Sunday, January 8, 2017

Pyramid-, Synergistic & Antagonistic Supersetting - How do Experienced Resistance Trainees' Brain & Brawn React?

While all subjects in the study at hand were men, there's no reason to believe that the results for women would be fundamentally different.
Ok, let's get the most significant message out right away: the study at hand will not be able to tell you which of the four regimens (the fourth being traditional training) is going to maximize your individual 2017 gains. What it will and does do, however, is to remind you that advanced training techniques like super setting, where you do exercises back to back without more rest than it takes to transit from A to B, are called "advanced": Why's that? Well, because they will certainly put and "advanced" load on your central nervous system, pushing the boundaries so much that one could argue that they could make you more prone to overtraining and its ill effects on performance, physique, thyroid, testosterone and more...
No matter how you train. You must periodize appropriately to maximize your gains!

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Linear vs. Undulating Periodization

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Tapering 101 - Learn How It's Done!
What? Yes, you cannot train to failure and with a volume of 40 sets daily - probably not even if you're doing drugs. But before we got lost in the implications, let's rather take a look at the latest study from Spain. After all, it has more to offer than a warning you all have read before:
Synergistic vs. Antagonistic Supersetting - Is One a Better Fat Burner? Rather NOT, Data From New Study Shows
"The aim of this study was to compare the acute effects of four different hypertrophy-oriented resistance training methodologies. 
During four weeks, seventeen participants (23.2 ± 3.6 years), [who voluntary participated] with experience in resistance training [least two years of resistance training experience, and an 1RM in the bench press
greater than 100 kg] performed a once-a-week resistance training session, differing the methodology (traditional, pyramid, agonist supersets and reciprocal supersets)" (Sabido. 2016).
So far, so good, but now for the less impressive part of the study description. With this design, you cannot make a statement about the previously referred to strength and size gains. Why's that? Well, just to make sure there's no misunderstanding.
Table 1: Training sessions volume and intensity by methodology (Sabido. 2016).
All subjects did each of the workouts once, rested a week and then continued with another workout, the scientists describe as follows:
  • Training intensity during all sets when using the traditional and the reciprocal superset methodologies was set at 70% of 1 RM, which was similar to other studies (Kelleher. 2010; Smilios. 2002). 
  • For the agonist superset methodology, the intensity was 60% of 1 RM, with the goal of having the participants reach a number of repetitions close to 10 during the second exercise. 
  • In the reversed pyramid methodology, the intensity decreased from 80% (first set) to 60% (last set) of 1 RM. 
  • Total volume of each training session was matched to 240 repetitions, while rest intervals between sets were set at 90 s (Schoenfeld. 2014). Finally, repetition execution was performed in a cycle of 2 s for the concentric phase and 2 s for the eccentric phase in all of the exercises.
Before/after each workout, the subjects analyzed the differential responses to the different training sessions. More specifically, lactate concentration, peak velocity losses, the rating of perceived exertion, and the number of assisted repetitions were measured - with clear results:
Figure 1: Lactate and rate of perceived exertion after the four different styles of working out. Only, the reciprocal superset (antagonistic) showed sign. elevated levels over traditional training (as indicated by # | Sabido. 2016).
Both lactate concentration and rating of perceived exertion showed that the reciprocal supersets caused greater values compared with either the traditional or the pyramid methodologies.
Figure 2: Number of reps where the subjects required assistance to get up to the standardized volume of 240 reps; note: * = significant difference with traditional methodology; # = significant difference with pyramid methodology (Sabido. 2016).
This increase in RPE alone is without a doubt rather a bad thing - a bad thing that could (focus on conditional tense), as pointed out previously, have you run down your central nervous system in no time. On the other hand, the increase in RPE may well be a result of the significant increase in the individual intensity (remember the total volume was standardized) due to performing more forced reps than in the pyramid group. What exactly the implications are, is, however, questionable, because (a) the traditional training group had higher numbers of forced reps. So it may have been more taxing for the muscle (but less taxing for the CNS) compared to the classic regimen. It does thus stand to reason and can not be repeated too often that "[f]urther research is required to evaluate if these large acute fatigue effects could lead to greater muscle hypertrophy following a training intervention" (Sabido. 2016) - exactly what the scientists conclude, as well.
As Kelleher's head-to-head comparison shows, volume-equated superset training will burn sign. more energy than traditional training - on a per-minute basis.
Advanced training techniques for the central nervous system: If there's one thing that appears to be relatively non-speculative, it's the fact that the study at hand confirms many trainees experience that antagonistic supersets (here called "reciprocal supersets") are the most taxing of the four training techniques. What is interesting, though, is that the number of reps the subjects were able to perform only with help increased most during the traditional workout - practically speaking, this could mean that you don't achieve an individually higher workout intensity on the muscular level, but pay by frying your central-nervous-system unnecessarily if you're working out using antagonistic supersets. After all, the traditional training appears to allow for the same muscular fatigue and a lower load on the CNS, while the pyramid training appears (much in line with my personal experience) to have the overall least sign. impact on markers of fatigue - to make any conclusions on which of these regimen builds the most muscle is, as previously hinted at, yet simply speculative without a longitudinal study | Comment on Facebook!
  • Kelleher, Andrew R., et al. "The metabolic costs of reciprocal supersets vs. traditional resistance exercise in young recreationally active adults." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24.4 (2010): 1043-1051.
  • Sabido, Rafael, Marcelo Peñaranda, and Jose Luis Hernández-Davó. "Comparison of acute responses to four different hypertrophy-oriented resistance training methodologies." European Journal of Human Movement 37 (2016): 109-121.
  • Schoenfeld, Brad J., et al. "Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28.10 (2014): 2909-2918.
  • Smilios, I. L. I. A. S., et al. "Hormonal responses after various resistance exercise protocols." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 35.4 (2003): 644-654.