|Figure 1: Outline of the HRC protocol|
used by in the study.
Alcarez et al. recruited 33 healthy men, who "had been regularly performing resistance training (RT) in a gymnasium (e.g., ca. 6–12 repetitions per set, 3 sets per exercise, 2–4 d/week" (in other words recreational weight lifters) and assigned them to one of two training regimens:
- High resistance circuit training (HRC): 2x 3-6 circuits à three exercises with 5 minutes rest between circuit I and circuit II. There was a bi-weekly progression from 1 to 2 to 3 rounds on each of the two circuits. This means that in their 3 workouts per week (at least one rest-day in-between) the subjects performed 18-36 sets per workout of 6 repetitions at 85%-90% of their individual 1RMmax [1RMmax = maximal weight a person can perform a single repetition with adequate form with] with roughly 35 seconds 'rest' between exercises (this was the time it took them to move from one exercise to the next). Notwithstanding the high workload, each of these workouts took them only 55min-78min to complete.
- Traditional strength training (TS): For the same exercises that were used in circuit I and II in the HRC group (cf. figure 1), the subjects in the TS group performed 2x warm-up sets at 10 and 8 repetitions of the 6% max (1 minute rest in-between) followed by 3 sets of 6 repetitions at 85%-90% of their individual 1RMmax. Due to the one minute rest between individual sets, as well as the 5-minute pause in between exercises 1-3 and exercises 4-6, the supervised workouts of the TS group were on average 125min long.
The eccentric phase of each exercise was performed for approximately 3 seconds, whereas the concentric phase was performed at maximum velocity. This sequence was standardized in the ﬁrst training week and eccentric phase duration was regularly timed as feedback for the subjects.In that, what the subjects did was fundamentally different from what I am (unfortunately) forced to look at day in and day out in my gym: people just moving weights instead of training muscles for strength or hypertrophy. With an emphasis on the explosiveness of the concentric part (where push / pulling the weight) of the movement and an accentuation of the deceleration in the course of the 3 second eccentric part (where lowering of the weight) of the exercise, you do just that - you train your muscle for strength and hypertrophy. The data in figure 2 underlines that this strategy works, regardless of whether you stick to the classical strength training protocol with longer rest periods (TS) or if you innovate your training by integrating some explosive strength circles.
|Figure 2: Bench press concentric peak power [in W] increase measured for different loads (45%, 60% and 80% of 1RMmax) after 8 weeks on a traditional or a high resistance circuit training program (data adapted from Alcarez. 2011)|
|Figure 3: Changes in fat and lean body mass [in kg] after 8 weeks on a traditional vs. a high resistance circuit strength training protocol (data adapted from Alcarez. 2011)|
Note: I think I do not have to tell you, the educated readership of the SuppVersity, that it goes without saying that it is very likely (yet still warrants scientific validation) that high resistance circuit training will also produce better results in terms of body (re-)composition (less fat, more muscle) than cardio training (cf. Exercise! Beneficial Effects of Resistance Training on Variables of General Health) or dieting (cf. Calorie Restriction vs. Exercise for Optimal Body Composition?), alone.Consequently, the conclusions of the authors, that the gains in strength and body composition in the HCR group "are identical to those obtained with traditional, heavy strength training" is spot on: In the end, it is probably all about your personal training-philosophy, -style and -preference what will work better for you as an individual. One thing you should keep in mind though is to explode on the way up and slow down on the way down; or, in other words, Add high resistance circuit training to your repertoire, if you will, but don't forget: Train the muscle, don't just move the weight!