High or low reps that is the question?
With the advent of Life Sciences, Exercise Science is beginning to take a dramatic turn.
Scientists now have the capability to take training studies much further and compare the number of molecules developed from a training regime, tracking their respective pathways that elicit particular muscular responses.
They look at fancy stuff like P70s6k, GSK-3beta, Foxo1 and AKT signalling and the mTOR molecular pathway.
This takes the testing inaccuracy and bias out of the results. It says this is what happened when we counted or tracked the molecules.
The cool thing is you can find out what is going on even if the strength training protocol is not equivocally designed.
Studying the molecules has and will change what we think and what we think we know about exercise. The real science of exercise is just beginning.
In a recent study out of Australia at Deakin University, the researchers were looking at the pathways to hypertrophy and atrophy of skeletal muscle in humans.
They were looking at the AKT signaling. AKT is at the center of the chart on the left.
In order to compare and study the molecular responses to training they wanted disparity between the strength training groups.
When you do a study you want the results to show up so you can compare the two modalities in question..
To achieve this they decided to repeat the protocols on high and low repetitions as described in the current scientific literature on strength training. This way there would be no doubt about the results and make tracking of the molecular pathways easier.
The findings would be good stuff for a strength coach. They would know for certain if you do the following protocol, this is exactly what will happen at the cellular level.
This is much like the Kreb Cycle that the health professional learned as part of physiology classes.
They learned if you run aerobically a glucose molecule in the presence of oxygen enters the Krebs cycle and will give you 36 ATP and 2 ATP more from glycolysis. With this info the health professional can accurately tell you what is occurring when you run and design the appropriate distance or sprinting routine.
The Deakin University scientists thought they understood strength development and had one strength training group train with low repetitions and the other with high repetitions. The low repetition group did 3-5 reps for 4 sets, while the high rep group did 20-28 reps for 2 sets. The low rep group took 3 minutes rest between sets and the high rep group only had 1 minute rest between sets.
The exercises used in each group were the leg press, squat and leg extension.
Based on the previous studies they were replicating the authors were sure that there protocols would give them disparity in results. The low repetition group would develop much more strength than the high repetition group. They would then report all the molecular changes based upon the protocols.
What they found was both groups had significant increase in hypertrophy, muscular strength and muscular endurance.
Which was exactly what they were not looking for.
Their study refuted just about everything that had been written regarding repetitions in strength training so far.
They did establish the role of AKT downstream signaling pathways in human skeletal muscle.
It also cleared up something that many strength coaches already empirically knew.....high repetition strength training gives you surprisingly tremendous results.
The key to developing strength is being systematic and progressive. Repetitions don't mean much to molecules other than providing mechanical tension. The cells sense the force and this tension changes cellular behavior.
High rep stuff is a great way to..... GET STRONG.