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Crescent pyramid and drop-set systems do not promote greater strength gains, muscle hypertrophy and changes on muscle architecture compared with traditional resistance training in well-trained men

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Purpose The aim of this study was to compare the effects of crescent pyramid (CP) and drop-set (DS) systems with traditional resistance training (TRAD) with equalized total training volume (TTV) on maximum dynamic strength (1-RM), muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), pennation angle (PA) and fascicle length (FL). Methods Thirty-two volunteers had their legs randomized in a within-subject design in TRAD (3-5 sets of 6-12 repetitions at 75% 1-RM), CP (3-5 sets of 6-15 repetitions at 65-85% 1-RM) and DS (3-5 sets of ~50-75% 1-RM to muscle failure) protocols. Each leg was trained for 12 weeks. Participants had one leg fixed in the TRAD while the contralateral leg performed either CP or DS to allow for TTV equalization. Results The CSA increased significantly and similarly for all protocols (TRAD: 7.6%; CP: 7.5%; DS: 7.8%). All protocols showed significant and similar increases in leg press (TRAD = 25.9%; CP = 25.9%; DS = 24.9%) and leg extension 1-RM loads (TRAD = 16.6%; CP = 16.4%; DS = 17.1%). All protocols increased PA (TRAD = 10.6%; CP = 11.0%; DS = 10.3%) and FL (TRAD = 8.9%; CP = 8.9%; DS = 9.1%) similarly. Conclusion CP and DS systems do not promote greater gains in strength muscle hypertrophy and changes in muscle architecture compared to traditional resistance training.
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Eur J Appl Physiol
DOI 10.1007/s00421-016-3529-1
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Crescent pyramid anddrop-set systems donotpromote greater
strength gains, muscle hypertrophy, andchanges onmuscle
architecture compared withtraditional resistance training inwell-
trained men
VitorAngleri1· CarlosUgrinowitsch2· CleitonAugustoLibardi1
Received: 28 September 2016 / Accepted: 28 December 2016
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017
Conclusion CP and DS systems do not promote greater
gains in strength, muscle hypertrophy and changes in mus-
cle architecture compared to traditional resistance training.
Keywords Resistance training· Total training volume·
Muscle cross-sectional area· Muscle strength· Pennation
angle· Fascicle length
Abbreviations
1-RM One-repetition maximum
CP Crescent pyramid
CSA Muscle cross-sectional area
DS Drop-set
FL Fascicle length
PA Pennation angle
PI Principal investigator
RT Resistance training
TRAD Traditional resistance training
TTV Total training volume
US Ultrasound
VL Vastus lateralis
Introduction
Resistance training (RT) is considered as the most eective
method to increase muscle strength and mass (i.e., muscle
hypertrophy), and to change muscle architecture param-
eters (e.g., increases in pennation angle and fascicle length)
(Aagaard etal. 2002; ACSM 2002, 2009, 2011; Ades
etal. 2005; Blazevich etal. 2007; Kraemer and Ratamess
2004; Seynnes etal. 2007). To maximize, or to prevent the
stagnation of gains in muscle strength and mass, coaches
and well-trained lifters have used advanced RT systems
(Charro etal. 2010; Fleck and Kraemer 2014; Kraemer and
Abstract
Purpose The aim of this study was to compare the eects
of crescent pyramid (CP) and drop-set (DS) systems with
traditional resistance training (TRAD) with equalized total
training volume (TTV) on maximum dynamic strength
(1-RM), muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), pennation
angle (PA), and fascicle length (FL).
Methods Thirty-two volunteers had their legs rand-
omized in a within-subject design in TRAD (3–5 sets of
6–12 repetitions at 75% 1-RM), CP (3–5 sets of 6–15 rep-
etitions at 65–85% 1-RM), and DS (3–5 sets of ~50–75%
1-RM to muscle failure) protocols. Each leg was trained
for 12weeks. Participants had one leg fixed in the TRAD
while the contralateral leg performed either CP or DS to
allow for TTV equalization.
Results The CSA increased significantly and similarly
for all protocols (TRAD: 7.6%; CP: 7.5%; DS: 7.8%).
All protocols showed significant and similar increases in
leg press (TRAD = 25.9%; CP = 25.9%; DS = 24.9%) and
leg extension 1-RM loads (TRAD = 16.6%; CP = 16.4%;
DS = 17.1%). All protocols increased PA (TRAD = 10.6%;
CP = 11.0%; DS = 10.3%) and FL (TRAD = 8.9%;
CP = 8.9%; DS = 9.1%) similarly.
Communicated by: Nicolas Place.
* Cleiton Augusto Libardi
c.libardi@ufscar.br
1 Laboratory ofNeuromuscular Adaptations toResistance
Training, Department ofPhysical Education, Federal
University ofSão Carlos-UFSCar, Rod. Washington Luiz,
km 235-SP 310, CEP13565-905SãoCarlos, SP, Brazil
2 School ofPhysical Education andSport, University
ofSão Paulo-USP, Av. Prof. Mello de Morais, 65,
05508-03SãoPaulo, SP, Brazil
Eur J Appl Physiol
1 3
Ratamess 2004; Ribeiro etal. 2016; Schoenfeld 2011). RT
systems encompass a variety of training techniques that
emphasize dierent RT variables (e.g., intensity, volume,
muscle action, type and order of exercises, and repetition
velocity) aiming to maximize specific training-induced
adaptations (e.g., muscle strength or muscle hypertrophy).
Albeit RT systems are recommended for trained individu-
als (Fleck and Kraemer 2014; Schoenfeld 2011), little is
known if these systems indeed produce superior muscle
adaptations when compared to traditional RT (TRAD)
protocol.
Crescent Pyramid (CP) is a very popular RT system
among RT practitioners. CP requires increasing intensity
and decreasing the number of repetitions after each exercise
set (ACSM 2009; Charro etal. 2010; Delorme and Watkins
1948; Fish etal. 2003; Fleck and Kraemer 2014; Zinovie
1951). It is suggested that CP induces high mechanical ten-
sion in the muscle due to increments in exercise intensity
and total training volume (TTV− sets× repetitions× load
[kg]), increasing the recruitment of fast motor units and,
therefore, inducing greater gains in muscle strength com-
pared to TRAD (Fleck and Kraemer 2014; Mangine etal.
2015; Schoenfeld 2010). However, to the best of our knowl-
edge, there are no studies comparing training-induced
gains in muscle strength and mass between CP and TRAD
protocols.
Besides the CP system, Drop-set (DS) is another popu-
lar RT system among bodybuilders. This system is char-
acterized by sets performed to muscle failure; after failure
exercise load is immediately reduced (e.g., ~20%), allow-
ing individuals to perform additional repetitions to muscle
failure on each set (Bentes etal. 2012; Fleck and Kraemer
2014). In this regard, it is suggested that DS produces a
high metabolic stress due to a high number of repetitions
performed on each set, and, therefore TTV, which may pro-
mote greater increases in muscle mass than TRAD (Goto
etal. 2004; Mangine etal. 2015; Schoenfeld 2010, 2011,
2013b). Similar to CP, there are no studies that have com-
pared training-induced adaptations between DS and TRAD
protocols.
It has been shown that increases in muscle strength and
mass are strongly dependent on TTV of RT. Accordingly,
studies have shown greater increments in muscle strength
and hypertrophy for high TTV protocols when compared
to low TTV ones, regardless of the type of manipulation
of RT variables (e.g., intensity and volume) (Candow and
Burke 2007; Gentil etal. 2015; Kelly etal. 2007; Krieger
2009, 2010; Mitchell etal. 2012; Ronnestad etal. 2007;
Schoenfeld 2013a; Schoenfeld etal. 2016b; Sooneste etal.
2013). Conversely, equalized TTV RT protocols have not
shown dierences in muscle strength and hypertrophy
responses in spite of distinct manipulations of RT variables
(Ahtiainen etal. 2003, 2005; Candow and Burke 2007;
Chestnut and Docherty 1999; Gentil etal. 2015; Kok etal.
2009; Moore etal. 2012). Thus, it is reasonable to suggest
that when TTV is equalized, the manipulation of training
variables when using CP and DS systems would not pro-
mote additional increases in muscle strength and hypertro-
phy when compared to TRAD.
Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the
eects of CP and DS systems with TRAD RT with equal-
ized TTV on muscle strength and hypertrophy in well-
trained young men. As a secondary aim, we compared
the eects of these protocols on some muscle architecture
parameters. Our hypothesis was that CP, DS, and TRAD
promote similar increases in muscle strength and hypertro-
phy when TTV is equalized between RT protocols.
Methods
Participants
Thirty-two men (age: 27.0 ± 3.9years, height: 1.79 ± 0.0m,
body mass: 84.6 ± 8.6kg, RT experience: 6.4 ± 2.0years)
volunteered to participate in this study. Participants had
trained their lower limbs for at least 4years with a fre-
quency of two times per week, and were able to squat with
at least 130% of their body mass to be deemed as resist-
ance trained (ACSM 2009; Baker etal. 1994; Brandenburg
and Docherty 2002; Gibala etal. 1994; Ostrowski etal.
1997). Besides being deemed as resistance trained, par-
ticipants had to: (1) be free from using anabolic steroids;
(2) be free from musculoskeletal disorders or risk factors
as assessed by the PAR-Q Questionnaire; (3) perform 45°
leg press and leg extension exercises in their RT routines.
All of the assessments were performed at the same time
of the day, and participants were oriented to have a light
meal 2h prior to each testing session. Additionally, partici-
pants were advised to maintain their eating habits, and to
consume only the nutritional supplement provided by the
P.I., after each RT session (i.e., 30g Whey Protein–Whey
Select–3VS Nutrition–Brazil). Participants signed a con-
sent form, the study was conducted in accordance with the
Declaration of Helsinki, and ethical approval was granted
by the University’s ethics committee.
Experimental design
Initially, participants visited the laboratory to perform
a familiarization session with the 45° leg press (RT-
054–Tonus–Brazil–São Paulo) and leg extension (RT-
068–Tonus–Brazil–São Paulo) exercises 1-RM test. They
completed the first 1-RM test 48h after the familiarization
session. 1-RM was re-tested 72h after the first 1-RM test.
Seventy-two hours after, cross-sectional area (CSA) of the
Eur J Appl Physiol
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vastus lateralis (VL) muscle and muscle architecture vari-
ables [i.e., pennation angle (PA) and fascicle length (FL)]
were assessed. Self-reported training logs of the 2weeks
prior to the commencement of the study were used to deter-
mine the TTV usually performed by each participant. Then,
TTV was used to rank each limb of the participants into
quartiles to randomly and balanced allocate each of the
participants’ limbs to the following experimental condi-
tions: (1) Traditional (TRAD); (2) Crescent pyramid (CP);
(3) Drop-set (DS). The TRAD condition was defined as a
“positive” control for all of the participants. Thus, 32 limbs
were allocated to the TRAD protocol (16 dominant and 16
non-dominant limbs). Contralateral limbs were then allo-
cated to either CP (n = 16, 8 dominant and 8 non-dominant
limbs) or DS protocol (n = 16, 8 dominant and 8 non-domi-
nant limbs). These procedures were adopted to mitigate the
influence of previous TTV on training-induced adaptations.
Following, participants performed two familiarization ses-
sions with the assigned protocols, and then underwent 12
weeks of RT. 45° leg press and leg extension 1-RM were
re-tested at the end of week 6 to adjust training load. Addi-
tionally, muscle CSA and architecture, 45° leg press and
leg extension 1-RM loads were re-assessed 72h after the
last RT session at post-training.
Equalization andprogression ofthetotal training
volume
As TTV can greatly aect muscle strength and hypertro-
phy gains (Candow and Burke 2007; Gentil etal. 2015;
Kelly etal. 2007; Krieger 2009, 2010; Mitchell etal. 2012;
Ronnestad etal. 2007; Schoenfeld 2013a, 2016b; Sooneste
etal. 2013), we utilized RT records to determine initial
training load for each participant. Initial TTV was defined
as 120% of the TTV that each participant performed in
the 2weeks prior to the commencement of the study.
This procedure ensured the absence of abrupt increases or
decreases in TTV at the beginning of the study. The TTV
performed on each CP or DS session was equalized to the
TTV performed on the TRAD session (i.e., trained first).
70 and 30% of the TTV was performed in the 45° leg press,
and leg extension exercises, respectively. The TTV was
increased by ~7% every 3weeks (i.e., 6 RT sessions) for all
of the participants.
Resistance training protocols
Traditional resistance training (TRAD)
The TRAD protocol trained with an intensity correspond-
ing to 75% of the 1-RM load in the unilateral 45° leg press
and leg extension exercises. Overall, participants performed
3–5 sets of 6–12 repetitions on each exercise. As we used
75% of the 1-RM load on both exercises, a couple partici-
pants could not be close to failure in the first or second set,
but all of them were very close to, or reached, failure in the
last sets. The number of sets and repetitions were adjusted
every time that the TTV was increased. A 2-min rest was
allowed between sets and exercises.
Crescent pyramid system (CP)
In CP protocol, load (kg) was increased and repetitions
were reduced after each exercise set. Participants per-
formed the CP protocol with a similar TTV to the con-
tralateral leg. In this regard, the number of sets each par-
ticipant performed varied from 3 to 5 and the number of
repetitions performed on each set was ~15 in the first set
(65% 1-RM), ~12 in the second set (70% 1-RM), ~10 in
the third set (75% 1-RM), ~8 in the fourth set (80% 1-RM),
and ~6 in the fifth set (85% 1-RM). Similarly to the TRAD
protocol, a couple participants could not be close to fail-
ure in the first or second set, but all of them were close to,
or reached, failure in the last sets. Similar to the TRAD
protocol, the number of sets and repetitions were adjusted
every 3weeks, when TTV was increased. A 2-min rest was
granted between sets and exercises.
Drop-set system (DS)
The DS protocol used the same initial TTV and exercises
as the TRAD and CP protocols. Each set was conducted
to muscle failure. Then, participants performed up to
two drops after the initial failure on each set (e.g., initial
load—repetitions to muscle failure—short pause—reduc-
tion of 20% of the load—repetitions to muscle failure—
short pause—reduction of 20% of the load—repetitions to
failure). If the predetermined TTV for each exercise was
reached before the end of the second drop (e.g., the first
drop of the second set), the exercise was terminated to
ensure the equalization of the TTV with the TRAD pro-
tocol. A 2-min rest interval was granted between sets and
exercises.
Maximum dynamic strength test (1-RM)
Unilateral 1-RM test in the 45° leg press and leg exten-
sion exercises was performed following the recommenda-
tions described by Brown and Weir (2001). Initially, par-
ticipants performed a general warm-up in a cycle ergometer
at 20kmh 1 for 5min, followed by two sets of specific
warm-up. The first set consisted of 8 repetitions with 50%
of the estimated 1-RM, and the second set comprised
3 repetitions with 70% of the estimated 1-RM with a
2-min rest between warm-up sets. After the warm-up, the
1-RM test was initiated. Participants had up to 5 attempts
Eur J Appl Physiol
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to reach their 1-RM load on each exercise, with a rest of
3min between attempts. The greatest load lifted was con-
sidered as the 1-RM load. The coecient of variation and
the typical error for the 45° leg press and leg extension
1-RM tests were 1.31% and 2.89kg, and 1.38% and 1.05kg
respectively.
Muscle cross-sectional area (CSA)
The CSA was obtained through an ultrasound imaging
(US) unit following the procedures described in our previ-
ously published validation study (Lixandrão etal. 2014).
Participants were instructed to abstain from vigorous phys-
ical activities for at least 72h prior to each CSA assess-
ment (Damas etal. 2016b; Newton etal. 2008). Prior to the
acquisition of images, participants laid in a supine position
for 20min to ensure fluid redistribution. A B-mode US,
with a linear probe set at 7.5MHz (Samsung, MySono U6,
São Paulo, Brasil), was used to acquire the images. Trans-
mission gel was applied in the area where the images were
obtained, ensuring acoustic coupling, without compress-
ing the epidermis. The point corresponding to 50% of the
distance between the greater trochanter and the lateral epi-
condyle of the femur was used for the acquisition of CSA
images. Images were acquired in the sagittal plane. To
guide the displacement of the probe, the skin was trans-
versely marked at intervals of 2cm. Sequential images of
the VL muscle started at the point of alignment of the upper
edge of the probe with the most medial skin mark (over
the rectus femoris muscle) and ended at the lateral aspect
of the thigh. Images were recorded every 2cm. Then, the
sequence of images were opened in Power Point (Micro-
soft, USA), manually rotated to reconstruct the entire fascia
of VL muscle, and saved as a new figure file. Figure files
were opened in the ImageJ software and the “polygonal”
function was used to determine VL CSA. ImageJ “polyg-
onal” functional was calibrated using a known distance
marked in the US unit. The CV and the TE of CSA meas-
ures was 1.05% and 0.33cm2, respectively.
Pennation angle (PA) andfascicle length (FL)
PA and FL of VL were measured at the same time and site
of the CSA acquisition, with the probe oriented longitudi-
nally to the muscle belly. The PA was defined as the angle
formed between the intersection of a fascicle and the deep
aponeurosis. FL was defined as the distance from fascicle
origin in the deep aponeurosis to insertion in the superficial
aponeurosis. The mean value of three images was used to
determine PA and FL using the “Angle” tool (Scanlon etal.
2014) and “Straight” tool (Erskine etal. 2009), respec-
tively, of the ImageJ software (1.50b). The coecient of
variation and typical error for PA and FL assessments were
1.35% and 0.35°, and 1.05% and 0.05cm, respectively.
Statistical analysis
After visual inspection, data normality and variance homo-
geneity were confirmed by Shapiro–Wilk Levine’s tests,
respectively. As the TRAD condition had 32 “legs” (i.e.,
positive control condition), while the CP and DS condi-
tions (i.e., experimental conditions) had only 16 “legs”, we
performed 10 simulations in which 16 legs were randomly
removed from the TRAD condition. These simulations
were performed to test if dierent samples of 16 “legs” in
the TRAD condition would change the statistical findings
when compared to the situation in which the TRAD con-
dition had 32 “legs”. As none of the simulations produced
dierent statistical findings, for any of the dependent vari-
ables, we performed the actual analyses having 32 “legs” in
the TRAD condition and 16 “legs” in the CP and DS con-
ditions. To compare baseline values of the dependent vari-
ables between-protocols (TTV, 1-RM, CSA, PA and FL)
a repeated measures one-way ANOVA was implemented.
As there were no significant dierences between protocols
at baseline, a mixed model having protocols and time as
fixed factors and subjects as random factor was performed
for each dependent variable to compare training eects
over time. In case of significant F-values, a Tukey adjust-
ment was implemented for pairwise comparisons. Statisti-
cal analyses were performed in the software SAS 9.2 and P
values was set as P < 0.05.
Results
Total training volume (TTV)
No significant dierences in TTV (P > 0.05) were detected
between protocols TRAD, CP, and DS (Fig.1).
Maximum dynamic strength
All of the protocols showed significantly greater 1-RM
values from pre- to post-training for 45° leg press
(TRAD = 25.9%, CP = 25.9%, and DS = 24.9%; main
time eect, P < 0.0001) (Fig.2a) and leg extension
(TRAD = 16.6%, CP = 16.4% and DS = 17.1%; main
time eect, P < 0.0001) exercises (Fig.2b). Compound
1-RM values (unilateral 45° leg press plus unilateral
leg extension) significantly increased from pre- to post-
training (TRAD = 24.1; CP = 24.6; DS = 22.9; main time
eect, P < 0.0001) (Fig.2c). No significant dierences
were detected between protocols (P > 0.05). Individual
Eur J Appl Physiol
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relative changes (%) in compound 1-RM values are shown
in Fig.4a.
Muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) andmuscle
architecture
In relation to CSA, all of the protocols significantly
increased values from pre- to post-training (TRAD = 7.6%,
CP = 7.5%, and DS = 7.8%; main time eect, P = 0.01)
(Figs.3a, 4b). Regarding increases in PA, all of the proto-
cols showed significant and similar increases from pre- to
post-training (TRAD = 10.6%; CP = 11.0%; DS = 10.3%;
main time eect, P = 0.001) (Fig.3b). FL values also
increased significantly and similarly from pre- to post-
training for all of the protocols (TRAD = 8.9%; CP = 8.9%;
DS = 9.1%; main time eect, P = 0.001) (Fig.3c). No
Fig. 1 Total training volume following 12weeks of traditional
(TRAD), crescent pyramid (CP), and drop-set (DS) protocols. Values
presented as mean ± SD
Fig. 2 Maximum dynamic
strength (1-RM) in unilateral
45° leg press (LP) (a), unilateral
leg extension (LE) (b) and com-
pound (LP plus LE) (c) meas-
ured at baseline (Pre) and after
12 weeks of training (Post) for
the traditional (TRAD), crescent
pyramid (CP), and drop-set
(DS) protocols. *Significantly
dierent from Pre (main time
eect, P < 0.0001). Values
presented as mean ± SD
Eur J Appl Physiol
1 3
significant dierences between protocols were detected
(P > 0.05).
Discussion
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study comparing
the eects of Crescent Pyramid (CP) and Drop-set (DS) RT
systems with Traditional (TRAD) RT in a volume-equated
program on muscle strength, cross-sectional area (CSA),
and architecture parameters in well-trained individuals.
Our main finding is that CP and DS systems do not produce
additional gains in muscle strength and mass compared to
TRAD.
Accordingly, we found similar increases in mus-
cular strength between TRAD, CP, and DS protocols
(24.9–25.9% for leg press and 16.4–17.1% for leg exten-
sion). The increases in 1-RM values for the 45° leg press
and leg extension exercises reported herein are consistent
with other studies that performed TRAD in well-trained
individuals (~20% after 24 sessions) (Ahtiainen etal. 2005;
Schoenfeld etal. 2014b, 2015, 2016a).
Regarding the comparison between TRAD, CP, and
DS, it is suggested that the CP system may induce greater
increases in muscle strength compared to TRAD and DS
due to higher training intensity (Fleck and Kraemer 2014),
which can increase the recruitment of fast motor units (Sch-
oenfeld etal. 2014a). In fact, authors have suggested that
high-intensity RT protocols may promote greater gains in
Fig. 3 Muscle cross-sectional
area (CSA) (a), pennation angle
(PA) (b) and fascicle length
(FL) (c) measured at the base-
line (Pre) and after 12weeks of
training (Post) for the traditional
(TRAD), crescent pyramid (CP)
and drop-set (DS) protocols.
*Significantly dierent from Pre
(main time eect, P = 0.001).
Values presented as mean ± SD
Eur J Appl Physiol
1 3
muscle strength than low-intensity RT protocols in trained
individuals (~20 vs. ~9%) (Mangine etal. 2015; Schoen-
feld etal. 2015). In our study, 1-RM increased similarly
between TRAD, CP, and DS protocols (24.9–25.9% to 45°
leg press and 16.4–17.1% to leg extension). The range of
training intensities used in the present study (TRAD = 75%
1-RM; CP = 65–85% 1-RM; DS = ~60–75% 1-RM) may
partially explain the similar gains in muscle strength, which
may have ensured the recruitment of the motor unit pool
(Clamann 1993; De Luca and Contessa 2012). Addition-
ally, TTV equalization may have promoted similar muscle
overload between protocols, despite the dierences in vol-
ume and intensity between protocols, and therefore strength
gains (Candow and Burke 2007; Gentil etal. 2015; Kelly
etal. 2007; Krieger 2009, 2010; Marshall etal. 2011;
Mitchell etal. 2012; Ronnestad etal. 2007; Schoenfeld
2013a; Sooneste etal. 2013). Our data support the hypoth-
esis that RT systems are not needed to maximize muscle
strength gains in trained individuals in TTV-equalized
conditions.
Increases in VL CSA were also similar between TRAD,
CP, and DS protocols (7.5–7.8%). Studies have reported
that muscle hypertrophy responses is lower in well-trained
individuals (Ahtiainen etal. 2003, 2005; Brandenburg and
Docherty 2002) compared to individuals with little or no
RT experience (Wernbom etal. 2007). However, in our
study, the increase in muscle CSA was higher than in other
studies on trained individuals. For instance, Ahtiainen etal.
(2003) reported increases in quadriceps CSA of ~5.6% after
21-weeks of RT (5 sets of leg extension carried out twice
a week) in bodybuilders and weightlifters. Following, the
same group observed an increase of only ~4% in quadriceps
CSA after 21-week of RT (3–4 sets of squats and 4–5 sets
of leg press of 10-RM carried out twice a week) in resist-
ance-trained individuals (Ahtiainen etal. 2005). Studies
from our group and others have demonstrated that RT-
induced changes in muscle CSA have a high between-sub-
ject variability (range: 11–30%) (Ahtiainen etal. 2016;
Brandenburg and Docherty 2002; Fonseca etal. 2014;
Hubal etal. 2005; Laurentino etal. 2012; Libardi etal.
2015; Vechin etal. 2015). In the present study, all of the
participants improved muscle CSA, and the between-sub-
ject variability was lower than previously reported (range:
1.7–13.3%) (Fig.4b). It is possible that the following char-
acteristics of our experimental design may have optimized
anabolic stimuli and minimized between-subject variabil-
ity even in trained individuals: (1) individuals had an ini-
tial training load that considered training history ensuring
an appropriate muscle overload; (2) TTV was frequently
increased (i.e., 7% every six training sessions) to ensure a
continuous progression and load-equalization between pro-
tocols (Krieger 2009, 2010; Schoenfeld etal. 2016b); (3) to
warrant maximal elevation in protein synthesis after each
RT session and to reduce the reduce diet-induced between-
subject variability, all of the participants ingested 30g
of whey protein after each RT session (Burd etal. 2010;
Damas etal. 2016a; Hartman etal. 2007; Mitchell etal.
2012); (4) our within-subject experimental design allowed
a more precise volume equalization between protocols and
minimized the eects of the between-subjects biological
variability when comparing training protocols.
Regarding the comparison between TRAD, CP, and
DS protocols, it has been suggested that sets performed
to failure in DS system, and the associated high TTV,
are advantageous for muscle hypertrophy due to a high
metabolic stress, and a consequent anabolic milieu com-
pared to TRAD and CP protocols (Mangine etal. 2015;
Morton etal. 2016; Schoenfeld 2013b; Schoenfeld etal.
2015). However, our DS protocol did not result in greater
increases in CSA when compared to the other protocols. As
Fig. 4 Individual relative
changes (%) in compound
maximum dynamic strength
(1-RM, unilateral 45° leg press
plus unilateral leg extension)
(a) and muscle cross-sectional
area (CSA) (b) in relation
to baseline values for the
traditional (TRAD), crescent
pyramid (CP), and drop-set
(DS) protocols
Eur J Appl Physiol
1 3
the TRAD and CP protocols do not require reaching muscle
failure on each set (ACSM 2009; Charro etal. 2010, 2012),
participants were not instructed to reach it on each set.
Despite the fact that achieving failure was not a prerequi-
site to TRAD and CP, sets were performed with high level
of eort and fatigue due to an initial high TTV (i.e., addi-
tion of 20% to the previous TTV) and periodical increases
in TTV throughout the experimental protocol. Although we
should consider that only the DS performed all sets to mus-
cle failure, to the best of our knowledge, there is no data
supporting the notion that individuals should reach mus-
cle failure on each set of the training routine (Davies etal.
2016; Nóbrega and Libardi 2016). At last, another unpub-
lished data set from our group (under review) shows that
sets performed to muscle failure or volitional interruption
(i.e., point in which participants voluntarily interrupted
the exercise prior to muscle failure) do not produce acute
dierences in muscle hypertrophy. In spite of the lack of
studies investigating the eects of the standard DS system,
some studies compared blood lactate response (Goto etal.
2003) and changes in muscle strength and mass (Goto etal.
2004) between TRAD and a RT protocol that resembles
the DS system (i.e., addition of one set with reduced load
until muscle failure, which was performed at the end of
the session after a short pause). The results of these stud-
ies showed greater lactate concentrations immediately after
the session (Goto etal. 2003) and greater muscle adapta-
tion after 10 weeks of training (Goto etal. 2004) for the
DS system when compared to the TRAD. Importantly, a
higher number of repetitions was performed in the “DS sys-
tem” in both studies, resulting in greater TTVs than in the
other protocols, suggesting that the advantages oered by
DS may be due to a higher TTV and not to the system per
se (Schoenfeld 2011). Recently, Schoenfeld etal. (2016b)
demonstrated a graded dose–response relationship in which
increases in RT TTV produced greater gains in muscle
hypertrophy, highlighting the importance of TTV for mus-
cle hypertrophy. Taken together, it is possible to suggest
that DS cannot provide advantages to muscle CSA gains
over other RT protocols for resistance-trained individuals
when TTV is equalized.
Muscle hypertrophy was accompanied by similar
increases in PA and FL between protocols. To the best
of our knowledge, this is the first study investigating the
eects of RT systems on muscle architecture parameters in
resistance-trained individuals. Given that changes in mus-
cle architecture accompany the changes on muscle CSA
(Aagaard etal. 2001), one should expect smaller changes
in PA and FL in trained individuals than in untrained
ones (Wernbom etal. 2007). However, our results showed
increases in PA and FL comparable to those observed in
recreationally active individuals (~10% to PA and ~8% to
FL) (Blazevich etal. 2007; Seynnes etal. 2007). Therefore,
it is possible to suggest that the strategies used herein to
ensure adaptive responses in well-trained individuals opti-
mized not only the increases in CSA, but also in PA and
FL. The changes in PA and FL allow us to suggest that the
increase in CSA was due to increased number of sarcom-
eres in parallel, and thus maximum force capacity (Aagaard
etal. 2001).
Our study provides some practical insights that should
be considered. First, as TRAD, CP, and DS produced simi-
lar changes in the assessed parameters, it is recommended
that the utilization of a RT system should take into account
individual preferences. Second, training-induced adapta-
tions seem to be optimized with periodical adjustments in
TTV throughout a training period. Finally, the manipula-
tion of intensity or volume does not interfere in muscle
strength and hypertrophy gains, at least when the TTV of
protocols is equalized and progressively increased.
This study is not without limitations. CSA was meas-
ured in a single point, which can limit the ability to assess
non-uniform muscle growth. However, non-uniform mus-
cle growth is more likely to occur when exercises are var-
ied throughout the training period (Fonseca etal. 2014),
which was not the case in the present study. The unilateral
training model employed in the present study may favor
the occurrence of cross-education, which may lead to
neurally-induced strength gains in untrained contralateral
muscles (Lee and Carroll 2007). However, we believe that
cross-education eects (at least at the post-training assess-
ment) have been minimized in our design due to the fol-
lowing factors: (a) the occurrence of neurally-induced
strength gains usually lasts less than the duration of our
experimental period (i.e., 12weeks); (b) in a meta-analysis,
Munn etal. (2004) demonstrated an average strength gain
of ~10% when undergoing cross-education in untrained
individuals. Our strength gains are 1.5 times greater than
the gains induced by cross-education, which may rule out
cross-education as a factor driving our training-induced
adaptations; (c) the participants of the present study
were deemed as strength-trained individuals, as they had
6.4 ± 2.0years of resistance training experience. Cross-
education is less likely to occur in trained individuals than
untrained ones; (d) the advantages of using a within-subject
design outgain those of a between-subject design. Bio-
logical variability (between-subject design) has a greater
eect on muscle strength and hypertrophy gains than cross-
education.; (e) a within-subject design is very eective in
controlling biological variability as between-leg responses
are equally aected by biological variability; (f) it was of
utmost importance to control TTV between protocols. A
between-subject design would not allow controlling TTV
precisely, as using TTV from one experimental group to
another could have produced a sub-par or an excessive
overload greatly aecting our findings.
Eur J Appl Physiol
1 3
Conclusions
Crescent Pyramid and Drop-set systems do not promote
greater strength gains, muscle hypertrophy and changes
in muscle architecture compared with resistance train-
ing traditionally performed with constant intensities and
volumes.
Acknowledgements This work was supported by São Paulo
Research Foundation (FAPESP) Grants (#2015/16090-4 to VA and
#2013/21218-4 to CAL) National Council for Scientific and Tech-
nological Development (CNPq) Grant (#406609/2015-2 to CU). We
are grateful to 3VS Nutrition—Brazil for donation of Whey Protein.
Also, we would like to show appreciation to the participants who par-
ticipated on this study and to Sayão Futebol Clube—Araras for their
support.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict
of interest.
Ethical standard All procedures performed herein were in accord-
ance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research
committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amend-
ments or comparable ethical standards.
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This paper aimed to compare the effect of drop-set (DS) and rest-pause (RP) systems versus traditional resistance training (TRT) with equalized total training volume on maximum dynamic strength (1RM) and thigh muscle thickness (MT). Twenty-eight resistance-trained males were randomly assigned to either RP (n = 10), DS (n = 9) or TRT (n = 9) protocols performed twice a week for 8 weeks. 1RM and MT of the proximal, middle and distal portions of the lateral thigh were assessed at baseline and post-intervention. A significant time × group interaction was observed for 1RM (P = 0.001) in the barbell back squat after 8-weeks. Post hoc comparisons revealed that RP promoted higher 1RM than TRT (P = 0.001); no statistical differences in strength were observed between the other conditions. A significant main effect of time was revealed for MT at the proximal (P = 0.0001) and middle (P = 0.0001) aspects of the lateral thigh for all training groups; however, the distal portion did not show a time effect (P = 0.190). There were no between-group interactions for MT. Our findings suggest that RP promotes slightly superior strength-related improvements compared with TRT, but hypertrophic adaptations are similar between conditions. Novelty: Rest-pause elicited a slightly superior benefit for strength adaptations compared with traditional resistance training. Resistance training systems do not promote superior hypertrophic adaptations when total training volume is equalized. Muscle thickness in distal portion of thigh is similar to baseline. Although modest, effect sizes tended to favor rest-pause.
... Dentre as diversas modalidades de exercício que atraem a atenção dos praticantes, a musculação pode ser considerada uma das mais populares (Esteve-Lanao et al., 2017). A musculação é caracterizada por atividades realizadas contra resistência externa, utilizando aparelhos para grupos musculares específicos, como barras, halteres e máquinas (Angleri, Ugrinowitsch, & Libardi, 2017). ...
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... However, muscle size changes for the successive 4 weeks were not statistically significant between traditional strength training and drop-set training interventions. In support, other research has reported no statistical differences between traditional-and drop-set training over 12 weeks for changes in muscle size (197). A further study adopted a unilateral, within-participant design comparing a single heavy set (80% 1RM) with multiple drop-sets descending to a lighter load (30% 1RM), to heavier-(80% 1RM) and lighter-(30% 1RM) load traditional training conditions. ...
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Hypertrophy can be operationally defined as an increase in the axial cross-sectional area of a muscle fiber or whole muscle, and is due to increases in the size of pre-existing muscle fibers. Hypertrophy is a desired outcome in many sports. For some athletes, muscular bulk and, conceivably, the accompanying increase in strength/power, are desirable attributes for optimal performance. Moreover, bodybuilders and other physique athletes are judged in part on their muscular size, with placings predicated on the overall magnitude of lean mass. In some cases, even relatively small improvements in hypertrophy might be the difference between winning and losing in competition for these athletes. This position stand of leading experts in the field synthesizes the current body of research to provide guidelines for maximizing skeletal muscle hypertrophy in an athletic population. The recommendations represent a consensus of a consortium of experts in the field, based on the best available current evidence. Specific sections of the paper are devoted to elucidating the constructs of hypertrophy, reconciliation of acute vs long-term evidence, and the relationship between strength and hypertrophy to provide context to our recommendations.
... Longitudinal studies comparing drop set training to traditional training have generally been unable to detect differences in hypertrophic responses from the strategy [82,83], but the evidence is both limited and somewhat conflicting. One RCT by Fink et al. suggested that drop set training may be superior for hypertrophy, but inferior for strength [81]. ...
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... Evidence suggests that half-triangle pyramids and traditional training are equivalent in terms of strength gains and muscle hypertrophy. Angleri et al. [34] conducted a randomized intrasubject study over 12 weeks of leg training. Participants trained one leg with traditional training and the other leg using the drop-set or LH system. ...
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Abstract: The Fascia Stretch Training 7 Sets (FST-7) method has gained popularity in the recent years being disseminated by American bodybuilders. The purpose of the study was to compare the effects of the Fascia Stretch Training 7 Sets (FST-7) method with or without passive stretching between sets on metabolic variables (lactate [LAC] and creatine kinase [CK]), performance (total training volume - TTV) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) in trained men. For this, nine recreationally trained men (23.2 ± 1.7 years; 174.2 ± 6.2 cm; 84.6 ± 9.8 kg, 3.4 ± 1.0 years of experience in strength training) were submitted to the test and re-test of 10 repetition maximum (10RM) in the barbell bench press and fly with dumbbells on different days, respecting a 48-hour interval between the test and re-test sessions. After 72 hours of the last test day, participants performed the experimental protocols in randomized order with a 72-hour interval between sessions. Blood samples were taken 10 minutes before and immediately after the training protocols. The protocol without stretching was significantly increased LAC concentrations (p = 0.029). However, the same did not occur for the concentration of CK (p = 0.302). The TTV was higher for the protocol without stretching (p < 0.001), and the RPE was significantly higher for the protocol with stretching between sets (p = 0.003). We concluded that the FST-7 method with stretching resulted in higher RPE, which may be related to the decline in performance, translated by the lower TTV in relation to the condition without stretching. This lower TTV may have affected the lower LAC accumulation observed in the FST-7 method with stretching.
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The purpose of this paper was to systematically review the current literature and elucidate the effects of total weekly resistance training (RT) volume on changes in measures of muscle mass via meta-regression. The final analysis comprised 34 treatment groups from 15 studies. Outcomes for weekly sets as a continuous variable showed a significant effect of volume on changes in muscle size (P = 0.002). Each additional set was associated with an increase in effect size (ES) of 0.023 corresponding to an increase in the percentage gain by 0.37%. Outcomes for weekly sets categorised as lower or higher within each study showed a significant effect of volume on changes in muscle size (P = 0.03); the ES difference between higher and lower volumes was 0.241, which equated to a percentage gain difference of 3.9%. Outcomes for weekly sets as a three-level categorical variable (<5, 5-9 and 10+ per muscle) showed a trend for an effect of weekly sets (P = 0.074). The findings indicate a graded dose-response relationship whereby increases in RT volume produce greater gains in muscle hypertrophy.
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Key points: Skeletal muscle hypertrophy is one of the main outcomes from resistance training (RT), but how it is modulated throughout training is still unknown. We show that changes in myofibrillar protein synthesis (MyoPS) after an initial resistance exercise (RE) bout in the first week of RT (T1) were greater than those seen post-RE at the third (T2) and tenth week (T3) of RT, with values being similar at T2 and T3. Muscle damage (Z-band streaming) was the highest during post-RE recovery at T1, lower at T2 and minimal at T3. When muscle damage was the highest, so was the integrated MyoPS (at T1), but neither were related to hypertrophy; however, integrated MyoPS at T2 and T3 were correlated with hypertrophy. We conclude that muscle hypertrophy is the result of accumulated intermittent increases in MyoPS mainly after a progressive attenuation of muscle damage. Abstract: Skeletal muscle hypertrophy is one of the main outcomes of resistance training (RT), but how hypertrophy is modulated and the mechanisms regulating it are still unknown. To investigate how muscle hypertrophy is modulated through RT, we measured day-to-day integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis (MyoPS) using deuterium oxide and assessed muscle damage at the beginning (T1), at 3 weeks (T2) and at 10 weeks of RT (T3). Ten young men (27 (1) years, mean (SEM)) had muscle biopsies (vastus lateralis) taken to measure integrated MyoPS and muscle damage (Z-band streaming and indirect parameters) before, and 24 h and 48 h post resistance exercise (post-RE) at T1, T2 and T3. Fibre cross-sectional area (fCSA) was evaluated using biopsies at T1, T2 and T3. Increases in fCSA were observed only at T3 (P = 0.017). Changes in MyoPS post-RE at T1, T2 and T3 were greater at T1 (P < 0.03) than at T2 and T3 (similar values between T2 and T3). Muscle damage was the highest during post-RE recovery at T1, attenuated at T2 and further attenuated at T3. The change in MyoPS post-RE at both T2 and T3, but not at T1, was strongly correlated (r ≈ 0.9, P < 0.04) with muscle hypertrophy. Initial MyoPS response post-RE in an RT programme is not directed to support muscle hypertrophy, coinciding with the greatest muscle damage. However, integrated MyoPS is quickly 'refined' by 3 weeks of RT, and is related to muscle hypertrophy. We conclude that muscle hypertrophy is the result of accumulated intermittent changes in MyoPS post-RE in RT, which coincides with progressive attenuation of muscle damage.
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We reported, using a unilateral resistance training (RT) model, that training with high or low loads (mass per repetition) resulted in similar muscle hypertrophy and strength improvements in RT-naïve subjects. Here we aimed to determine whether the same was true in men with previous RT experience using a whole-body RT program and whether post-exercise systemic hormone concentrations were related to changes in hypertrophy and strength. Forty-nine resistance-trained men (mean ± SEM, 23 ± 1 y) performed 12 wk of whole-body RT. Subjects were randomly allocated into a higher-repetition (HR) group who lifted loads of ~30-50% of their maximal strength (1RM) for 20-25 repetitions/set (n=24) or a lower-repetition (LR) group (~75-90% 1RM, 8-12 repetitions/set, n=25), with all sets being performed to volitional failure. Skeletal muscle biopsies, strength testing, DXA scans, and acute changes in systemic hormone concentrations were examined pre- and post-training. In response to RT, 1RM strength increased for all exercises in both groups (p < 0.01), with only the change in bench press being significantly different between groups (HR: 9 ± 1 vs. LR: 14 ±1 kg, p = 0.012). Fat- and bone-free (lean) body mass, type I and type II muscle fibre cross sectional area increased following training (p < 0.01) with no significant differences between groups. No significant correlations between the acute post-exercise rise in any purported anabolic hormone and the change in strength or hypertrophy were found. In congruence with our previous work, acute post-exercise systemic hormonal rises are not related to or in any way indicative of RT-mediated gains in muscle mass or strength. Our data show that in resistance-trained individuals load, when exercises are performed to volitional failure, does not dictate hypertrophy or, for the most part, strength gains.
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Physical activity recommendations for public health include typically muscle-strengthening activities for a minimum of 2 days a week. The range of inter-individual variation in responses to resistance training (RT) aiming to improve health and well-being requires to be investigated. The purpose of this study was to quantify high and low responders for RT-induced changes in muscle size and strength and to examine possible effects of age and sex on these responses. Previously collected data of untrained healthy men and women (age 19 to 78 years, n = 287 with 72 controls) were pooled for the present study. Muscle size and strength changed during RT are 4.8 ± 6.1 % (range from −11 to 30 %) and 21.1 ± 11.5 % (range from −8 to 60 %) compared to pre-RT, respectively. Age and sex did not affect to the RT responses. Fourteen percent and 12 % of the subjects were defined as high responders (>1 standard deviation (SD) from the group mean) for the RT-induced changes in muscle size and strength, respectively. When taking into account the results of non-training controls (upper 95 % CI), 29 and 7 % of the subjects were defined as low responders for the RT-induced changes in muscle size and strength, respectively. The muscle size and strength responses varied extensively between the subjects regardless of subject’s age and sex. Whether these changes are associated with, e.g., functional capacity and metabolic health improvements due to RT requires further studies.
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The purpose of this manuscript is to discuss the adaptive responses (i.e., increases in strength and muscle mass) and motor unit (MU) recruitment resulting from resistance training (RT) to failure, providing rationale as to why RT to muscular failure might be unnecessary.
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Background It remains unclear whether repetitions leading to failure (failure training) or not leading to failure (non-failure training) lead to superior muscular strength gains during resistance exercise. Failure training may provide the stimulus needed to enhance muscular strength development. However, it is argued that non-failure training leads to similar increases in muscular strength without the need for high levels of discomfort and physical effort, which are associated with failure training. Objective We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the effect of failure versus non-failure training on muscular strength. Methods Five electronic databases were searched using terms related to failure and non-failure training. Studies were deemed eligible for inclusion if they met the following criteria: (1) randomised and non-randomised studies; (2) resistance training intervention where repetitions were performed to failure; (3) a non-failure comparison group; (4) resistance training interventions with a total of ≥3 exercise sessions; and (5) muscular strength assessment pre- and post-training. Random-effects meta-analyses were performed to pool the results of the included studies and generate a weighted mean effect size (ES). Results Eight studies were included in the meta-analysis (combined studies). Training volume was controlled in four studies (volume controlled), while the remaining four studies did not control for training volume (volume uncontrolled). Non-failure training resulted in a 0.6–1.3 % greater strength increase than failure training. A small pooled effect favouring non-failure training was found (ES = 0.34; p = 0.02). Significant small pooled effects on muscular strength were also found for non-failure versus failure training with compound exercises (ES = 0.37–0.38; p = 0.03) and trained participants (ES = 0.37; p = 0.049). A slightly larger pooled effect favouring non-failure training was observed when volume-uncontrolled studies were included (ES = 0.41; p = 0.047). No significant effect was found for the volume-controlled studies, although there was a trend favouring non-failure training. The methodological quality of the included studies in the review was found to be moderate. Exercise compliance was high for the studies where this was reported (n = 5), although limited information on adverse events was provided. Conclusion Overall, the results suggest that despite statistically significant effects on muscular strength being found for non-failure compared with failure training, the small percentage of improvement shown for non-failure training is unlikely to be meaningful. Therefore, it appears that similar increases in muscular strength can be achieved with failure and non-failure training. Furthermore, it seems unnecessary to perform failure training to maximise muscular strength; however, if incorporated into a programme, training to failure should be performed sparingly to limit the risks of injuries and overtraining.
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It has been proposed that skeletal muscle shows signs of resistance training (RT)-induced muscle hypertrophy much earlier (i.e., ~3-4 weeks of RT) than previously thought. We determined if early increases in whole muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) during a period of RT were concomitant with edematous muscle swelling and thus not completely attributable to hypertrophy. We analyzed vastus lateralis muscle ultrasound CSA images and their respective echo intensities (CSA-USecho) at the beginning (T1), in the 3rd week of RT (T2) and at the end (T3) of a 10-week RT period in ten untrained young men. Functional parameters [training volume (TV = load × reps × sets) and maximal voluntary contraction (MVC)] and muscle damage markers (myoglobin and interleukin-6) were also assessed. Muscle CSA increased significantly at T2 (~2.7 %) and T3 (~10.4 %) versus T1. Similarly, CSA-USecho increased at T2 (~17.2 %) and T3 (~13.7 %). However, when CSA-USecho was normalized to the increase in muscle CSA, only T2 showed a significantly higher USecho versus T1. Additionally, TV increased at T2 and T3 versus T1, but MVC increased only at T3. Myoglobin and Interleukin-6 were elevated at T2 versus T1, and myoglobin was also higher at T2 versus T3. We propose that early RT-induced increases in muscle CSA in untrained young individuals are not purely hypertrophy, since there is concomitant edema-induced muscle swelling, probably due to muscle damage, which may account for a large proportion of the increase. Therefore, muscle CSA increases (particularly early in an RT program) should not be labeled as hypertrophy without some concomitant measure of muscle edema/damage.
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The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of a protocol employing a combination of loading zones vs. one employing a constant medium-repetition loading zone on muscular adaptations in resistance-trained men. 19 trained men (height=176.9±7.0 cm; body mass=83.1±11.8 kg; age=23.3±2.9 years) were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 experimental groups: a constant-rep resistance training (RT) routine (CONSTANT) that trained using 8-12 RM per set, or a varied-rep RT routine (VARIED) that trained with 2-4 RM per set on Day 1, 8-12 RM per set on Day 2, and 20-30 RM on Day 3 for 8 weeks. Results showed that both groups significantly increased markers of muscle strength, muscle thickness, and local muscular endurance, with no differences noted between groups. Effect sizes favored VARIED over CONSTANT condition for elbow flexor thickness (0.72 vs. 0.57), elbow extensor thickness (0.77 vs. 0.48), maximal bench press strength (0.80 vs. 0.57), and upper body muscle endurance (1.91 vs. 1.28). In conclusion, findings indicate that both varied and constant loading approaches can promote significant improvements in muscular adaptations in trained young men. © Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York.