Evidence of a Ceiling Effect for Training Volume in Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength in Trained Men—Less is More?

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To compare the effects of different resistance training volumes on muscle performance and hypertrophy in trained men. Methods: Thirty-seven volunteers performed resistance training for 24 weeks, divided into groups that performed 5 (G5), 10 (G10), 15 (G15), and 20 (G20) sets per muscle group per week. Ten-repetition maximum (10RM) tests were performed for the bench press, lat pulldown, 45° leg press, and stiff-legged deadlift. Muscle thickness was measured using ultrasound at biceps brachii, triceps brachii, pectoralis major, quadriceps femoris, and gluteus maximus. All measurements were performed at the beginning (pre), 12 (mid), and 24 weeks (post) of training. Results: All groups showed significant increases in all 10RM tests and muscle thickness measures after 12 and 24 weeks when compared with pre (P < .05). There were no significant differences in any 10RM test or changes between G5 and G10 after 12 and 24 weeks. G5 and G10 showed significantly greater increases for 10RM than G15 and G20 for most exercises at 12 and 24 weeks. There was no group by time interaction for any muscle thickness measure. Conclusions: The results bring evidence of an inverted “U-shaped” curve for the dose–response curve for muscle strength. Although the same trend was noted for muscle hypertrophy, the results did not reach significance. Five to 10 sets per week might be sufficient for bringing about optimal gains in muscle size and strength in trained men over a 24-week period.

Barbalho is with the Centro de Ciências Biológicas e da Saúde, Universidade da Amazônia, Belém, Pará, Brazil. Barbalho and Gentil are with FEFD - Faculdade de Educação Física e Dança, Universidade Federal de Goiás - UFG, Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil. Coswig is with the Faculdade de Educação Física, Universidade Federal do Pará, Castanhal, Pará, Brazil. Steele and Fisher are with the School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences, Southampton Solent University, Southampton, United Kingdom. Steele is also with ukactive Research Inst, London, United Kingdom. Giessing is with the Inst of Sport Science, University of Koblenz-Landau, Landau, Germany.

Barbalho (matheussmbarbalho@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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