Planned Load Reduction Versus Fixed Load: A Strategy to Reduce the Perception of Effort With Similar Improvements in Hypertrophy and Strength

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To compare muscle thickness and 10-repetition maximum (10RM) between no load reduction and load reductions during 16 wk of resistance training. Methods: A total of 21 moderately trained men (age 23.2 [4.2] y, body mass 75.1 [7.6] kg, height 175 [4] cm) were randomized into 1 of 3 exercise groups: control (CON, n = 7), all sets with 10RM load; 5% load reduction (RED 5, n = 7); and 10% load reduction (RED 10, n = 7) for set 2 and set 3. The resistance training program consisted of completing 3 sets each of biceps and Scott curls, performed to volitional fatigue 3 d·wk−1. Results: Volume load lifted over the 16 wk was similar among groups (CON, 38,495 [4397] kg; RED 5, 37,388 [3684] kg; RED 10, 42,634 [6733] kg; P = .094). Muscle thickness increased in all groups (P < .001), with no differences noted among groups (P = .976). Biceps-curl and Scott-curl 10RM increased in all groups (P < .001), with no differences noted among groups (Scott curl P = .238; biceps curl P = .401). Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) was significantly lower for RED 10 (6.8 [0.1]) than for CON (7.0 [0.1]; P < .001) or RED 5 (7.1 [0.1]; P = .001) for the Scott curl. RPE was significantly lower (P = .001) for the biceps curl in RED 10 (6.8 [0.3]) than in CON (7.3 [0.9]), with neither group different from RED 5 (7.0 [0.1]). Conclusions: Load reduction did not yield a difference in hypertrophy or 10RM as compared with CON. However, RED 10 induced a significantly lower RPE. Thus, load reduction may be a beneficial strategy to reduce the perception of effort during training while achieving similar improvements in hypertrophy and strength.

Lima, Amancio, Gonçalves, and Machado are with the Laboratory of Physiology and Biokinetics, Iguaçu University, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Koch is with Lenoir Rhyne University, Hickory, NC. Curty is with the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Dept of Physiological Sciences, Federal University of Espírito Santo (UFES), Vitoria, Brazil, and the Dept of Physical Education, School of St Francis of Assisi, Santa Teresa, Brazil. Machado is with the Laboratory of Human Movement Studies, Universitary Foundation of Itaperuna (FUNITA), Itaperuna, Brazil.

Curty (victorcurty01@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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