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The purpose of the present study was to compare the changes in anthropometric measures and muscle performance in users and non-users of androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) performing resistance training (RT) programmes involving only multiple joint (MJ) exercises or a combination of MJ and single joint (SJ) exercises. Thirty recreational bodybuilders were divided into 4 groups: non-AAS users performing only MJ exercises (MJ), non-AAS users performing MJ + SJ (MJ + SJ), AAS users performing only MJ exercises (AAS − MJ) and AAS users performing MJ + SJ exercises (AAS − MJ + SJ). Before and after 8 weeks of training, the participants were tested for 10 repetition maximum (10RM) in different RT exercises. Flexed arm circumference (FAC), biceps and triceps skinfolds were measured. No interactions were found between time and the performance of SJ exercise in any variable (p > .05). However, there was a significant interaction between AAS use and time (p < .001), such that AAS users showed greater 10RM gains in all exercises, skinfold decreases and increases in FAC than non-users. In conclusion, our study shows that the addition of SJ exercises to MJ exercises brings no additional benefit in terms of muscle performance and anthropometric changes in trained men, either if they were using AAS or not. These results suggest that trained men can save time not including SJ in their routines and still achieve optimal results. Moreover, our results show that AAS use is associated with greater increases in muscle strength and FAC and greater reductions in biceps and triceps skinfold thickness.
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European Journal of Sport Science
ISSN: 1746-1391 (Print) 1536-7290 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tejs20
Single joint exercises do not provide benefits in
performance and anthropometric changes in
recreational bodybuilders
Matheus Barbalho, Victor Coswig, Rodolfo Raiol, James Fisher, James Steele,
Antonino Bianco & Paulo Gentil
To cite this article: Matheus Barbalho, Victor Coswig, Rodolfo Raiol, James Fisher, James
Steele, Antonino Bianco & Paulo Gentil (2019): Single joint exercises do not provide benefits in
performance and anthropometric changes in recreational bodybuilders, European Journal of Sport
Science, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2019.1611932
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1611932
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Published online: 09 May 2019.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Single joint exercises do not provide benefits in performance and
anthropometric changes in recreational bodybuilders
MATHEUS BARBALHO
1
, VICTOR COSWIG
2
, RODOLFO RAIOL
3
, JAMES FISHER
4
,
JAMES STEELE
4
, ANTONINO BIANCO
5
, & PAULO GENTIL
1
1
Faculdade de Educação Física e Dança, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiania, Brasil;
2
Faculdade de Educação Física,
Universidade Federal do Pará, Castanhal, Pará, Brasil;
3
Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Centro Universitário do
Estado do Pará, Belém, Pará, Brasil;
4
Centre for Health, Exercise and Sport Science, Southampton Solent University,
Southampton, UK &
5
Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Unit, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy
Abstract
The purpose of the present study was to compare the changes in anthropometric measures and muscle performance in users
and non-users of androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) performing resistance training (RT) programmes involving only
multiple joint (MJ) exercises or a combination of MJ and single joint (SJ) exercises. Thirty recreational bodybuilders were
divided into 4 groups: non-AAS users performing only MJ exercises (MJ), non-AAS users performing MJ + SJ (MJ + SJ),
AAS users performing only MJ exercises (AAS MJ) and AAS users performing MJ + SJ exercises (AAS MJ + SJ).
Before and after 8 weeks of training, the participants were tested for 10 repetition maximum (10RM) in different RT
exercises. Flexed arm circumference (FAC), biceps and triceps skinfolds were measured. No interactions were found
between time and the performance of SJ exercise in any variable (p> .05). However, there was a significant interaction
between AAS use and time (p< .001), such that AAS users showed greater 10RM gains in all exercises, skinfold decreases
and increases in FAC than non-users. In conclusion, our study shows that the addition of SJ exercises to MJ exercises
brings no additional benefit in terms of muscle performance and anthropometric changes in trained men, either if they
were using AAS or not. These results suggest that trained men can save time not including SJ in their routines and still
achieve optimal results. Moreover, our results show that AAS use is associated with greater increases in muscle strength
and FAC and greater reductions in biceps and triceps skinfold thickness.
Keywords: Muscle hypertrophy, muscle definition, resistance exercise, exercise selection, muscle strength
Highlights
.The addition of single exercises to multi joint exercises brings no additional benefit in terms of muscle performance and
anthropometric changes in trained men, irrespective of anabolic steroid use.
.Anabolic steroid use is associated with greater increases in muscle strength and flexed arm circumference and greater
reductions in biceps and triceps skinfold thickness.
.Trained men can save time not including single joint in their routines and still achieve optimal results.
Introduction
Resistance training (RT) has become a popular exer-
cise modality, usually performed to promote changes
in anthropometric measures, body composition and
performance (Hass, Feigenbaum, & Franklin,
2001). RT can be performed with multiple (MJ)
and single joint (SJ) exercises (Gentil, Fisher, &
Steele, 2017) and most popular recommendations
suggest that RT programmes should involve both
MJ and SJ (ACSM, 2009). The suggestion that the
addition of SJ exercises might be necessary to
provide optimal stimulation and thus adaptations,
especially to the arm muscles, is partially supported
by the current literature. In this regard, acute (Fer-
reira et al., 2017; Soares et al., 2015) and chronic
(Ogasawara, Thiebaud, Loenneke, Loftin, & Abe,
2012) studies suggest that arm muscles are not ade-
quately stimulated during MJ exercises. Taken
together, these suggest that MJ exercise might
promote a suboptimal stimulus for some muscles
© 2019 European College of Sport Science
Correspondence: M. Barbalho, Faculdade de Educação Física e Dança, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Goiania, Brasil. Email:
matheussmbarbalho@gmail.com
European Journal of Sport Science, 2019
https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1611932
and, therefore, the addition of SJ exercises might
improve muscle adaptations (Gentil, Fisher, et al.,
2017).
However, this hypothesis is challenged by studies
showing that SJ and MJ exercises promote similar
increases in muscle size and strength in young men
(Gentil, Soares, & Bottaro, 2015) and studies
showing that the addition of SJ exercises brings no
additional increases in muscle hypertrophy and
strength gains when compared to a programme invol-
ving only MJ exercises in untrained (Gentil et al.,
2013) and trained men (de Franca et al., 2015) and
women (Barbalho, Coswig, Raiol, Steele, Fisher,
Paoli, & Gentil, 2018). However, contradictory
results were reported by Barbalho et al. who found
greater increases in flexed arm circumference
(FAC) in untrained young women (Barbalho,
Gentil, et al., 2018) and men (Barbalho, Coswig,
Raiol, Steele, Fisher, Paoli, Bianco, et al., 2018) per-
forming a combination of MJ and SJ exercises when
compared to a group that performed only MJ
exercises.
Notwithstanding the conflict in scientific literature,
much of those who advocate for the inclusion of SJ
exercises allude to the observation of bodybuilding
practices as an argument. Indeed, bodybuilders,
who present impressive amounts of muscle mass,
usually include high volumes of SJ exercises in their
routines (de Souza, Santos, de Jesus, & Gentil,
2018; Gentil, Lira, et al., 2017; Hackett, Johnson,
& Chow, 2013; Viana et al., 2017). However, anec-
dotal evidence collected from bodybuilding might
be confounded by other factors, like the use of andro-
genic anabolic steroids (AAS), which has been shown
to increase muscle mass in response to RT (Bhasin
et al., 1996) and to alter body composition in
healthy young men even in the absence of RT
(Bhasin et al., 1996,2012). Therefore, it is not poss-
ible to isolate the influence of training strategies from
the use of AAS. On the other hand, it might be
suggested that, for people using AAS, the small
difference that would eventually occur with the
addition of SJ exercise might be potentialized, such
as to justify the addition of SJ exercise to that specific
group.
However, the interaction between the addition of
SJ exercise and the use of AAS has not been tested,
which leaves the topic open for speculation. If the
use of SJ exercises would not be necessary, even for
AAS users, many people might benefit by reducing
their training volumes, as previously suggested (de
Souza et al., 2018; Gentil, 2015; Gentil, Lira, et al.,
2017; Viana et al., 2017). However, if SJ exercises
bring additional benefits, its use might be justified
when the objective is to obtain maximal increases in
muscle size (Gentil, Lira, et al., 2017). Therefore,
the purpose of the present study was to compare the
effects on anthropometric measures and muscle per-
formance in users and non-users of AAS performing
RT programmes involving only MJ or MJ + SJ exer-
cises. Our hypothesis is there will be no difference
between the use of MJ or MJ + SJ; the use of AAS
will result in higher increases in muscle strength
and changes in body composition; there will be no
interaction between AAS use and the performance
of SJ exercises.
Materials and methods
Experimental overview
Thirty recreational bodybuilders with at least 3 years
of previous RT experience were divided into current
AAS users and non-AAS users before being random-
ized further into groups performing only MJ exercises
(AAS MJ and MJ groups), or performing MJ + SJ
exercises (AAS MJ + SJ and MJ + SJ groups).
Group allocation was counterbalanced according to
the initial FAC. Training followed a non-linear peri-
odization model for 8 weeks. Before and after the
training period, the participants were tested for 10
repetition maximum (10RM) in the bench press,
elbow extensors, lat pulldown, elbow flexors, leg
press, and knee extension exercises. FAC, biceps
and triceps skinfolds were also measured to evaluate
anthropometric changes. Training volume was not
equated, since the difference was inherent to the pro-
tocols and reflected the addition of SJ exercises.
Participants
Apriori sample analysis revealed that a total sample
of 24 participants would be necessary to detect an
effect size of 0.40, which was calculated based on a
partial η² of 0.14 to reach large effects, at an alpha
level of 0.05 and a power of 0.8 (GPower, Dussel-
dorf, Germany). Therefore, 30 participants were
recruited to account for eventual attrition. To partici-
pate in the study, volunteers had to be at least 18
years old and to not have any clinical conditions
that would limit their participation or could be aggra-
vated by the study protocol. Participants also had to
have performed RT uninterruptedly during the pre-
vious 3 years, at a frequency of at least 4 sessions
per week. Potential participants were screened in a
fitness centre commonly frequented by recreational
bodybuilders and the ones that met the inclusion cri-
teria were invited to participate in the study.
Minimum attendance was set at 80% based on pre-
vious findings (Gentil & Bottaro, 2013), but no par-
ticipant was excluded. After being informed of the
2M. Barbalho et al.
experimental procedures, its risks and benefits, the
participants signed an informed consent form. The
study was approved by the local Ethics Committee
and the experiment followed the recommendations
of the Declaration of Helsinki.
All the participants trained in the same facility,
which facilitated the control of their routines. The
information about their diets and AAS were obtained
directly from them and their coaches. The group that
reported to use AAS reported the use of 600 mg of
testosterone enanthate and 200 mg of stanozolol per
week during the whole training period. The research-
ers were not involved in the AAS prescription. All
participants followed a meal plan containing 45
g/kg of carbohydrates, 2.53 g/kg of protein and 1
g/kg of fat. Whilst the diet was not controlled by the
researchers, all participants declared to adherence
to the plan.
Assessments
Ten repetitions maximum test (10RM). Before and after
the intervention, participants performed 10RM tests
in the bench press, elbow extension, lat pulldown,
elbow flexion, leg press, and knee extension exercises
(Physicus, Pró; Auriflama, São Paulo, Brazil). Tests
were divided in 3 consecutive days. In the first day,
participants were tested for bench press and knee
extension; the second involved lat pulldown and
elbow flexion; and the third involved leg press and
elbow extension. We chose 10 RM instead of 1RM
because it seems more suitable to evaluate perform-
ance when training at higher repetition ranges
(Fisher, Steele, & Smith, 2017).
During the tests, participants warmed up with 10
repetitions at a comfortable self-selected load and
then rested for 5 min. After warming up the esti-
mated 10RM load was set based on the participants
training history. If the volunteer was not able to
perform 10 repetitions or performed more than 10
repetitions, the load was adjusted starting at 1 kg.
Rest between attempts was set at 5 min and no
more than three attempts were needed in any case.
The testretest intraclass correlation coefficient
(ICC) of this procedure was determined in our lab
prior to conducting the study by performing two
identical test sessions one week apart, the values
ranged between 0.95 and 0.98 ICC, with a CV of
2.84.7% for bench press, 6.88.6% for elbow
extension, 1.44.8% for lat pull down, 3.65.7%
for elbow flexion, 1.22.6% for leg press and 4.2
7.0% for knee extension.
Anthropometric measures. FAC, biceps and triceps
skinfold were measured on the right side of the
body during the first day of 10RM testing. The par-
ticipants were instructed to avoid RT for at least 3
days before the tests. For FAC, the arm was
raised to a horizontal position in the sagittal plane,
with the elbow at 90 degrees. The subject maxi-
mally contracted the elbow flexors, and the largest
circumference was measured. Biceps and triceps
skinfold were measured at the meso-humeral point
while the arm was in the anatomical position
hanging down the side of the body and relaxed
(Adip Plicometer Scientific Cescorf®, Porto
Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil). Three measures
were taken and the average of the values was used
during the analysis.
Training protocol. Training was performed 6 times a
week, divided in three different routines, as shown
in Table I. All participants were supervised and mon-
itored in all exercises, with a supervision ratio of at
least 1 supervisor to 5 trainees. The training pro-
gramme was intended to not differ much from the
participantsregular schedules yet permit the
researchers to have control over the training routines.
All groups performed the same MJ exercises, loads,
repetition ranges, set endpoints, and rest intervals,
differing only in the exclusion of some SJ exercises
for the MJ groups. Specific exercises were included
for plantar flexors and hamstrings to avoid potential
muscle imbalances, since they are not highly
involved in the MJ exercises used (Gentil, Lira,
et al., 2017). The protocol was based on a non-
linear periodization model as shown in Table I. Par-
ticipants were instructed to perform every set to
momentary failure as previously defined by Steele,
Fisher, Giessing, and Gentil (2017). When they
were able to perform more repetitions than
suggested, the load was increased for the next train-
ing session. The volunteers were instructed to main-
tain the cadence of two seconds for both the
concentric and eccentric phases, without pausing
between contractions.
Statistical analysis
Normality of the data was confirmed by the Kolmo-
gorovSmirnov test. All values are reported by
means ± standard deviation. The mean values were
compared using factorial ANOVA [exercise selection
(MJ vs. MJ + SJ) × AAS use (user vs. non-users) ×
time (pre vs. post)]. When necessary, multiple com-
parisons using the Bonferroni procedure were used
for post hoc comparisons. Statistical significance
was established as p< .05. Statistical analysis was
performed using SPSS version 20 (SPSS Inc,
Chicago, IL).
Single joint exercises do not provide benefits in performance and anthropometric changes 3
Results
Characteristics of the participants are shown in
Table II. There were no differences in any variable
between groups at baseline. There was a significant
increase in body mass for all groups (from 81.1 ±
3.3 to 83.2 ± 3.2 for MJ, from 83 ± 5.3 to 4.6 ± 5.2
for MJ + SJ, from 88.7 ± 3.7 to 93.2 ± 4.1 for AAS
MJ and from 85.7 ± 2.8 to 91.2 ± 3.1 kg for AAS
MJ + SJ). The mean total training load throughout
the period is presented as Supplementary file. The
MJ group showed significantly lower values of total
training load than other groups for sessions A, B
and C, while the training load of AAS MJ was
lower than MJ + SJ and AAS MJ + SJ, but only for
sessions C (Supplementary file 1.)
No interactions were found between time and the
performance of SJ in any variable (Table III).
However, there was a significant interaction
between AAS use and time (p< .001), such that
AAS users showed greater 10RM gains in all exer-
cises, as well as, greater skinfold decreases and
increases in FAC than non-users.
The reduction in biceps (from 5 ± 0.6 to 4.6 ± 0.7
for MJ, 5.3 ± 0.7 to 4.8 ± 0.7 for MJ + SJ, from 5.3
± 0.4 to 4.3 ± 0.4 for AAS MJ and from 5.2 ± 0.5
to 4.2 ± 0.4 for AAS MJ + SJ) and triceps (from 6
± 0.9 to 5.5 ± 0.8 for MJ, from 6.3 ± 0.9 to 5.8 ±
0.9 for MJ + SJ, 6.3 ± 0.5 to 5.2 ± 0.6 for AAS MJ
and from 6.1 ± 0.6 to 5.1 ± 0.6 for AAS MJ + SJ)
skinfolds and the increases in FAC (from 38.4 ± 0.6
to 38.9 ± 0.6 for MJ, from 38.6 ± 0.6 to 39.1 ± 0.6
for MJ + SJ, from 38.3 ± 0.7 to 39.4 ± 0.6 for AAS
MJ and from 38.5 ± 0.4 to 39.8 ± 0.4 for AAS
MJ + SJ) were significant for all groups and the
results for AAS MJ and AAS MJ + SJ were
higher than for both MJ and MJ + SJ (Figure 1).
Discussion
The present study compared muscle performance
and anthropometric changes in recreational body-
builders, both users and non-users of AAS that per-
formed RT programmes composed of only MJ or
MJ + SJ exercises. The results showed that the per-
formance of SJ exercises did not influence any of
the variables measured. However, the increases in
muscle performance and FAC, as well as, the
decreases in skinfold thickness were greater for the
AAS users, independent of the performance of SJ
exercises.
Our results are in agreement with those previously
reported by (de Franca et al., 2015), who compared
changes in upper limb muscle strength and size in
22 trained men performing RT programmes invol-
ving MJ or MJ + SJ exercises. The study lasted 8
weeks and each muscle was trained twice a week.
The changes in FAC for MJ and MJ + SJ were
similar to those found in the present study and were
not significantly different between groups (1.72%
and 1.45% for the MJ and MJ + SJ, respectively). In
Table I. Training programmes and periodization.
Monday/Thursday Thursday/Friday Wednesday/Saturday
Barbell bench press Lat pulldown 45° leg press
Inclined barbell bench press Seated row Barbell squat
Military press Upright barbell row Knee extension
Pulley elbow extensionBarbell elbow flexionCalf raise
Knee flexion
Weeks Repetitions Rest intervals
1 and 5 1215 RM 3060 s
2 and 6 46RM 34 min
3 and 7 1012 RM 12 min
4 and 8 68RM 23 min
Performed only by the MJ + SJ and AAS MJ + SJ group.
Table II. Characteristics of the participants.
Non-users AAS users
MJ (n= 8) MJ + SJ (n=8) MJ (n= 7) MJ + SJ (n=7)
Age (yrs) 23.1 ± 1.8 22.7 ± 1.4 22.8 ± 0.8 23.1 ± 1.3
Height (m) 178 ± 4.2 179.3 ± 5.3 181.2 ± 4.8 180.4 ± 3.2
Body Mass (kg) 81.1 ± 3.3 83 ± 5.3 88.7 ± 3.7 85.7 ± 2.8
Training Experience (yrs) 3.5 ± 0.8 3.5 ± 0.7 3.4 ± 0.8 3.5 ± 0.8
4M. Barbalho et al.
addition, both groups showed similar increases in
1RM for elbow flexion (4.99% and 6.42% for
groups MJ and MJ + SJ, respectively) and extension
(10.60% and 9.79% for MJ and MJ + SJ, respect-
ively). The present study brings new findings for
trained men, since lower body performance was
Table III. Anthropometric measures and performance tests.
Non-users AAS users Pvalues
MJ (n=8)
MJ + SJ
(n=8) MJ (n=7)
MJ + SJ
(n=7)
AAS
× time
Exercise
× time
AAS × exercise
× time
10 RM Bench Press (kg) Pre 93.5 ± 3.3 94.5 ± 2.5 95.4 ± 4.5 93.7 ± 2.6 <.001 .823 .823
Post 100.2 ± 3.7101.0 ± 2.8120.2 ± 3.9118.5 ± 3.2
10RM Elbow
extensors (kg)
Pre 41.2 ± 2.8 43.0 ± 3.7 42.2 ± 3.1 40.8 ± 3.4 <.001 .862 .862
Post 44.7 ± 3.146.6 ± 4.048.5 ± 3.447.1 ± 3.0
10RM Lat pull down (kg) Pre 70.5 ± 2.5 72.5 ± 3.4 73.1 ± 1.0 72.5 ± 2.2 <.001 .352 .352
Post 76.5 ± 3.177.0 ± 3.885.4 ± 1.984.8 ± 1.9
10RM Elbow flexors (kg) Pre 52.7 ± 2.3 54.5 ± 3.1 53.1 ± 1.9 51.7 ± 2.4 <.001 .495 .495
Post 55.5 ± 2.957.7 ± 3.161.7 ± 3.360.2 ± 3.5
10RM Leg Press (kg) Pre 171.2 ± 2.8 172.7 ± 4.5 173.4 ± 2.2 172.8 ± 2.7 <.001 .136 .678
Post 187.0 ± 2.8186.7 ± 4.7206.5 ± 3.5205.0 ± 5.3
10RM Knee
Extension (kg)
Pre 55.2 ± 2.3 55.0 ± 3.8 58.0 ± 2.8 56.2 ± 2.9 <.001 .145 .921
Post 59.0 ± 2.158.2 ± 4.366.5 ± 2.964.2 ± 3.9
Arm circumference (cm) Pre 38.42 ± 0.65 38.61 ± 0.61 38.38 ± 0.71 38.58 ± 0.47 <.001 .157 .432
Post 38.96 ± 0.6239.18 ± 0.6139.47 ± 0.6639.80 ± 0.48
Triceps skinfold (mm) Pre 6.05 ± 0.90 6.36 ± 0.91 6.31 ± 0.58 6.15 ± 0.61 <.001 .373 .143
Post 5.57 ± 0.865.86 ± 0.925.22 ± 0.655.17 ± 0.68
Biceps skinfold (mm) Pre 5.05 ± 0.69 5.31 ± 0.72 5.34 ± 0.48 5.24 ± 0.50 <.001 .918 .45
Post 4.62 ± 0.714.85 ± 0.704.30 ± 0.444.22 ± 0.44
Statistically different from the correspondent pre value (p< .05).
Statistically different from non-AAS users in the same moment (p< .05).
Figure 1. Changes in flexed arm circumference, biceps and triceps skinfolds (means and standard deviations). Note: MJ Non-androgen
anabolic steroids users performing only multiple joint exercises. MJ + SJ Non-androgen anabolic steroids users performing multiple and
single joint exercises. AAS MJ Androgen anabolic steroids users performing only multiple joint exercises. AAS MJ + SJ Androgen ana-
bolic steroids users performing multiple and single joint exercises.
Single joint exercises do not provide benefits in performance and anthropometric changes 5
also examined. Our data showed that the addition of
SJ did not bring benefit in muscle performance for leg
press and knee extension 10RM, which is similar to
previously reported in untrained women (Barbalho,
Gentil, et al., 2018).
Our results confirm previous findings that the
addition of SJ exercises to a MJ training programme
did not promote additional benefits in performance
even when the tests involved SJ movements (Bar-
balho, Gentil, et al., 2018; de Franca et al., 2015;
Gentil et al., 2015,2013; Paoli, Gentil, Moro, Mar-
colin, & Bianco, 2017). This might occur because
SJ movements are relatively simple tasks that do not
have a high reliance on motor learning; therefore,
the performance of specific SJ exercises to optimize
their performance may be unnecessary. Although
the use of 10RM test, instead of 1RM or isokinetic
tests, might have affected the results, it is important
to note that previous studies using 1RM tests (de
Franca et al., 2015) and isokinetic dynamometry
(Gentil et al., 2013) did not find differences
between MJ and MJ + SJ.
The higher gains in muscle performance, FAC,
and decreases in skinfold thickness seen in AAS
users are in agreement with previous literature.
Regarding the reduction in skinfold thickness, pre-
vious studies have shown that endogenous testoster-
one is associated with fat loss in response to RT
(Kvorning, Andersen, Brixen, & Madsen, 2006),
while others reported body fat reductions with supra-
physiological doses of AAS healthy people whether
they performed RT (Hartgens et al., 2001) or not
(Bhasin et al., 2012). The increases in FAC due to
AAS might be associated with its anabolic effects, as
commonly reported in the literature (Bhasin et al.,
1996,2012). While the increases in muscle perform-
ance might be associated with muscle hypertrophy
(Storer et al., 2003), there is also evidence that AAS
might increase strength by other mechanisms, like
changes in muscle architecture (Blazevich & Giorgi,
2001).
Another point of view for the higher gains in AAS
users is based on the improved performance and
recovery (Cheung & Grossmann, 2018), which
would allow them to train more frequently and at
higher volumes. Interestingly, in our study AAS
users performed higher total training volumes than
non-users. Whilst the association between increases
in training volume and increases in muscle strength
are controversial (Steele, Fisher, Assunção, Bottaro,
& Gentil, 2017), the higher performance due to
AAS use might help to explain our results.
Whilst a detailed analysis of the side effects caused
by AAS abuse is beyond the scope of the present
study, it is important to highlight that AAS has been
associated with many important health risks. For
example, AAS is associated with increased risk of
myocardial infarctions, alterations in serum lipids
(decreased HDL and increased LDL), elevation in
blood pressure and increased risk of thrombosis
(Hoffman & Ratamess, 2006). Previous studies
reported that bodybuilders using AAS showed
resting systolic blood pressure values higher than
optimal (Gentil, Lira, et al., 2017) and markers of
liver damage (de Souza et al., 2018). Certainly, not
all users will experience all side effects, and many
effects might not be obvious. Indeed, the lack of
long term controlled trials examining AAS renders
it difficult to know with confidence the adverse
event rates. However, it is important to emphasize
that an attitude of invulnerability to the AAS risks is
perhaps misguided, and despite the relatively clear
benefits to certain aspects of body composition and
performance, the precautionary principle should
perhaps be emphasized in the absence of evidence.
An important limitation of the present study was
the use of anthropometric measures. Previous
studies have suggested that SJ and MJ exercises
resulted in different patterns of muscle hypertrophy
(Wakahara et al., 2012; Wakahara, Fukutani, Kawa-
kami, & Yanai, 2013). Therefore, it might be possible
that our results are limited to the region analysed and
not necessarily representative of the response of the
whole muscle. It is important to note that measures
of arm girth are popular and reliable methods for esti-
mating changes in muscle size during RT (Cureton,
Collins, Hill, & McElhannon Jr., 1988; de Franca
et al., 2015) and, whilst one may argue that more sen-
sitive methods would show different results, the prac-
tical relevance of such difference is questionable.
Conclusion
In conclusion, our study shows that the addition of SJ
exercises to an RT programme that already contains
MJ exercises brings no additional benefit in terms
of muscle performance and anthropometric changes
in trained men, whether they were using AAS or
not. These results might help to design more time-
efficient RT programmes, since it suggests that
trained men can save time not including SJ in their
routines and still achieve optimal results. For those
interested in bodybuilding recreationally who,
unlike professionals, may be unable to dedicate con-
siderable time to the pursuit these findings are poten-
tially valuable. Moreover, our results show that AAS
use is associated with greater increases in muscle
strength and FAC, as well as, greater reductions in
biceps and triceps skinfold thickness. Therefore,
caution is urged before using anecdotal evidence
and/or reproducing the practices of people using
6M. Barbalho et al.
AAS, since their results may not necessarily be due
solely to the use of SJ exercises, but rather to the
use of AAS.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Supplemental data
Supplemental data for this article can be accessed at
https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1611932
ORCID
Victor Coswig http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5461-
7119
James Steele http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8003-0757
Paulo Gentil http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2459-
4977
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8M. Barbalho et al.
... General recommendations postulate that RT sessions should involve both multi-joint (MJ) and singlejoint (SJ) exercises, where the MJ exercise involve more than one joint acting dynamically and target several muscle groups at a time, whereas the SJ exercise involve one joint acting dynamically and target a primary muscle group (1). Although some studies support this recommendation and have demonstrated greater increases in arm circumference with combined MJ plus SJ exercises (5,7), others have challenged this suggestion showing that MJ and SJ exercises promote similar gains in muscle strength and hypertrophy in untrained individuals (15) and that the addition of SJ exercises to MJ exercises does not elicit additional muscular adaptations in untrained (16) or trained individuals (6,11) or even bodybuilders (4). ...
... A number of points, however, need to be considered in the interpretation of the aforementioned results. Some studies assessed muscle thickness of the elbow flexors with B-mode ultrasound (15,16), whereas others used arm circumference measurements (4)(5)(6)(7)11). Because all studies were conducted involving exercises for both flexor and extensor muscles of the elbow joint and circumference measures are not able to separately discriminate the increase in the size of these muscles, it remains inconclusive as to the isolated and combined effects of MJ and SJ exercises on muscle hypertrophy when assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which has high reliability values (i.e., coefficient of variation [CV] ,1%) and is considered the gold-standard assessment of whole muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) (29). ...
... It is noteworthy that most studies investigating the combined performance of MJ and SJ exercises (4)(5)(6)(7)11,16) used arm circumference measures during RT programs comprising exercises also involving the elbow extensors muscles. This is problematic because (a) circumference measures are known for their poor internal validity (36) and (b) the increased arm circumference may have been influenced by increase of the flexors and extensors muscles, not evaluated separately in these studies. ...
Article
Brandão, L, de Salles Painelli, V, Lasevicius, T, Silva-Batista, C, Brendon, H, Schoenfeld, BJ, Aihara, AY, Cardoso, FN, de Almeida Peres, B, and Teixeira, EL. Varying the order of combinations of single- and multi-joint exercises differentially affects resistance training adaptations. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2020-Our study aimed to compare the effects of multi-joint (MJ) and single-joint (SJ) exercises, either isolated or in combination, and in different orders, on cross-sectional area (CSA) of the pectoralis major (PM) and different heads of the triceps brachii (TB), as well as on the one-repetition maximum (1-RM) in the bench press and lying barbell triceps press. Forty-three young men were randomly assigned to one of 4 possible RT protocols: barbell bench press plus lying barbell triceps press (MJ + SJ, n = 12); lying barbell triceps press plus barbell bench press (SJ + MJ, n = 10); barbell bench press (MJ, n = 10); or lying barbell triceps press (SJ, n = 11). Results showed significant within-group increases in 1-RM bench press for MJ, MJ + SJ, and SJ + MJ but not for SJ. Conversely, significantly greater within-group increases in elbow extension 1-RM were noted for SJ, MJ + SJ, and SJ + MJ but not for MJ. Significantly greater increases in PM CSA were observed for MJ, MJ + SJ, and SJ + MJ compared with SJ. Significant increases in TB CSA were noted for SJ, MJ + SJ, and SJ + MJ, but not for MJ, without observed between-group differences. Individual analysis of TB heads showed significantly greater CSA increases in the lateral head for MJ, MJ + SJ, and SJ + MJ compared with SJ. Alternatively, significantly greater increases in the long head were observed for SJ, MJ + SJ, and SJ + MJ compared with MJ. CSA increases for the medial head were statistically similar between conditions. Our findings indicate that muscular adaptations are differentially affected by performance of MJ and SJ exercises.
... to a MJ protocol does not promote further benefits to muscle strength and hypertrophy in both resistance trained [9][10][11] and untrained individuals [12]. There is also evidence that MJ exercises might be more effective to increase overall muscle strength due to the higher weight that can be utilized [13,14]. ...
... Regarding muscle hypertrophy, there are inconsistent findings when SJ is added to MJ exercise in untrained subjects [12,15]. However, studies in trained participants suggest that performance of MJ exercises provide optimal gains in muscle hypertrophy and the addition of SJ may not provide further benefit [9][10][11]16]. It is important to remember that the present study did not specifically evaluate the effect of adding SJ to MJ, but its concomitant use, making it difficult to compare with previous studies. However, our findings are in agreement with Gentil et al. [8] which found similar increases in muscle thickness for biceps brachii between MJ and SJ in untrained men and also to Paoli et al. [14] that suggest that performing MJ exercises results in higher increases in muscle strength in MJ exercises than performing SJ. ...
Article
The study compared the effects of resistance training programs composed by multi-joint (MJ), single-joint (SJ) and the combination of multi- and single-joint (MJ+SJ) exercises on muscle strength and hypertrophy in trained women. Thirty participants were divided into groups that performed only MJ exercises, SJ exercises and MJ+SJ exercises for six months. Participants were tested for 1-repetition maximum (RM) and muscle thickness (MT) before and after the intervention. All groups showed significant gains on 1RM tests from pre- to post-training (P<0.01). However, MJ and MJ+SJ groups obtained greater gains in 1RM for the MJ exercises in comparison with the SJ group. Increases in 1RM for the SJ exercises were similar among groups, with the exception of leg curl, where the SJ group obtained greater gains than MJ and MJ+SJ. All groups obtained significant increases in MT from pre- to post-training for all muscle groups. However, MJ and MJ+SJ groups presented greater increases in gluteus maximus, quadriceps femoris and pectoralis major in comparison with the SJ group. Therefore, our results suggest that, in general, performing MJ exercises seems to be necessary to obtain optimal results from a resistance training program; however SJ might be necessary to provide optimal strength gains in knee flexion.
... Accordingly, several studies have compared hypertrophic changes involving MJ versus SJ exercise. Barbalho and colleagues carried out a series of 8-week experiments on the topic that involved a variety of different populations including untrained young men [51], untrained young women [52], young women with previous resistance training experience [53], and young men with previous resistance training experience [54]. Results of these studies were somewhat disparate. ...
... Alternatively, resistance-trained women showed similar increases in flexed arm circumference regardless of whether subjects performed SJ + MJ versus just MJ (1.5% MJ and 1.6% MJ + SJ), suggesting that previous resistance training experience may negate any hypertrophic advantage of SJ exercises [53]. In support of this hypothesis, both Barbalho et al. [54] and De Franca et al. [55] reported similar increases in flexed arm circumference following 8-week RT programs in cohorts of resistance-trained men regardless of whether they performed MJ + SJ or MJ alone. It should be noted that the volume between conditions was not equated in the majority of these studies. ...
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... For upper body muscles, it has been well established that SJ and MJ promote similar levels of muscle activation [15,16], as well as similar increases in muscle 2 of 10 size and strength [17,18]. Moreover, other studies showed that, in general, the addition of SJ exercises to an RT program involving MJ exercises might not be necessary to bring optimal results in terms of muscle size and strength [19][20][21][22][23][24]. This brought the suggestion that one can chose between SJ and MJ based on personal preferences and practical aspects, without any negative impact on the results obtained from the intervention. ...
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Barbalho, M, Gentil, P, Raiol, R, Fisher, J, Steele, J, and Coswig, V. Influence of adding single-joint exercise to a multijoint resistance training program in untrained young women. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2018-The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of adding single-joint (SJ) exercises to a multijoint (MJ) resistance training (RT) program on muscle strength and anthropometric measures of young women. Twenty untrained women were divided into a group that performed only MJ exercises or a group that performed both SJ and MJ exercises (MJ + SJ). Before and after 8 weeks of training, the participants were tested for 10 repetition maximum (10RM). Flexed arm circumference and triceps and biceps skinfold thickness were also measured. Both groups significantly decreased biceps (-3.60% for MJ and -3.55% for MJ + SJ) and triceps skinfold (-3.05% for MJ and -2.98% for MJ + SJ), with no significant difference between them. Flexed arm circumference significantly increased in both groups; however, increases in MJ + SJ (4.39%) were significantly greater than MJ (3.50%). Increases in 10RM load in elbow extension (28.2% for MJ and 28.0% for MJ + SJ), elbow flexion (29.8% for MJ and 28.7% for MJ + SJ), and knee extension (26.92% for MJ and 23.86% for MJ + SJ) were all significant and not different between groups. The results showed that adding SJ exercises to an MJ RT program resulted in no benefits in muscle performance or anthropometric changes in untrained women.
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