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Physical Performance and Cardiovascular Responses to an Acute Bout of Heavy Resistance Circuit Training versus Traditional Strength Training

Alcaraz, Pedro E1; Sánchez-Lorente, Jorge2; Blazevich, Anthony J3

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: May 2008 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - pp 667-671
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31816a588f
Original Research

Circuit training effectively reduces the time devoted to strength training while allowing an adequate training volume to be achieved. Nonetheless, circuit training has traditionally been performed using relatively low loads for a relatively high number of repetitions, which is not conducive to maximal muscle size and strength gain. This investigation compared physical performance parameters and cardiovascular load during heavy-resistance circuit (HRC) training to the responses during a traditional, passive rest strength training set (TS). Ten healthy subjects (age, 26 ± 1.6 years; weight, 80.2 ± 8.78 kg) with strength training experience volunteered for the study. Testing was performed once weekly for 3 weeks. On day 1, subjects were familiarized with the test and training exercises. On the subsequent 2 test days, subjects performed 1 of 2 strength training programs: HRC (5 sets × (bench press + leg extensions + ankle extensions); 35-second interset rest; 6 repetition maximum [6RM] loads) or TS (5 sets × bench press; 3-minute interset rest, 6RM loads). The data confirm that the maximum and average bar velocity and power and the number of repetitions performed of the bench press in the 2 conditions was the same; however, the average heart rate was significantly greater in the HRC compared to the TS condition (HRC = 129 ± 15.6 beats·min−1, ∼71% maximum heart rate (HRmax), TS = 113 ± 13.1 beats·min−1, ∼62% HRmax; P < 0.05). Thus, HRC sets are quantitatively similar to traditional strength training sets, but the cardiovascular load is substantially greater. HRC may be an effective training strategy for the promotion of both strength and cardiovascular adaptations.

1Kinesiology and Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia, Guadalupe, Murcia, Spain; 2Federación Española de Aeróbic y Fitness, Madrid, Spain; 3School of Exercise, Biomedical, and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Autstralia, Australia

Address correspondence to Pedro E. Alcaraz,

© 2008 National Strength and Conditioning Association