The purpose of this study was to determine whether the training responses observed with low-load resistance exercise to volitional fatigue translates into significant muscle hypertrophy, and compare that response to high-load resistance training. Nine previously untrained men (aged 25 [SD 3] years at the beginning of the study, standing height 1.73 [SD 0.07] m, body mass 68.9 [SD 8.1] kg) completed 6-week of high load-resistance training (HL-RT) (75% of one repeti-tion maximal [1RM], 3-sets, 3x/wk) followed by 12 months of detraining. Following this, subjects completed 6weeks of low load-resistance training (LL-RT) to volitional fatigue (30%1RM, 4sets, 3x/wk). Increases (p<0.05) in magnetic resonance imaging-measured triceps brachii and pectorals major muscle cross-sectional areas were similar for both HL-RT (11.9% and 17.6%, respectively) and LL-RT (9.8% and 21.1%, respectively). In addition, both groups increased (p<0.05) 1RM and maximal elbow extension strength following training; however, the percent increases in 1RM (8.6% vs. 21.0%) and elbow extension strength (6.5% vs. 13.9%) were significantly (p<0.05) lower with LL-RT. Both protocols elicited similar increases in muscle cross-sectional area, however differences were observed in strength. An explanation of the smaller relative increases in strength may be due to the fact that detraining after HL-RT did not cause strength values to return to baseline levels thereby producing smaller changes in strength. In addition, the results may also suggest that the consistent practice of lifting a heavy load is necessary to maximize gains in muscular strength of the trained movement. These results demonstrate that significant muscle hypertrophy can occur without high-load resistance training and suggests that the focus on percentage of external load as the important deciding factor on muscle hypertrophy is too simplistic and inappropriate.
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