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Low-Load vs. High-Load Resistance Training to Failure on One Repetition Maximum Strength and Body Composition in Untrained Women

Dinyer, Taylor K.1; Byrd, M. Travis1; Garver, Matthew J.2; Rickard, Alex J.2; Miller, William M.3; Burns, Steve2; Clasey, Jody L.1; Bergstrom, Haley C.1

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: July 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 7 - p 1737–1744
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003194
Original Research

Dinyer, TK, Byrd, MT, Garver, MJ, Rickard, AJ, Miller, WM, Burns, S, Clasey, JL, and Bergstrom, HC. Low-load vs. high-load resistance training to failure on one repetition maximum strength and body composition in untrained women. J Strength Cond Res 33(7): 1737–1744, 2019—This study examined the effects of resistance training (RT) to failure at low and high loads on one repetition maximum (1RM) strength and body composition (bone- and fat-free mass [BFFM] and percent body fat [%BF]) in untrained women. Twenty-three untrained women (age: 21.2 ± 2.2 years; height: 167.1 ± 5.7 cm; body mass: 62.3 ± 16.2 kg) completed a 12-week RT to failure intervention at a low (30% 1RM) (n = 11) or high (80% 1RM) (n = 12) load. On weeks 1, 5, and 12, subjects completed 1RM testing for 4 different exercises (leg extension [LE], seated military press [SMP], leg curl [LC], and lat pull down [LPD]) and a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan to assess body composition. During weeks 2–4 and 6–7, the subjects completed 2 sets to failure for each exercise. During weeks 8–11, the subjects completed 3 sets to failure for each exercise. The 1RM strength increased from week 1 to week 5 (LE: 18 ± 16%; SMP: 9 ± 11%; LC: 12 ± 22%; LPD: 13 ± 9%), week 1 to week 12 (LE: 32 ± 24%; SMP: 17 ± 14%; LC: 23 ± 26%; LPD: 25 ± 13%), and week 5 to week 12 (LE: 11 ± 9%; SMP: 7 ± 9%; LC: 10 ± 7%; LPD: 11 ± 11%) in each exercise, with no significant differences between groups. There were no significant changes in BFFM (p = 0.241) or %BF (p = 0.740) for either group. Resistance training to failure at 30% 1RM and 80% 1RM resulted in similar increases in 1RM strength, but no change in BFFM or %BF. Untrained women can increase 1RM strength during RT at low and high loads, if repetitions are taken to failure.

1Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky;

2School of Nutrition, Kinesiology, and Psychological Science, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, Missouri; and

3Department of Health, Science, and Recreation Management, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi

Address correspondence to Taylor K. Dinyer,

Copyright © 2019 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.