Power Up Your Body Composition: 6 Week Power-Based Complex Training Cuts 8% Body Fat in Female & 3% in Male Trained Football Players Without Restrictive Dieting

When plyometrics are involved, trainees usually lose more fat than on regular RT regimen.
"8% Body Fat in 6 Weeks!" It sounds like the headline of one of the hilarious articles in women's magazines, but it's the result of an experiment that was conducted by researchers from the Lamar University and the Baylor University in the US and the Hallym University in China (Miller. 2014). An experiment that revolved around a supervised 6-week training which consisted of a variety of Olympicstyle and traditional weightlifting movements and plyometrics (see Table 1) and involved 12 female and 9 male football players between the ages of 18 and 23 years.

Before we get too excited about the results, let's first take a closer look at what exactly the study participants did or didn't do. What they didn't do was dieting. There is no mention of either the overall energy intake or the intake of particular foods, food groups or macros being limited or controlled.
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What was controlled, however, was the supervised power-oriented exercise regimen that included olympic-style weightlifting, traditional weightlifting, plyometrics, supplemental movements as they are done by many people in the gym and a cool down in form of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PF).
Table 1: Power-based complex training (PCT) program - Note. RDL = Romanian deadlift; PNF = proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (Miller. 2014)
The three supervised workouts per week were arranged in a way that ensured that the overall load would change from week to week according to a linear undulating periodization scheme (week 1: 70%, 1RM; week 2: 80% 1RM; week 3; 75% 1RM; week 4: 90% 1RM; week 5: 80% 1RM; week 6: 95% 1RM - obviously a power workout ;-) and the pre and post body composition values were measured by the means of a comparatively accurate, yet compared to DEXA scans still inaccurate (spec. with respect to the absolute values) body impedance system.
Figure 1: Relative changes in body composition (left) and performance parameters (right) after 6 weeks of power-based complex training (Miller. 2014).
As the results in Figure 1 indicate both the increases in strength and body composition were significant - a bit more impressive, though, for the female participants. An observation that goes for the increases in clean, incline press, and squat performance, as well. 
"Both males and females significantly improved upper and lower body strength following the 6-week PCT program: 1) clean [males: +10.47% or +12.53 kg (from 119.70 ± 11.73 to 132.22 ± 10.88 kg, p = 0.001) and females: +19.98% or +8.94 kg (from 44.74 ± 7.34 to 53.67 ± 7.35 kg, p = 0.001)], 2) incline press [males: +8.81% or +9.85 kg (from 111.87 ± 14.36 to 121.72 ± 15.50 kg, p = 0.021) and females: +8.93% or +2.84 kg (from 31.82 ± 4.33 to 34.66 ± 5.75 kg, p = 0.002)], and 3) squat [males: +13.17% or +19.95 kg (from 151.51 ± 16.31 to 171.46 ± 21.92 kg, p = 0.002) and females: +17.44% or +11.1 kg (from 63.64 ± 7.63 to 74.74 ± 10.26 kg, p = 0.001)]. A post-training percent change in clean for females was significantly greater (19.98 vs. 10.47%, p = 0.009) than males, whereas the other post-training percent changes in incline press and squat were not significantly different between males and females." (Miller. 2014)
Impressed? Well, this is not the first study to show that women respond particularly well to any type resistance training.

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In 2009 and 2012 Prestes et al. and Lima et al. were able to show that both recreationally-trained and untrained young women significantly changed body composition following the 12- week resistance training. More specifically, the recreationally-trained women in the study by Lima et al. lost -2.39 kg of pure fat and reduced their body fat percentage by 3.82%, while they increased their total muscle mass by +3.07 kg. Similarly, a significant decrease in % BF (up to 12.73%) and fat mass (up to 9.32%) and an increase in muscle mass (up to 4.73%) were observed in the untrained women following a 12-week resistance training, which was composed of multiple sets of muscular endurance training in the study by Lima et al.

As a frequent SuppVersity reader (shame on you if you are not here every day ;-) you will also know that 10-weeks of a crossfit-based high-intensity helped the male and female participants of a study by Smith et al. (2013) shred 8% body fat - and that despite the fact that they were, unlike the ladies & gents in the study at hand, already at a mean body fat percentage of only 16% (read up on that study)!
Why didn't this work for men? If you look at the data in Figure 1 you will realize that the protocol did work, but due to the fact that most of the male football players have been participating in some forms of heavy resistance program for several years, the growth stimulus was comparatively low - a hypothesis that would be corroborated by the principles outlined in the latest position stand of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM. 2009).
Step off the treadmill, ladies! If the previously cited evidence is still not enough to have you reconsider your cardio excesses, the results of one of the few review studies that focus specifically on young female athletes. The study by Wilmore et al. (1982) indicates that even athletic women can increase their muscle mass up to 1.5 kg (average of 0.3 kg) and decrease % BF up to -2.1% (average of -0.4%), when they drop the running and pick up the weights.

Obviously, men can benefit as well. For them Wilmore et al. report a maximal gain of 1.4 kg (average of 0.8 kg) and a -3.0 % (average of -1.7%) reduction in body weight - and that despite the fact that the majority of studies Wilmore et al. reviewed back in the late 1980s did not use what we today would call "highly intense, high volume" resistance training protocols.

Don't get me wrong, I don't say "drop the cardio altogether", but a training regimen without resistance training component is not going to yield the results both male & female trainees aspire | Comment on FB.
  • American College of Sports Medicine. "American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 41.3 (2009): 687.
  • de Lima, C., et al. "Linear and Daily Undulating Resistance Training Periodizations Have Differential Beneficial Effects in Young Sedentary Women." International journal of sports medicine 33.9 (2012): 723. 
  • Miller, Joshua, Yunsuk Koh, and Chan-Gil Park. "Effects of Power-based Complex Training on Body Composition and Muscular Strength in Collegiate Athletes." American Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 2.5 (2014): 202-207.
  • Prestes, Jonato, et al. "Comparison of linear and reverse linear periodization effects on maximal strength and body composition." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 23.1 (2009): 266-274.
  • Smith, Michael M., et al. "Crossfit-based high-intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 27.11 (2013): 3159-3172.
  • Wilmore, Jack H. "Body composition in sport and exercise: directions for future research." Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 15.1 (1982): 21-31.
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