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Evidence for an Upper Threshold for Resistance Training Volume in Trained Women


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 3 - p 515–522
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001818

Introduction The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of different volumes of resistance training (RT) on muscle performance and hypertrophy in trained women.

Methods The study included 40 volunteers that performed RT for 24 wk divided into groups that performed 5 (G5), 10 (G10), 15 (G15), and 20 (G20) sets per muscle group per session. Ten-repetition maximum (10RM) tests were performed for the bench press, lat pulldown, 45° leg press, and stiff-legged deadlift. Muscle thickness (MT) was measured using ultrasound at biceps brachii, triceps brachii, pectoralis major, quadriceps femoris, and gluteus maximus.

Results All groups significantly increased all MT measures and 10RM tests after 24 wk of RT (P < 0.05). Between-group comparisons revealed no differences in any 10RM test between G5 and G10 (P > 0.05). G5 and G10 showed significantly greater 10RM increases than G15 for lat pulldown, leg press, and stiff-legged deadlift. 10RM changes for G20 were lower than all other groups for all exercises (P < 0.05). G5 and G10 showed significantly greater MT increases than G15 and G20 in all sites (P < 0.05). MT increased more in G15 than G20 in all sites (P < 0.05). G5 increases were higher than G10 for pectoralis major MT, whereas G10 showed higher increases in quadriceps MT than G5 (P < 0.05).

Conclusions Five to 10 sets per week might be sufficient for attaining gains in muscle size and strength in trained women during a 24-wk RT program. There appears no further benefit by performing higher exercise volumes. Because lack of time is a commonly cited barrier to exercise adoption, our data support RT programs that are less time consuming, which might increase participation and adherence.

1Department of Biological Science and Health, University of Amazonia, Belém, Pará, BRAZIL;

2College of Physical Education and Dance, Federal University of Goiás, Goiânia, Goiás, BRAZIL;

3College of Physical Education, Federal University of Pará, Castanhal, Pará, BRAZIL;

4School of Sport, Health and Social Sciences, Southampton Solent University, Southampton, UNITED KINGDOM;

5ukactive Research Institute, London, UNITED KINGDOM; and

6Department of Biomedical Sciences, Physiological Laboratory, University of Padova, Padova, ITALY

Address for correspondence: Paulo Gentil, Ph.D., Faculdade de Educação Física e Dança, Universidade Federal de Goiás, Campus Samambaia, Avenida Esperança s/n, Campus Samambaia, CEP 74.690-900, Goiânia, Goiás, Brasil; E-mail:

Submitted for publication September 2018.

Accepted for publication October 2018.

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine