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The Effects of Rest Interval Length Manipulation of the First Upper-Body Resistance Exercise in Sequence on Acute Performance of Subsequent Exercises in Men and Women

Ratamess, Nicholas A.; Chiarello, Christina M.; Sacco, Anthony J.; Hoffman, Jay R.; Faigenbaum, Avery D.; Ross, Ryan E.; Kang, Jie

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: November 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 11 - p 2929–2938
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318270fcf0
Original Research
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Ratamess, NA, Chiarello, CM, Sacco, AJ, Hoffman, JR, Faigenbaum, AD, Ross, RE, and Kang, J. The effects of rest interval length manipulation of the first upper-body resistance exercise in sequence on acute performance of subsequent exercises in men and women. J Strength Cond Res 26(11): 2929–2938, 2012—The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of manipulating rest interval (RI) length of the first upper-body exercise in sequence on subsequent resistance exercise performance. Twenty-two men and women with at least 1 year of resistance training experience performed resistance exercise protocols on 3 occasions in random order. Each protocol consisted of performing 4 barbell upper-body exercises in the same sequence (bench press, incline bench press, shoulder press, and bent-over row) for 3 sets of up to 10 repetitions with 75% of 1 repetition maximum. Bench press RIs were 1, 2, or 3 minutes, whereas other exercises were performed with a standard 2-minute rest interval. The number of repetitions completed, average power, and velocity for each set of each exercise were recorded. Gender differences were observed during the bench press and incline press as women performed significantly (p ≤ 0.05) more repetitions than men during all RIs. The magnitude of decline in velocity and power over 3 sets of the bench press and incline press was significantly higher in men than women. Manipulation of RI length during the bench press did not affect performance of the remaining exercises in men. However, significantly more repetitions were performed by women during the first set of the incline press using 3-minute rest interval than 1-minute rest interval. In men and women, performance of the incline press and shoulder press was compromised compared with baseline performances. Manipulation of RI length of the first exercise affected performance of only the first set of 1 subsequent exercise in women. All RIs led to comparable levels of fatigue in men, indicating that reductions in load are necessary for subsequent exercises performed in sequence that stress similar agonist muscle groups when 10 repetitions are desired.

1Department of Health and Exercise Science, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, New Jersey

2Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida

Address correspondence to Nicholas A. Ratamess, ratamess@tcnj.edu.

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Introduction

Rest intervals (RI) selected during resistance training is a variable of importance to exercise professionals. Rest interval length interacts with other acute program variables, including intensity, volume, exercise order, repetition velocity, and depends on training goals, fitness level, and the energy system targeted for response (19). Rest intervals have been shown to affect the acute metabolic (18, 27), hormonal (4,17), and immune cell (21) responses to resistance exercise, volume load of subsequent sets (7,18,27,30), and acute power output (1) and may affect the magnitude of post–resistance exercise creatine kinase concentrations (30). Studies have shown that during sets performed to or near muscular exhaustion, repetition number and total volume load decrease with each set in succession when 30-second to 2-minute rest intervals (2RIs) are used (27,30,36,38). In some cases, longer RIs (4 minutes) may still result in reduced volume load over 3 sets (28). The acute reduction in resistance exercise volume observed with short RIs (<2 minutes) may result in a slower rate of strength gains compared with longer RIs (11,23,29), although similar strength increases have been reported between 2RI and 4-minute rest interval (39) and 1RI and 2.5-minute rest interval (4). However, high-intensity muscle endurance enhancement may be augmented by short RIs (11).

There is a paucity of data examining the effects of RI manipulation of a structural multiple-joint exercise on subsequent performance of exercises following in sequence. It is well known that RI length significantly affects acute performance of a specific exercise (7,15,27,30). However, less is known concerning performance of exercises following in sequence, especially those exercises that stress similar agonist muscle groups. Studies have shown that the interaction of volume and intensity can lead to contrasting levels of fatigue (3,32). Sanchez-Medina and Gonzalez-Badillo (32) compared performing 3 sets of the bench press and squat with repetition maximum (RM) loading (12, 10, 8, 6, and 4RMs) to performing 3 sets of each exercise with less repetitions and reported that training to failure with RM loads led to significantly greater fatigue after each exercise than lifting the same loads but with fewer repetitions as evidenced by a greater velocity fatigue rate, reductions in vertical jump height, and higher blood lactates. These data indicate that performance of an exercise leads to contrasting levels of fatigue and reduced performance of subsequent exercise modalities. Considering that RI length significantly interacts with resistance exercise volume and intensity (27,37), it may be speculated that the length of RIs may be a consideration when examining exercises performed in sequence. The resultant outcome per exercise may relate to cumulative fatigue of the targeted muscle groups. Although short RIs lead to reduced volume and volume load (7,15,27), the greater volume load associated with long RIs may produce a comparable level of fatigue when examining the entirety of the exercise. Thus, it is unclear if a difference exists during subsequent exercise performance of similar agonist muscle groups when short RIs are used for the primary exercise in sequence.

Gender differences have been observed during acute high-intensity exercise responses. Previous studies have shown that women have lower decrements in force output and faster recovery ability during moderate to high-intensity exercise than men (8,10,14,20). Women have been shown to have reduced adenosine triphosphate (ATP) depletion (6), faster ATP recovery (6), lower blood lactate (9,20), lower epinephrine (9), lower respiratory exchange ratio (22), and lower glycogen breakdown in type I fibers (6) in response to maximal sprint exercise. However, less is known regarding acute resistance exercise responses in women during RI length manipulation. Celes et al. (5) showed that women recover faster than men during isokinetic resistance exercise. Willardson et al. (40,41) showed that during a squat protocol with 1-minute rest intervals (1RIs), men required a 15% reduction in load for each set in succession (to maintain repetition number), whereas women required only a 10% reduction. Women appear to have lower fatigue rates and faster recovery during short RIs compared with men, but resistance exercise studies directly comparing gender differences are few.

Rest intervals have been prescribed based on training goals (24). However, these guidelines have been applied generally with little consideration of exercises performed afterward in sequence or gender differences. Previous studies have shown that acute lifting performance is compromised when an exercise is performed later versus early in a workout (33,34), especially when previous exercises are included that stress similar agonist muscle groups. However, the accumulated fatigue resulting from 1 exercise performed in sequence using varied RI lengths is poorly understood. Thus, the purpose of the present investigation was to extend our previous work (25) and examine the influences of RI manipulation of the primary upper-body exercise in sequence on subsequent performance of other upper-body exercises in sequence stressing both agonist and antagonist muscle groups and to compare the responses in men and women.

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Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

To examine the primary hypotheses of the present investigation, subjects performed 4 consecutive upper-body barbell exercises for 3 sets of up to 10 repetitions with 75% of 1RM on 3 occasions using the following sequence: bench press, incline press, shoulder press, and bent-over row. The RI of the primary exercise in sequence (bench press) was manipulated using 1RI, 2RI, and 3-minute rest intervals (3RIs) in random order during each protocol. The remaining 3 exercises per session were performed with a standard 2RI between sets. The number of successful repetitions completed, average power, and velocity for each repetition of each set were recorded. This study design enabled us to investigate primary exercise RI manipulation (bench press) on subsequent resistance exercise performance of ensuing exercises that targeted similar agonist (incline press and shoulder press) and antagonist (bent-over row) muscle groups. Our study design addressed the issue of whether fatigue occurring from the primary exercise in sequence was affected by RI length and its subsequent effects on ensuing upper-body exercises. The critical comparison was made during the first set of the incline press because this was the first set performed after completion of the bench press.

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Subjects

Twenty-two healthy resistance-trained men (age = 22.8 ± 6.5 years; height = 183.1 ± 4.8 cm; body mass = 87.7 ± 10.9 kg; percent fat = 13.0 ± 4.0; n = 11) and women (age = 20.8 ± 4.5 years; height = 164.8 ± 6.6 cm; body mass = 63.4 ± 10.2 kg; percent fat = 22.0 ± 6.0; n = 11) with at least 1 year of training experience were selected for the present investigation. Subjects consisted of current and former (i.e., high school) athletes participating in sports such as football, baseball, soccer, field hockey, and track and field. Each subject initiated the study in a trained state, all were accustomed to resistance exercise using short and long RIs, and none were taking any medications or anabolic steroids known to affect resistance exercise performance. Subjects underwent 1 week of familiarization with study procedures before testing. During this time, height was measured using a wall-mounted stadiometer, body mass was measured using an electronic scale, and body density was determined using 3-site gender-specific skinfold tests (12,13) and percent body fat was calculated using the equation of Siri (35). This study was approved by the College’s Institutional Review Board, and each subject subsequently signed an informed consent document before participation. No subject had any physiologic or orthopedic limitations that could have affected lifting performance as determined by completion of a health history questionnaire.

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Strength Testing

One repetition maximum bench press, incline press, seated shoulder press, and bent-over barbell row strength was assessed before the experimental sessions using a standard protocol (16,26). The bench press and bent-over barbell row exercise 1RMs were assessed in 1 session, and the seated shoulder press and incline press 1RMs were assessed in a single session 24–48 hours after the first 1RM testing session. For each exercise, a warm-up set of 5–10 repetitions was performed using 40–60% of the perceived 1RM. After a 1RI, a set of 2–3 repetitions was performed at 60–80% of the perceived 1RM. Subsequently, 3–4 maximal trials were performed to determine the 1RM with 2- to 3-minute RI between trials. A complete range of motion and proper technique were required for each successful 1RM trial. For the bench press and incline press, the bar was lowered until it touched the lower to midsternum (with no “bouncing”) and was lifted to full elbow extension (with no excessive arching of the back). For the shoulder press, the bar was lowered to approximately 4–5 cm below chin level. At that point, a “lift” signal was given by a research assistant and the bar was lifted to full elbow extension while the subject maintained a seated erect posture on the bench. A flat bench was used with no back support. For the bent-over row, the bar was lifted directly from the ground until it touched the upper abdomen while the subject maintained a trunk angle of approximately 30–45°. Assessment of 1RM strength enabled calculation of the precise training loads used during the protocols (75% of 1RM). After 1RM testing, a single set was performed with the target load for each exercise to ensure subjects could perform 10 repetitions. Test-retest reliability for 1RM testing has been high in our laboratory (R > 0.93) (7,26).

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Kinetic and Kinematic Assessments

Average bar velocity and power for each repetition of each exercise were measured with a Tendo Power Output Unit (Tendo Sports Machines, Trencin, Slovak Republic). The Tendo unit consists of a linear position transducer attached to the end of the barbell, which measured linear displacement and time. Subsequently, average bar velocity and power were determined for each repetition. Power and velocity were averaged for each set (for all completed repetitions), so sets 1, 2, and 3 could be directly compared. Test-retest reliability for the Tendo unit in our laboratory has consistently shown R > 0.90 (7).

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Resistance Exercise Protocols

Subjects reported to the laboratory at a standard time of day on 3 occasions with each protocol session separated by 48–72 hours. Each protocol consisted of performing the primary exercise in sequence, the bench press, with 75% of their predetermined 1RM for 3 sets of up to 10 repetitions per set at the subjects’ own self-selected velocity (Figure 1). Rest interval length was manipulated where subjects performed each protocol using 1RI, 2RI, or 3RI (in a randomized order). The incline press, shoulder press, and bent-over barbell row exercises were performed in sequence after the bench press. These exercises were performed for 3 sets of up to 10 repetitions with 75% of 1RM with a standard 2RI between sets and exercises. Resistance was maintained for each set while repetitions were counted. Subjects were encouraged to target 10 repetitions per set. Repetitions not completed in a full range of motion or those repetitions completed via assistance from a spotter were not counted. Volume load (bar resistance in kilograms × repetitions completed) was calculated for each exercise protocol. All subjects were instructed to consume a small meal 1–1.5 hours before testing. In addition, water was consumed ad libitum to ensure hydration during each protocol.

Figure 1

Figure 1

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Statistical Analyses

Standard statistical methods were used to calculate means and standard deviations. A 2 (group based on gender) × 3 (set number or RI) repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to analyze main effects and interactions in repetition number per set, volume load, average power, and average velocity for each exercise to determine the effects of RI length across groups. Subsequent Tukey’s post hoc tests were used to determine temporal and group differences when significant F ratios were obtained. A 1-way ANOVA was used to analyze total repetitions completed and volume load data between groups for each exercise protocol. For all statistical tests, a probability level of p ≤ 0.05 denoted statistical significance. Statistical power was determined to be >0.80 at the 0.05 alpha level.

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Results

One repetition maximum data for the men and women are presented in Table 1. Significant differences were observed in all exercises where the values in men were significantly higher than in women. Complete results and analyses of bench press performance have been reported elsewhere (25). Truncated results are presented here as bench press performance data are critical to examination of the remaining exercises. Repetition data are presented in Tables 2 and 3. For the bench press, repetition numbers significantly decreased during 1RI (sets 2 and 3 in men, set 3 in women), 2RI (sets 2 and 3 in men, set 3 in women), and 3RI (set 3 in men). In addition, the number of repetitions performed during set 2 (1RI and 2RI) and set 3 (1RI, 2RI, and 3RI) was significantly higher in women. Total repetitions performed over 3 sets for all RIs were significantly higher in women than men. Volume load significantly increased from 1RI to 2RI and from 2RI to 3RI in men and from 1RI to 2RI and 3RI in women (no differences were observed between 2RI and 3RI). A significant interaction was observed (F2,19 = 12.7, p < 0.001) where the decline in volume load during 1RI and 2RI was greater in men. All volume load values were significantly higher in men than women. For the incline press, significant main effects were only observed during 1RI (F2,19 = 8.3, p = 0.003) and 3RI (F2,19 = 8.8, p = 0.002) where significant reductions in repetitions were observed during set 3 (1RI) in women and set 3 (3RI) in men compared with set 1. Significant interactions were observed during 1RI and 2RI (F2,19 = 3.2–3.6, p < 0.05) and a trend during 3RI (p = 0.08) where a significantly greater number of repetitions was performed during sets 1 and 2 (1RI and 2RI) and a tendency for greater repetition number during set 1 (3RI) was observed in women. One-way ANOVA revealed that total repetitions performed were significantly greater in women than men during all RIs. In women, significantly more repetitions were performed during set 1 using 3RI compared with 1RI. No such findings were observed in men. No significant main effects or interactions were observed for volume load. All values of volume load were significantly higher in men than women.

Table 1

Table 1

Table 2

Table 2

Table 3

Table 3

Shoulder press and bent-over barbell row repetition data are presented in Table 3. For the shoulder press, significant main effects were observed at 2RI (F2,19 = 5.0, p = 0.018) and 3RI (F2,19 = 6.9, p = 0.006) where repetitions during set 3 were significantly less than set 1 in men and women (2RI) and during set 3 compared with sets 1 and 2 in men (3RI). No significant interactions were observed. One-way ANOVA revealed that total repetitions performed over 3 sets did not differ between men and women. For the bent-over barbell row, no significant main effects or interactions were observed. One-way ANOVA revealed that total repetitions performed over 3 sets did not differ between men and women, indicating that the men and women performed similarly despite bench press RI length. For volume load of the shoulder press and bent-over row, no significant main effects or interactions were observed. All values for each exercise were significantly greater in men than women.

Kinetic and kinematic data are presented in Tables 4 and 5. For average power during the bench press, significant reductions were seen with each set in succession during 1RI and 2RI in men and 1RI in women. During 3RI, sets 2 and 3 were lower than set 1 in men and set 3 was lower than sets 1 and 2 in women. Significant interactions were observed during 1RI and 3RI indicating a slower rate of decline in women. For the incline press, significant main effects were observed during 2RI and 3RI (F2,19 = 3.4–4.2, p ≤ 0.05) where set 3 was significantly lower than set 1 in men only. A significant interaction was observed only during 1RI (F2,19 = 5.2, p = 0.016) where the rate of decline over 3 sets was significant only in men. For the shoulder press, a significant main effect was observed only during 2RI (F2,19 = 3.7, p = 0.044) where set 3 was significantly lower than sets 1 and 2 in men. No significant interactions were observed. No significant main effects or interactions were observed for the bent-over barbell row. All power values were significantly higher in men than women.

Table 4

Table 4

Table 5

Table 5

For average velocity during the bench press, significant reductions were seen with each set in succession in men during 1RI and 3RI and women during 1RI and 2RI. During 2RI in men, sets 2 and 3 were significantly lower than set 1. During 3RI in women, set 3 was lower than sets 1 and 2. The rate of decline was significantly lower in women than men. For the incline press, no significant main effects were observed. However, a significant interaction was observed during 1RI (F2,19 = 3.7, p = 0.043) where the rate of decline over 3 sets was significant in men only. No significant main effects or interactions were observed for the shoulder press and bent-over barbell row.

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Discussion

A unique finding of the present study was that manipulating the RI between 1 minute and 3 minutes for the primary exercise in sequence (bench press) had no effect on repetition performance for subsequent upper-body exercises stressing similar agonist muscle groups in men but did significantly affect the first set of the incline press in women. A secondary finding was that performance of the bench press initially led to significant fatigue where subjects were unable to perform 10 repetitions per set with 75% of their respective 1RMs for the incline press and shoulder press. Although performance of the incline and shoulder press exercises was compromised, the attenuation observed appeared consistent across all RIs of the bench press where total repetitions performed and volume load were similar during 1RI, 2RI, and 3RI in men but the 3RI protocol yielded greater number of repetitions than 1RI during the first set of the incline press in women. Other gender differences were observed where the rate of power and velocity decline during the bench press and incline press was highest in men compared with women. The results indicate that fatigue induced by 1RI, 2RI, and 3RI for the bench press attenuates upper-body exercise performance of similar agonist muscle groups but has no effect on resistance exercises stressing antagonist muscle groups.

Although bench press performance was significantly affected by RI length, the manipulation of bench press RI length did not significantly alter agonist exercise performance in men. All 3 RIs led to comparable reductions in incline and shoulder press performances in men. The set most likely to be affected, the first set of the incline press, did not significantly differ in repetition number between bench press RIs. Thus, it appeared that the fatigue cumulated during the bench press was similar despite RI length in men. Although recovery was less during 1RI and greatest during 3RI, it appeared that the greater volume and volume load observed during 3RI yielded a comparable level of fatigue to the 1RI and 2RI protocols. Previous studies have shown that sets performed to near or muscular exhaustion result in higher levels of fatigue than those that are completed before exhaustion (32). It was observed that the second and third sets of the bench press during 1RI and 2RI were mostly performed to exhaustion as evidenced by the subjects’ lack of ability to complete 10 repetitions (only 2 subjects were able to complete 10 repetitions during 1RI and 5 subjects during 2RI during set 2, and only 1 subject completed 10 repetitions during set 3 with 1RI and 2RI). All subjects but one attained muscular exhaustion during the 1RI and 2RI protocols. During 3RI, 7 of 11 men completed 10 repetitions during set 2 and 4 of 11 completed 10 repetitions during set 3. These data indicate that performing the bench press to muscular exhaustion results in sufficient fatigue to compromise performance of ensuing upper-body exercises stressing similar agonist muscle groups.

Interestingly, a gender difference was observed where repetitions performed during the first set of the incline press were significantly greater during 3RI than 1RI in women. Women displayed enhanced recovery ability and/or reduced levels of fatigue as evidenced by significantly greater number of repetitions performed compared with men. However, total repetitions and volume load of the incline press did not significantly differ between 1RI, 2RI, or 3RI, indicating that the benefit gained during the first set did not persist through the second and third sets.

Gender differences were observed for the bench press protocols when 1RI, 2RI, and 3RI were used. This study demonstrated that women have a greater capacity to perform more repetitions despite RI length than men. Previous studies have shown that women have lower decrements in force output and faster recovery capacity during moderate to high-intensity exercise than men (5,20). Women have been shown to have reduced ATP depletion (6), faster ATP recovery (6), lower blood lactate (9,20), lower epinephrine (9), lower respiratory exchange ratio (22), and lower glycogen breakdown in type I fibers (6) in response to maximal sprint and resistance exercise. In addition, women have been shown to have reduced rate of force loss and faster force recovery after resistance exercise than men (8,10,14). Willardson et al. (40,41) showed that during a squat protocol with 1RIs, men needed a 15% reduction in load for each set in succession (to maintain repetition number), whereas women needed only a 10% reduction. Thus, women appear to experience less fatigue or have superior recovery ability during short-term RIs compared with men. These data may have important ramifications for resistance exercise prescription in women.

Few studies have investigated RI manipulation on resistance exercise performance in women. Hill-Haas et al. (11) showed that 5 weeks of resistance training with 2–5 sets of 15–20 repetitions with 20-second RIs in between sets resulted in greater repeated sprint performance than training with 80-second RIs (12.5 vs. 5.4%); however, training with 80-second RIs produced greater increases in muscle strength (45.9 vs. 19.6%). Willardson et al. (41) examined load reductions required in women to maintain repetition performance for the bench press, squat, and lat pull-down exercises with 10RM loads using 1RIs. They reported that 10% reductions were required for the squat and lat pull-down exercises during the second and third sets and between 10 and 15% reductions were required for the bench press during the second and third sets. The results of the present study indicated that women were able to maintain repetitions during the second set of the 1RI protocol but showed significant reductions during the third set, showed a reduction during set 3 in 2RI, and were able to maintain repetitions throughout the 3 sets during 3RI, thereby supporting research examining other high-intensity exercise modalities where women showed less fatigability (20).

A finding of interest was that shoulder press repetition performance in women was not superior to men. In fact, repetitions performed in women were less (14–23%, p > 0.05) than that performed by men (although the differences were not statistically significant). This finding was surprising considering that women performed more repetitions for the bench and incline press exercises compared with men. However, the shoulder press was performed on a flat bench with no back support in the present study. The lack of back support may have required greater trunk strength and stability to complete the exercise. Trunk muscle activation has been shown to differ between shoulder press variations (31). Thus, inferior trunk muscle strength in women compared with men may have contributed to the lack of differences observed. During the protocols, it was evident that several women struggled to maintain proper posture and stability as fatigued ensued. Considering that repetition performance is affected by posture and stability, it is likely that trunk muscle strength affected the shoulder press repetition data in the present study.

Despite gender or RI length, performance of the incline press and shoulder press was compromised. Subjects were unable to complete 10 repetitions on any set despite displaying the ability to do so during the pretesting period. These data highlight the inherent difficulty in maintaining repetition performance of exercises that stress similar agonist muscle groups once fatigue ensues during the primary exercise in sequence. These results support previous investigations examining different exercise sequences that showed exercises performed first yielded greater repetition numbers than performance of these exercises later in sequence (33,34). In addition, these results have important ramifications for the exercise sequencing element of resistance training program design. Modifications, i.e., reduced loading, are required for exercises performed in sequence that stress similar agonist muscle groups. Interestingly, bent-over barbell row performance was not affected by the manipulation of bench press RIs or performance of the incline and shoulder press exercises. These data provide indirect support for sequencing exercises that stress antagonist or dissimilar muscle groups especially when intensity is similar between exercises. A few studies examined various performance parameters when sequencing exercises based on agonist-antagonist relationships as forms of complex training. Robbins et al. (28) sequenced bench pulls with bench press throws (using 4-minute RIs) and reported that bench press throw height was consistent over 3 sets when following bench pulls. Power augmentation has also been observed when bench press throws follow bench pulls in sequence (2). The results of the present study provide further support by showing that set volume and volume load can be maintained with 2RIs when the bent-over row is performed after exercises that stress antagonist muscle groups.

Critical to the present investigation was the measurement of velocity and power during each repetition. Velocity and power embody the quality of each repetition, which needs to be high during optimal strength and power training (24). Changes in power and velocity may occur independently of the number of repetitions completed (32). Assessment of bar velocity and power provides additional information regarding components of fitness susceptible to fatigue and RI length manipulation. A continuum of responses was shown where average velocity and power were reduced the most during 1RI and the least during 3RI for the bench press. A few studies have addressed the kinetics and kinematics of each repetition of the bench press under RI manipulation. Abdessemed et al. (1) studied the bench press using 70% of 1RM with 1RI, 3RI, or 5-minute rest interval and reported significant reductions in average power per set when 1RIs were used, but power performance was maintained with 3RI and 5RI. These data, coupled with the data from the present study, indicate that power and velocity reductions are most prominent when short RIs are used and support resistance training recommendations of long RI lengths for power training to preserve the quality of each repetition (24).

Power output remained consistent for the remaining exercises in women but showed significant declines during the incline press and during 2RI for the shoulder press in men. These data indicate that 2RIs were not sufficient to maintain power output in men but were sufficient in women when these exercises were performed second and third in sequence. A limitation of the present study was that we were unable to obtain incline press and shoulder press baseline power and velocity data during nonfatigued conditions. Thus, we cannot report the magnitude of power and velocity decrements observed when these exercises were performed second and third in sequence, respectively, compared with baseline performances. However, the primary goal of the present study was to provide descriptive data comparing performances after RI manipulation of the bench press. Our data indicate that women were able to maintain power outputs during the incline and shoulder press exercises despite RI length of the bench press, thereby adding further support for women having superior recovery ability and/or reduced fatigability during resistance exercise. For the bent-over row, average power and velocity were maintained in men and women, indicating that 2RIs were sufficient to maintain performance of this exercise and performance was not compromised by the prior 3 exercises that stressed antagonist muscle groups.

In summary, manipulating the RI for the bench press had minimal effect on repetition performance and volume load for subsequent exercises stressing similar agonist muscle groups in men but did significantly affect the first set of the incline press in women. Performance of the bench press initially led to significant fatigue where subjects were not able to perform 10 repetitions per set with 75% of their respective 1RMs for the incline and shoulder press exercises. Although performance of the incline and shoulder press exercises was compromised, the attenuation appeared consistent across all RIs in men but the 3RI bench press protocol yielded greater number of repetitions performed during the first set of the incline press than 1RI in women. Other gender differences were observed where the power decline during the bench press and incline press was highest in men compared with women. The results indicate that fatigue induced by 1RI, 2RI, or 3-min RI for the bench press attenuates exercise performance of similar agonist muscle groups but has no effect on resistance exercises stressing antagonist muscle groups.

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Practical Applications

Often, RI length during resistance exercise is prescribed based solely on the individual’s training goals. However, less is known concerning how the manipulation of the RI of 1 exercise affects subsequent exercises in sequence that stresses similar agonist muscle groups. The results of the present study indicated that manipulating the RI for the primary upper-body exercise in sequence, e.g., the bench press, had minimal effects on repetition performance for subsequent exercises stressing similar agonist muscle groups in men but significantly affected the first set of the incline press in women. Perhaps, a more critical finding was that regardless of the RI length, incline and shoulder press performances were compromised. These data have important ramifications when sequencing exercises during strength and conditioning workouts. It appears that substantial reductions in training loads are required if the goal is to attain a certain number of repetitions when exercises are performed sequentially at moderate intensities that stress similar agonist muscle groups. If volume load is to be maximized, it may be advisable for coaches to use a sequence where exercise difference muscle groups are arranged to allow for greater recovery between exercises. Last, women appear to have reduced fatigue and/or greater recovery capacity compared with men when examining repetition numbers despite RI length. This was evident for both the bench press and incline press exercises. Thus, women may not need as much rest between sets to attain a certain volume load.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank a dedicated group of subjects and laboratory assistants for their participation in this study. In addition, they would like to thank the Office of Academic Affairs at The College of New Jersey for funding the present study through the Mentored Undergraduate Summer Experience Program.

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Keywords:

power; velocity; weightlifting; gender differences

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