies (4, 6-7) or meta-
analyses (8-9) supports the claim in the Position Stand
(1) that a heavier resistance produces superior strength
gains. That claim is based on a misinterpretation of the
size principle. Motor unit activation is dependent of
the level of effort at the end of a set of repetitions—not
the amount of resistance or percent 1RM (5).
Volume
The Position Stand (1) claimed that a meta-ana-
lysis of 37 studies reported that eight sets per muscle
group produced the greatest effect size in athletes
(p.690). They cited two references (9, 11) in attempt
to support that claim. As previously discussed, the
meta-analysis by Peterson and colleagues (9) does
not meet scientific standards and has previously been
refuted in detail (10).
Specifically related to the volume of exercise,
Peterson and colleagues (9) claimed that the dose-
response for resistance training in athletes differs
from lesser-trained populations. One of the criteria
for inclusion of studies in their meta-analysis was
that study participants must have been competitive
collegiate or professional athletes. However, at least
nine of the studies included by Peterson and colleagues
involved subjects who had not performed resistance
training prior to the specific study, had no prior resi-
stance training experience, or there was no indication
of prior resistance training (see reference 10 for list of
specific studies).
Peterson and colleagues (9) claimed that maximal
strength gains were elicited as a result of performing
eight sets per muscle group during each training ses-
sion. However, they did not indicate how they coded
the number of sets per muscle group and they did not
indicate which muscles they were coding or explain
the rationale for their choice.
Peterson and colleagues (9) also claimed that their
data unequivocally demonstrate the added strength
benefits of higher training volumes. However, their
Table 2 (p.379) failed to support any pattern or conti-
nuum for the effectiveness of the number of sets per
muscle group. The effect sizes for four, five, six and
eight sets per muscle group were 0.90, 0.64, 0.68, and
1.22, respectively. In their Methods section (p.378)
Peterson and colleagues claimed that an analysis of va-
riance was used to compare differences in effect sizes.
However, they did not report any statistical differences
between effect sizes. In addition, their Table 2 (p.379)
revealed that the mean effect size was 1.22 for eight
sets per muscle group but that mean was generated
from only six effect sizes. Unfortunately, they did not
specify the source of those effect sizes or how many
studies produced those data. They did not attempt
to explain their reported pattern of a fluctuating
mean effect size (high, low, high) as training volume
increased. Peterson and colleagues concluded that
their meta-analytic procedure showed a continuum
of quantified strength increases that were elicited by a
continuum of training intensities, frequencies, and vo-
lumes. They also claimed that their data unequivocally
demonstrated the added benefits with higher training
volumes compared with lower-volume training. In
fact, because they failed to demonstrate a continuum
of strength gains related to volume, their own data do
not support their conclusions.
In the second reference cited in the Position Stand
(1), Peterson and colleagues (11) reported no new
data. It was merely a rehash of their previous meta-
analysis (9).
Exercise Selection
The Position Stand (1) claimed that multiple-joint
exercises are more effective than single-joint exercises
for increasing muscular strength because a greater
amount of resistance can be lifted (p.691). A similar
claim was made in the previous Position Stand (2) and
the same reference was cited, which was a review by
Stone and colleagues (12). Stone and colleagues me-
rely expressed their opinion—without any resistance
training studies for support—about the superiority of
multiple-joint exercises, and revealed their apparent
misinterpretation of the size principle of motor unit
activation. Inquisitive readers may find it difficult to
find this review because it was incorrectly cited as the
National Strength & Conditioning Association Journal
(NSCA J) in both the 2002 and 2009 Position Stand.
The name of the NSCA J was changed to Strength &
Conditioning in 1994 and since 1999 has been known
as Strength & Conditioning Journal.
The authors of the Position Stand (1) recommen-
ded that that there should be an emphasis on multi-
ple-joint exercises to maximize muscular strength in
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novice, intermediate and advanced trainees (p.691).
They cited 28 references to support that recommenda-
tion. However, none of those references reported that
strength gains were greater with multiple-joint exer-
cises nor did they compare single-joint and multiple-
joint resistance training. Consequently, the claim for
superiority of multiple-joint exercises in the Position
Stand is not substantiated with any science.
Free Weights and Machines
The Position Stand (1) claimed:machine
exercises have demonstrated less neural activation
when matched for intensity for most comparisons to
free weight exercises” (p.691). The authors cited one
study (13) to support their claim. McCaw and Friday
(13) tested five young resistance trained males who
performed the bench press exercise with free weights
(barbell) and a machine. Subjects performed several
trials on both modalities with 60% and 80% of the
respective 1RMs. Surface electromyographic activity
was recorded for the triceps brachii, anterior deltoid,
medial deltoid, pectoralis major, and biceps brachii.
The only significant difference in electromyographic
activity was greater neural activation in the anterior
and medial deltoid during lifting and lowering the
barbell with 60% 1RM. There was no significant
difference in electromyographic activity for any of
the five muscle groups when lifting or lowering 80%
1RM. McCaw and Friday concluded that the high
individual variability in electromyographic activity in
their subjects suggests that factors other than the mode
of exercise (free weights or machines)—such as joint
and muscle mechanics specific to the individual—are
responsible for neural activity (muscle involvement)
during a bench press. This study does not support
the claim in the Position Stand that there is lower
neural activation in most comparisons of machines
and free weights. The authors of the Position Stand
apparently selected one piece of data from this study,
cited the study in an attempt to support their opinion
regarding free weights, and ignored the overall results
and conclusions of McCaw and Friday.
The Position Stand (1) also claimed:unlike machi-
nes, free weights may result in a pattern of intra- and
intermuscular coordination that mimics the move-
ment requirements of a specific task” (p.691). There
is no reference cited to support that opinion.
Exercise Order
The authors of the Position Stand (1) claimed that
it is necessary to perform multiple-joint exercises
early in a workout session in order to produce optimal
strength gains (p.692). They cited one study (14) to
support their claim. Spreuwenberg and colleagues
recruited nine healthy young males who had appro-
ximately seven years of resistance training experience
to perform four sets of free weight squats with 85%
1RM during one visit to the laboratory. The same
squat protocol (4 sets with 85% 1RM) was performed
during another session but was executed at the end of a
resistance training workout that consisted of three sets
of 8-10RM for seven other lower-body and upper-body
exercises. During the first set of the four sets of squats,
there were significantly fewer repetitions performed
when the squat was preceded by the other exercises
compared with performing only the squat exercise (5.4
and 8.0 repetitions, respectively). However, there was
no significant difference in the number of repetitions
during the second, third, and fourth sets of squats.
The difference in the number of repetitions was only
during the first set of squats. Most importantly, the
rating of perceived exertion (RPE) was not significan-
tly different between the two experimental protocols.
As previously noted, because the activation of motor
units is dependent on the degree of effort and not the
amount of resistance or number of repetitions (5),
and the effort (RPE) was similar for both experimen-
tal protocols, one may infer that there was similar
activation of motor units. Therefore, the comment
by Spreuwenberg and colleagues that trainees should
perform multiple-joint large muscle group exercises
at the beginning of an exercise session to achieve
maximal strength gains is without foundation. Their
comment also reveals a misinterpretation of the size
principle by Spreuwenberg and colleagues as well as
by the authors of the Position Stand.
Rest Periods
The Position Stand (1) claimed that the amount
of rest between sets and exercises significantly affects
training adaptations (p.692). They cited two referen-
ces (15-16) in an attempt to support their opinion.
Pijnappels et al. (15) reported the association between
lower body strength and the prevention of falls in el-
derly participants. They did not attempt to compare
different rest intervals—probably because this was not
a training study. Consequently, this reference does not
support the claim in the Position Stand.
In the other reference cited, Robinson and colleagu-
es (16) compared inter-set rest intervals of 180 seconds,
90 seconds and 30 seconds in moderately trained
young males. There was no random assignment of
groups and no control group. The increase in 1RM
squat was significantly greater in the 180-second rest
group (7%) compared with the 30-second rest group
(2%). With the exception of circuit weight training,
there are very few—if any—resistance training pro-
tocols that recommend rest intervals be limited to 30
seconds. In addition, the accuracy of determining the
differences in the miniscule strength gains (5%) after
performing five sets of 10RM squats two times a week
for five weeks is questionable at best. More impor-
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Carpinelli R.N./ Medicina Sportiva 13 (2): 131-137, 2009
tantly, there was no significant difference in strength
gains between the 180-second (7%) and 90-second
rest groups (6%); that is, when comparing reasonable
rest intervals, longer inter-set rest intervals did not
produce superior strength gains.
The Position Stand (1) concluded: “However, most
longitudinal training studies have shown greater
strength increases with long versus short rest periods
(e.g., 2-5 min vs. 30-40s)” (p.692). The authors cited
three references (16-18). The study by Robinson et
al. (16) has been previously discussed. Pincivero
and colleagues (17) compared 40-second and 160-
second inter-set rest intervals in previously untrained
young participants who trained three times a week
for four weeks. Pincivero and colleagues reported
no significant difference between groups for 12 out
the 14 variables measured on a dynamometer and no
significant difference in the functional performance
measure. In the Results section (p. 231) they claimed
that quadriceps average power and peak torque
showed a significantly greater improvement in the
longer rest group. However, the claim in their Results
section regarding quadriceps torque is antithetical to
the claim in their Conclusions section: It was also
evident that isokinetic quadriceps torque improved
after training, as did functional performance. These
improvements however, do not appear to be affected
by rest interval manipulation” (p.234). Both of these
studies (16-17) were the only references cited in an
attempt to support the same opinion regarding rest
intervals in the 2002 Position Stand on resistance
training (2). They failed to support that opinion in
2002 and again in 2009.
The new reference in the 2009 Position Stand (1)
is a training study by Ahtiainen and colleagues (18)
that compared two-minute and five-minute inter-
set rest intervals in 13 young males with 6.6 years
of continuous resistance training. Ahtiainen and
colleagues concluded: “The present study shows that,
in hypertrophic heavy-resistance exercise, the 2- vs. 5-
minute length of rest periods between sets did not lead
to systematic differences in the acute exercise-induced
metabolic, hormonal, or neuromuscular responses.
Furthermore, training–induced adaptations over the
3-month period in muscle mass and strength were
similar in magnitude in both the short- and long-rest
protocols” (p.581). In addition, one important clini-
cally significant aspect of this study was that seven
out of the original 20 participants in this study had
to drop out during the experimental period because
of training-induced aches in the knees and back. It
is highly questionable if 4-5 sets of squats and leg
presses constitute a safe, effective resistance training
protocol (First Do No Harm).
Because William Kraemer is a co-author of the stu-
dy by Ahtiainen and colleagues (18) and a co-author of
the 2009 Position Stand (1), one should question how
his study—which reported results that are antithetical
to the claim in the Position Stand—was incorrectly ci-
ted by the authors for support, and why it was accepted
as supporting evidence by the reviewers, the ACSM
Pronouncements Committee, and the Editor-in-Chief
of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The Position Stand (1) also claimed (p.692) that
it is important to note that inter-set rest is dependent
on the complexity of the exercise. For example, the
authors claimed that Olympic lifts require longer
inter-set rest. There is no reference cited to support
this opinion.
In a study published in 2008, Williardson & Bur-
kett (19) trained young males who were consistently
performing the squat exercise for a minimum of four
years prior to the investigation with the primary
purpose of increasing maximal strength and muscle
mass. The participants were randomly assigned to a
2-minute or 4-minute inter-set rest interval, with both
groups performing the same squat training protocol
two times a week for 12 weeks. The 2-minute and 4-
minute groups showed significant increases in squat
strength. Williardson and Burkett concluded: The
primary finding of this study was that squat strength
gains were not significantly different between groups
that rested 2 minutes or 4 minutes between sets” (p.149).
This study is curiously missing from the new Position
Stand (1). One should question why one of the co-
authors of the Position Stand (William Kraemer), who
is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research where the study by Williardson
& Burkett was published, neglected to cite this study in
the Position Stand. If this failure to cite contradictory
evidence was intentional, it exposes a condition known
as selective referencing.
Discussion
There were 139 references examined in the Cri-
tical Analysis of the 2002 ACSM Position Stand on
resistance training (2). Only eight of these studies
actually supported the claims in the Position Stand
(3) and 16 other studies contained serious flaws in
methodology or data. More importantly, 59 studies
failed to support the claims and 56 studies that were
not cited in the Position Stand actually refuted the cla-
ims or recommendations. This was not only a failure
in the ACSMs writing and peer-review processes but
was a misrepresentation of the studies conducted by
dedicated researchers who devoted countless hours
performing resistance training research; that is, their
studies were being used—incorrectly—by the ACSM
in an attempt to support their own opinions.
The complex resistance training recommendations
in the 2009 Position Stand’s (1) Table 2 (p.700) are ba-
sed on the unsubstantiated opinion that the obsessive
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Carpinelli R.N./ Medicina Sportiva 13 (2): 131-137, 2009
manipulation and specific combinations of training
variables such as loading (amount of resistance),
the number of repetitions, number of sets, inter-set
rest intervals, repetition duration, time under load,
frequency of exercise, modality of exercise, order of
exercise, and exercise selection (single or multiple
joint) results in significantly different specific outco-
mes. Most resistance training studies do not support
that opinion (3).
If people were to assume that the ACSM’s recom-
mendations in the Position Stand (1) have any vali-
dity (scientific support), they can actually calculate
how many hours are required in the gym to attain
or maintain the essential components of muscular
fitness (strength, hypertrophy, power and enduran-
ce). Trainees would be required to spend a minimum
of 20 hours per week performing resistance exercise
(according to Table 2 in the Position Stand); that is,
approximately five hours a day four times per week.
This does not include the time required to improve or
maintain aerobic capacity or engage in other forms of
physical activity. Competitive athletes would have little
time to practice their specific sport activity. Further-
more, the ACSM’s recommendations in Table 2 should
have been challenged by the reviewers of the Position
Stand, the ACSM’s Pronouncements Committee, and
the editorial staff of Medicine & Science in Sports &
Exercise.
Conclusions
It is important for readers to understand what is
required for a clear, succinct specific refutation of
an unsubstantiated opinion versus what is simply
required to state an opinion. For example, the afore-
mentioned claims in the Position Stand (1) regarding
the Loading sub-section required only three senten-
ces and approximately 80 words. To refute those
claims required eight paragraphs consisting of over
1100 words. The time and effort involved to retrieve
and peruse the references are much more difficult
to estimate. It is beyond the scope of this review to
address every reference in the Position Stand. That
task was the obligation of the authors and reviewers,
which was apparently unfulfilled. However, many
of the same studies were cited in the 2002 Position
Stand (2) and the validity of the ACSM’s attempt
to use these studies to support their opinions and
recommendations has been previously challenged
and refuted (3).
Science dictates that the burden of proof is on the
writers of the Position Stand (1) to support their claims
and recommendations with peer-reviewed resistance
training studies. The challenge for the reviewers,
members of the ACSM’s Pronouncements Committee,
and editorial staff was actually to read the Position
Stand and see if any of the references cited support
the claims and recommendations. They all failed to
meet these obligations.
An editorial by the current Editor-in-Chief (Andrew
Young) of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (20)
emphatically stated that he will not consider letters criti-
cizing the ACSMs process for deriving a pronouncement
(e.g., a Position Stand). Because the ACSM Position
Stands (1-2) are so bereft of any science (resistance
training studies that actually support their claims and
recommendations) and apparently not open to criti-
cism (according to the Editor-in-Chief), there is very
little expectation that the ACSM or its Position Stands
will gain any respect from those who carefully read the
studies and evaluate all the evidence.
The ACSM claims: Position Stands are based on
solid research and scientific data and serve as a valued
resource for professional organizations and governmen-
tal agencies(21). The ACSM also claims: A ‘Position
Stand’ is developed when enough research has been
completed to support the position on scientific grounds.
An ‘Opinion Statement’ is developed when available
scientific data do not permit the development of a formal
position stand, but provide support for a given position
on a crucial issue(22). Readers can decide on the va-
lidity of the ACSM’s claims and recommendations and
whether those claims and recommendations belong in
a Position Stand supported by science or perhaps in an
Opinion Statement supported by opinions.
Disclosure
In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of eight
reviewers for the 2002 Position Stand (2). None of
the other reviewers challenged a single reference.
Two colleagues and I were designated as Reviewer #5
and we were removed from the review process after
challenging many of the references. This remains a
highly questionable ethical maneuver by the ACSM.
In addition, I am the primary author of the critical
analysis (3) of that Position Stand.
I sent similar comments and questions to the 26
ACSM members responsible for this highly-flawed
2009 Position Stand (1): The ACSM President and
Executive Vice-President, Editor-in-Chief of Medici-
ne & Science in Sports & Exercise, the seven Position
Stand authors and five reviewers, and the 11 members
of ACSM’s Pronouncements Committee. The only
response that I received was from the ACSM President
(Mindy Millard-Stafford, Ph.D.): “The Position Stand
represents a broad scientifically validated consensus
that the College has determined will represent its cur-
rent position on an issue.She failed to address any of
the specific aforementioned issues.
Acknowledgement
I gratefully acknowledge Arty Conliffe for his criti-
cal feedback on previous drafts of this manuscript.
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Received: June 06, 2009
Accepted: June 15, 2009
Published: June 18, 2009
Address for correspondence:
Ralph N. Carpinelli
P.O. Box 241,
Miller Place,
NY 11764 USA
e-mail: ralphcarpinelli@optonline.net
Authors’ contribution
A – Study Design
B – Data Collection
C – Statistical Analysis
D – Data Interpretation
E – Manuscript Preparation
F – Literature Search
G – Funds Collection
... Zudem basieren viele in der Praxis verwendete Methoden auf anekdotischer Evidenz, statt auf empirischen Belegen. Selbst die Empfehlungen führender Organisationen, wie des American College of Sport Medicine, standen aus diesem Grund bereits in der Kritik [23]. ...
... Zum Teil fehlt es jedoch an empirischen Belegen, welche die in der Praxis eingesetzten Methoden überprüfen [23]. [168,196,197,200,201,203,208,210,211,[213][214][215][216]218]. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Summary of the doctoral thesis Introduction: In many sports, strength is considered an important basis for performance. One factor affecting strength is muscle mass. Therefore, it may be necessary to increase muscle mass in athletes through resistance training. However, the most effective strategy to gain muscle mass has not yet been clearly identified. Many methods used in practice are based on anecdotal evidence rather than empirical data. For this reason, different approaches to hypertrophy training were examined in this thesis based on three studies. The methods and most important results of these studies are summarized in the following. Methods: In the first study, adolescent American football players completed a 12-week resistance training program with three total-body training sessions per week using either Block Periodization (BLOCK) or Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP). The aim was to investigate the effects of the different periodization strategies on muscle mass and athletic performance. The second study assessed the impact of a three-week detraining period (DTR) on anthropometric measures and sport performance. In a third study, highly trained male subjects completed a six-week low-intensity calf resistance training intervention either without (noBFR) or with blood flow restriction (BFR). Before and after the intervention, 1-RM calf raise, calf volume, muscle thickness of the gastrocnemius, and leg stiffness were recorded. Results: At the end of the first intervention, both periodization groups showed significantly higher muscle mass and thickness, as well as athletic performance without differences between groups. Following DTR, fat mass increased significantly, and fat-free mass was reduced. All other measures were unchanged after DTR. Both BFR and NoBFR training resulted in significant increases in 1-RM and muscle thickness without differences between groups. Calf volume and leg stiffness remained unchanged in both conditions. Conclusions: In adolescent American football players, the structure of periodization does not appear to have any effect on muscle growth. Furthermore, a three weeks DTR does not result in negative effects. Both results provide new insights that can be helpful when creating training programs as well as for planning training-free periods. The currently frequently investigated BFR training does not show higher effects on muscle growth of the lower extremities than conventional low-intensity resistance training.
... They noted also that on a PEDro scale of 0 (low quality) to 10 (high quality), their inclusive study scores averaged 4.6 (range 2-7) and admitted that those scores were indicative of low methodological quality. Readers may presume that any attempt to fact check the entire Position Statement from the NSCA (93) would be even more laborious than fact checking the American College of Sports Medicine Position Stands on resistance training (97)(98). ...
... Most importantly, Kraemer did not report any measure of muscle hypertrophy in any of his five experiments. Consequently, not only did the references cited by Ratamess and colleagues in the ACSM position stand (128) fail to support their recommendations for optimal muscle hypertrophy in advanced trainees, but there was very little credible evidence to support many of their recommendations f o r p e r s o n a l u s e o n l y d o u ż y t k u p r y w a t n e g o (98,131). Nevertheless, Schoenfeld chose to be associated with people who also believed-without any compelling evidence-that higher volume resistance training was superior to lower volume training. ...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias. Blinding of assessors and statisticians, self-plagiarism, authorship responsibility, and conflicts of interest are briefly discussed as well. The conclusion is that most of the published peer-reviewed resistance training literature failed to provide any compelling evidence that the manipulation of any one or combination of the aforementioned variables can significantly affect the degree of muscle hypertrophy, especially in well-trained participants. Although the specific stimulus for optimal gains in muscle mass is unknown, many authors are desperately clinging to their unsupported belief that a greater volume of exercise will produce superior muscle hypertrophy.
... A." In this sentence, the "A" evidence rating stands for "Randomized control trials (RCT; rich body of data)" [41]. This new position stand was again criticized by Carpinelli, who concluded that "the ACSM's new Position Stand contains all the flaws that were pervasive in their previous Position Stand" [42]. In summary, the ACSM position stand was written by respected scientists and practitioners who, whilst having considered and cited nearly 300 publications, may at times have misapplied the tools of evidence-based practice to justify their recommendations. ...
Article
Full-text available
A training plan, or an exercise prescription, is the point where we translate sport and exercise science into practice. As in medicine, good practice requires writing a training plan or prescribing an exercise programme based on the best current scientific evidence. A key issue, however, is that a training plan or exercise prescription is typically a mix of many interacting interventions (e.g. exercises and nutritional recommendations) that additionally change over time due to periodisation or tapering. Thus, it is virtually impossible to base a complex long-term training plan fully on scientific evidence. We, therefore, speak of evidence-informed training plans and exercise prescriptions to highlight that only some of the underlying decisions are made using an evidence-based decision approach. Another challenge is that the adaptation to a given, e.g. endurance or resistance training programme is often highly variable. Until biomarkers for trainability are identified, we must therefore continue to test athletes, clients, or patients, and monitor training variables via a training log to determine whether an individual sufficiently responds to a training intervention or else re-plan. Based on these ideas, we propose a subjective, pragmatic six-step approach that details how to write a training plan or exercise prescription that is partially based on scientific evidence. Finally, we advocate an athlete, client and patient-centered approach whereby an individual’s needs and abilities are the main consideration behind all decision-making. This implies that sometimes the most effective form of training is eschewed if the athlete, client or patient has other wishes.
... The strength of the evidence in support of these recommendations has, however, been challenged by several researchers (e.g. Carpinelli, 2009;Fisher et al., 2011a). ...
Article
New findings: What is the central question of this study? What is the time course of muscular adaptations to short-duration resistance exercise training? What is the main finding and its importance? Short-duration resistance training results in early and progressive increases in muscle mass and function and an increase in insulin sensitivity. Abstract: The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of 6 weeks of resistance exercise training, composed of one set of each exercise to voluntary failure, on insulin sensitivity and the time course of adaptations in muscle strength/mass. Ten overweight men (age 36 ± 8 years; height 175 ± 9 cm; weight 89 ± 14 kg; body mass index 29 ± 3 kg m-2 ) were recruited to the study. Resistance exercise training involved three sessions per week for 6 weeks. Each session involved one set of nine exercises, performed at 80% of one-repetition maximum to volitional failure. Sessions lasted 15-20 min. Oral glucose tolerance tests were performed at baseline and post-intervention. Vastus lateralis muscle thickness, knee-extensor maximal isometric torque and rate of torque development (measured between 0 and 50, 0 and 100, 0 and 200, and 0 and 300 ms) were measured at baseline, each week of the intervention, and after the intervention. Resistance training resulted in a 16.3 ± 18.7% (P < 0.05) increase in insulin sensitivity (Cederholm index). Muscle thickness, maximal isometric torque and one-repetition maximum increased with training, and at the end of the intervention were 10.3 ± 2.5, 26.9 ± 8.3, 18.3 ± 4.5% higher (P < 0.05 for both) than baseline, respectively. The rate of torque development at 50 and 100 ms, but not at 200 and 300 ms, increased (P < 0.05) over the intervention period. Six weeks of single-set resistance exercise to failure results in improvements in insulin sensitivity and increases in muscle size and strength in young overweight men.
... That Position Stand has been shown to be without any scientific foundation [4] and has been removed from the ACSM's website. It has been replaced with an updated Position Stand [5], which is not much different from its predecessor and also has been shown to be bereft of scientific support [6]. In addition, the review by Kraemer and Ratamess based its resistance training guidelines on the authors' unsubstantiated opinions and studies with adults-not children. ...
Article
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In an updated Position Statement on youth resistance training, the National Strength and Conditioning Association claimed that the Statement was based on a comprehensive analysis of the scientific evidence for resistance training in children. This Critical Commentary challenges that claim and reveals that their recommendations, especially the inclusion of the snatch and clean and jerk lifts, are without scientific foundation.
Presentation
Full-text available
Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias.
Presentation
Full-text available
Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias.
Article
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Chapter
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Book
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Several researchers have recently claimed that a series of meta-analyses unequivocally support the superiority of multiple sets for resistance training, and that they have ended the single versus multiple set debate. However, our critical analysis of these meta-analyses revealed numerous mathematical and statistical errors. In addition, their conclusions are illogical, inconsistent, and have no practical application to resistance training.
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The size principle states that motor units are recruited in an orderly manner from the smaller (lower threshold) to the larger (higher threshold) motor units, and that the recruitment is dependent on the effort of the activity. Greater recruitment produces higher muscular force. However, the pervasive faulty assumption that maximal or near maximal force (very heavy resistance) is required for recruitment of the higher-threshold motor units and optimal strength gains is not supported by the size principle, motor unit activation studies, or resistance training studies. This flawed premise has resulted in the unsubstantiated heavier-is-better recommendation for resistance training. ( J Exerc Sci Fit  Vol 6  No 2  67-86  2008)
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In February 2002, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published a Position Stand entitled Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults. The ACSM claims that the programmed manipulation of resistance-training protocols such as the training modality, repetition duration, range of repetitions, number of sets, and frequency of training will differentially affect specific physiological adaptations such as muscular strength, hypertrophy, power, and endurance. The ACSM also asserts that for progression in healthy adults, the programs for intermediate, advanced, and elite trainees must be different from those prescribed for novices. An objective evaluation of the resistance-training studies shows that these claims are primarily unsubstantiated. In fact, the preponderance of resistance-training studies suggest that simple, low-volume, time-efficient, resistance training is just as effective for increasing muscular strength, hypertrophy, power, and endurance - regardless of training experience - as are the complex, high-volume, time-consuming protocols that are recommended in the Position Stand. This document examines the basis for many of the claims in the Position Stand and provides an objective review of the resistance training literature.
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In order to stimulate further adaptation toward a specific training goal(s), progression in the type of resistance training protocol used is necessary. The optimal characteristics of strength-specific programs include the use of both concentric and eccentric muscle actions and the performance of both single- and multiple-joint exercises. It is also recommended that the strength program sequence exercises to optimize the quality of the exercise intensity (large before small muscle group exercises, multiple-joint exercises before single-joint exercises, and higher intensity before lower intensity exercises). For initial resistances, it is recommended that loads corresponding to 8-12 repetition maximum (RM) be used in novice training. For intermediate to advanced training, it is recommended that individuals use a wider loading range, from 1-12 RM in a periodized fashion, with eventual emphasis on heavy loading (1-6 RM) using at least 3-min rest periods between sets performed at a moderate contraction velocity (1-2 s concentric, 1-2 s eccentric). When training at a specific RM load, it is recommended that 2-10% increase in load be applied when the individual can perform the current workload for one to two repetitions over the desired number. The recommendation for training frequency is 2-3 d·wk-1 for novice and intermediate training and 4-5 d·wk-1 for advanced training. Similar program designs are recommended for hypertrophy training with respect to exercise selection and frequency. For loading, it is recommended that loads corresponding to 1-12 RM be used in periodized fashion, with emphasis on the 6-12 RM zone using 1- to 2-min rest periods between sets at a moderate velocity. Higher volume, multiple-set programs are recommended for maximizing hypertrophy. Progression in power training entails two general loading strategies: 1) strength training, and 2) use of light loads (30-60% of 1 RM) performed at a fast contraction velocity with 2-3 min of rest between sets for multiple sets per exercise. It is also recommended that emphasis be placed on multiple-joint exercises, especially those involving the total body. For local muscular endurance training, it is recommended that light to moderate loads (40-60% of 1 RM) be performed for high repetitions (> 15) using short rest periods (< 90 s). In the interpretation of this position stand, as with prior ones, the recommendations should be viewed in context of the individual's target goals, physical capacity, and training status.
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Acute and long-term hormonal and neuromuscular adaptations to hypertrophic strength training were studied in 13 recreationally strength-trained men. The experimental design comprised a 6-month hypertrophic strength-training period including 2 separate 3-month training periods with the crossover design, a training protocol of short rest (SR, 2 minutes) as compared with long rest (LR, 5 minutes) between the sets. Basal hormonal concentrations of serum total testosterone (T), free testosterone (FT), and cortisol (C), maximal isometric strength of the leg extensors, right leg 1 repetition maximum (1RM), dietary analysis, and muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) of the quadriceps femoris by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were measured at months 0, 3, and 6. The 2 hypertrophic training protocols used in training for the leg extensors (leg presses and squats with 10RM sets) were also examined in the laboratory conditions at months 0, 3, and 6. The exercise protocols were similar with regard to the total volume of work (loads 3 sets 3 reps), but differed with regard to the intensity and the length of rest between the sets (higher intensity and longer rest of 5 minutes vs. somewhat lower intensity but shorter rest of 2 minutes). Before and immediately after the protocols, maximal isometric force and electro-myographic (EMG) activity of the leg extensors were measured and blood samples were drawn for determination of serum T, FT, C, and growth hormone (GH) concentrations and blood lactate. Both protocols before the experimental training period (month 0) led to large acute increases (p < 0.05-0.001) in serum T, FT, C < and GH concentrations, as well as to large acute decreases (p < 0.05-0.001) in maximal isometric force and EMG activity. However, no significant differences were observed between the protocols. Significant increases of 7% in maximal isometric force, 16% in the right leg 1RM, and 4% in the muscle CSA of the quadriceps femoris were observed during the 6-month strength-training period. However, both 3-month training periods performed with either the longer or the shorter rest periods between the sets resulted in similar gains in muscle mass and strength. No statistically significant changes were observed in basal hormone concentrations or in the profiles of acute hormonal responses during the entire 6-month experimental training period. The present study indicated that, within typical hypertrophic strength-training protocols used in the present study, the length of the recovery times between the sets (2 vs. 5 minutes) did not have an influence on the magnitude of acute hormonal and neuromuscular responses or long-term training adaptations in muscle strength and mass in previously strength-trained men.
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The purpose of the study was to determine the optimum number of repetitions with which to train for quickest strength improvement. Nine groups, consisting of a total of 199 male college students, were tested before and after 12 weeks of progressive resistance exercise. Each group trained differently in repetitions per set. Resistances employed were 2 RM, 4 RM, 6 RM, 8 RM, 10 RM, and 12 RM for one set. The optimum number of repetitions was found to be between 3 and 9.
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SUMMARY In order to stimulate further adaptation toward specific training goals, progressive resistance training (RT) protocols are necessary. The optimal characteristics of strength-specific programs include the use of concentric (CON), eccentric (ECC), and isometric muscle actions and the performance of bilateral and unilateral single- and multiple-joint exercises. In addition, it is recommended that strength programs sequence exercises to optimize the preservation of exercise intensity (large before small muscle group exercises, multiple-joint exercises before single-joint exercises, and higher-intensity before lower-intensity exercises). For novice (untrained individuals with no RT experience or who have not trained for several years) training, it is recommended that loads correspond to a repetition range of an 8-12 repetition maximum (RM). For intermediate (individuals with approximately 6 months of consistent RT experience) to advanced (individuals with years of RT experience) training, it is recommended that individuals use a wider loading range from 1 to 12 RM in a periodized fashion with eventual emphasis on heavy loading (1-6 RM) using 3- to 5-min rest periods between sets performed at a moderate contraction velocity (1-2 s CON; 1-2 s ECC). When training at a specific RM load, it is recommended that 2-10% increase in load be applied when the individual can perform the current workload for one to two repetitions over the desired number. The recommendation for training frequency is 2-3 dIwkj1 for novice training, 3-4 dIwkj1 for intermediate training, and 4-5 dIwkj1 for advanced training. Similar program designs are recom- mended for hypertrophy training with respect to exercise selection and frequency. For loading, it is recommended that loads corresponding to 1-12 RM be used in periodized fashion with emphasis on the 6-12 RM zone using 1- to 2-min rest periods between sets at a moderate velocity. Higher volume, multiple-set programs are recommended for maximizing hypertrophy. Progression in power training entails two general loading strategies: 1) strength training and 2) use of light loads (0-60% of 1 RM for lower body exercises; 30-60% of 1 RM for upper body exercises) performed at a fast contraction velocity with 3-5 min of rest between sets for multiple sets per exercise (three to five sets). It is also recommended that emphasis be placed on multiple-joint exercises especially those involving the total body. For local muscular endurance training, it is recommended that light to moderate loads (40-60% of 1 RM) be performed for high repetitions (915) using short rest periods (G90 s). In the interpretation of this position stand as with prior ones, recommendations should be applied in context and should be contingent upon an individual's target goals, physical capacity, and training