|Should she drop the weight and add another set? Whether dropsets are superior to regular workouts is unfortu-nately a question the study at hand cannot answer. To learn more, you should read the information in the red box.|
The study was published ahead of print a few days ago and deals with the "[e]ffect of creatine supplementation and drop-set resistance training in untrained aging adults" (Johannsmeyer. 2016). More specifically, the objective of the study was to investigate the effects of creatine supplementation and drop-set resistance training in untrained aging adults. What the study did not do, unfortunately, is to compare drop-set to regular training... bummer.
Unfortunately, the participants were randomized one of only two groups: Creatine (CR: n = 14, 7 females, 7 males; 58.0 ± 3.0 yrs, 0.1 g/kg/day of creatine + 0.1 g/kg/day of maltodextrin) or Placebo (PLA: n = 17, 7 females, 10 males; age: 57.6 ± 5.0 yrs, 0.2 g/kg/day of maltodextrin) during 12 weeks of drop-set resistance training (3 days/week; 2 sets of leg press, chest press, hack squat and lat pull-down exercises performed to muscle fatigue at 80% baseline 1- repetition maximum [1-RM] immediately followed by repetitions to muscle fatigue at 30% baseline 1- RM). A non-dropset control and non-dropset creatine group were missing, though.
Practically speaking, this means that all subjects did the same "Drop-Set Resistance Training Program" where every set was performed to muscle fatigue (defined as the inability to perform the concentric phase of a muscle contraction; Candow et al., 2011), the scientists describe as follows:
What is a bit odd, is the fact that the training load was not increased over the the 12 weeks of training and supplementation, as the purpose of the study was to overload the upper and lower body musculature by increasing the number of repetitions performed to muscle fatigue - not by increasing weights / loads.
"Dietary intake was recorded during the first and final week of supplementation and resistance training to assess differences in total energy and macronutrient composition between groups. Participants used a 3 day food booklet to record food intake for two weekdays and one weekend day. Participants were instructed to record all food items, including portion sizes consumed for the three designated days" (Joannesmeyer. 2016).Next to body composition, strength and the training loads, the scientists also tested the levels of 3-methylhistidine (3-MH), an indicator of muscle protein breakdown which is (obviously) of particular importance for potentially catabolic elderly muscle.
|Figure 2: Lean mass (kg) and protein breakdown (3MH) before and after the 12 week study (Johannesmeyer. 2016).|
This doesn't change the fact that there's only little evidence that drop sets work: Goto et al. (2003) who had initially observed a sign. increase in GH when they had their subjects to extra low-intensity sets (50% of 1RM) immediately after the performance of a high-intensity sets, for example, observed in a follow up study (Goto. 2004) that drop setting resulted in a significant increase in the muscle CSA as opposed to doing the standardized baseline strength training program, alone. In contrast to the Fisher study, the training volume was not controlled for by Goto et al. (2004), though. Eventually it's thus not unlikely that it all came back to the benefits of an increased training volume - an advantage of which the Goto study also suggests that it exists only if the volume is rather low (strength phase vs. hypertrophy phase in the figure above).
|Table 1: Total calorie (kcal/day) and macronutrient (g/day) content of the CR and PLA group for 3 days during the first and final week of supplementation and resistance training (Johannesmeyer. 2016).|
- Bubbico, Aaron, and Len Kravitz. "Muscle hypertrophy: New insights and training recommendations." IDEA Fitness Journal 2326 (2011).
- Fisher, James P., Luke Carlson, and James Steele. "The Effects of Breakdown Set Resistance Training on Muscular Performance and Body Composition in Young Men and Women." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 30.5 (2016): 1425-1432.
- Goto, K., K. Sato, and K. Takamatsu. "A single set of low intensity resistance exercise immediately following high intensity resistance exercise stimulates growth hormone secretion in men." Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness 43.2 (2003): 243.
- Goto, Kazushige, et al. "Muscular adaptations to combinations of high-and low-intensity resistance exercises." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18.4 (2004): 730-737.
- Johannsmeyer, Sarah, Candow, Darren G., Brahms, C. Markus, Michel, Deborah, Zello, Gordon A. "Effect of creatine supplementation and drop-set resistance training in untrained aging adults." Experimental Gerontology (2016) - Published ahead of print on Aug 11 (doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2016.08.005).