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Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training

A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Schoenfeld, Brad J.1; Grgic, Jozo2; Ogborn, Dan3; Krieger, James W.4

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: December 2017 - Volume 31 - Issue 12 - p 3508–3523
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002200
Brief Review

Schoenfeld, BJ, Grgic, J, Ogborn, D, and Krieger, JW. Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- vs. high-load resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res 31(12): 3508–3523, 2017—The purpose of this article was to conduct a systematic review of the current body of literature and a meta-analysis to compare changes in strength and hypertrophy between low- vs. high-load resistance training protocols. Searches of PubMed/MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, and Scopus were conducted for studies that met the following criteria: (a) an experimental trial involving both low-load training [≤60% 1 repetition maximum (1RM)] and high-load training (>60% 1RM); (b) with all sets in the training protocols being performed to momentary muscular failure; (c) at least one method of estimating changes in muscle mass or dynamic, isometric, or isokinetic strength was used; (d) the training protocol lasted for a minimum of 6 weeks; (e) the study involved participants with no known medical conditions or injuries impairing training capacity. A total of 21 studies were ultimately included for analysis. Gains in 1RM strength were significantly greater in favor of high- vs. low-load training, whereas no significant differences were found for isometric strength between conditions. Changes in measures of muscle hypertrophy were similar between conditions. The findings indicate that maximal strength benefits are obtained from the use of heavy loads while muscle hypertrophy can be equally achieved across a spectrum of loading ranges.

1Department of Health Science, Lehman College, Bronx, New York;

2Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL), Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia;

3Ogborn Research & Consulting, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; and

4Weightology, LLC, Issaquah, Washington

Address correspondence to Brad J. Schoenfeld,

Copyright © 2017 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.