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The Relationship Between Muscle Action and Repetition Maximum on the Squat and Bench Press in Men and Women

Flanagan, Shawn D.1; Mills, Matthew D.1; Sterczala, Adam J.1; Mala, Jesse1; Comstock, Brett A.1; Szivak, Tunde K.1; DuPont, William H.1; Looney, David P.1; McDermott, Danielle M.1; Hooper, David R.1; White, Mark T.1; Dunn-Lewis, Courtenay1; Volek, Jeff S.2; Maresh, Carl M.2; Kraemer, William J.1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: September 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 9 - p 2437–2442
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000337
Original Research

Flanagan, SD, Mills, MD, Sterczala, AJ, Mala, J, Comstock, BA, Szivak, TK, DuPont, WH, Looney, DP, McDermott, DM, Hooper, DR, White, MT, Dunn-Lewis, C, Volek, JS, Maresh, CM, and Kraemer, WJ. The relationship between muscle action and repetition maximum on the squat and bench press in men and women. J Strength Cond Res 28(9): 2437–2442, 2014—The relationship between muscle action and fatigue is not well understood, especially in terms of potential sex-specific differences. The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether a different number of repetitions could be performed on the individual muscle actions of the bench press and squat in men and women. Ten resistance-trained men (n = 10; age, 25.2 ± 1.2 years; height, 178.6 ± 8.8 cm; weight, 91.4 ± 18.1 kg; body fat, 12.7 ± 3.6%) and women (n = 10; age, 25.4 ± 2.4 years; height, 164 ± 4.0 cm; weight, 58.45 ± 3.3 kg; body fat, 20.8 ± 1.5%) participated in this balanced and randomized within-group study. Using 85% of a 1 repetition maximum, over the course of 3 visits, subjects performed 1 eccentric (ECC), concentric (CON), or combined (COMB) set to failure on the squat and bench press. Differences in muscle action and sex-specific number of repetitions to failure were compared on the squat and bench press, where significance was p ≤ 0.05. Across both exercises and sex, we observed significant differences between each of the 3 muscle actions, where the number of repetitions decreased from ECC to COMB to CON. While no sex-specific differences were observed in the squat, women performed significantly more repetitions on the ECC and CON muscle actions of the bench press. Men performed more combined repetitions, however, indicating a greater reliance on the stretch-shortening cycle. Different muscle actions contribute uniquely to the successful performance of a lift and fatigue. These contributions appear to differ in men and women.

1Department of Kinesiology, Human Performance Laboratory, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut; and

2Department of Human Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Address correspondence to William J. Kraemer,

Copyright © 2014 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.