High and Low-Intensity Exercise are Best for Muscle Growth

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Muscle-Growth

Combination of High and Low-Intensity Exercise Best for Muscle Growth

Just about every bodybuilder wants to give it their all when they go to the gym. Unlike skills like basketball or golf, where hours and hours of practice make the best athlete, bodybuilding is not like this. Bodybuilders grow when they are recuperating, so pushing the pedal to the floor is like an engine that will lead to burn-out. The problem gym lifters have is that they train heavy day in and day out and run the risk of overtraining.

Overtraining is characterized by a reduction in peak performance, in part, due to altered neuroendocrine function. A decrease in performance and fatigue are the main signs of overtraining. The key to making consistent progress in the gym is to prevent your nervous system from getting fried and making steady gains. A previous study showed that maximal strength training led to greater neuromuscular fatigue than power training using 40% 1RM. This suggests that heavy training can not be maintained for extended periods of time without periodic breaks with reductions in exercise intensity. The latest research published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance reported that strength training results in neuromuscular fatigue compared to different lifting speeds, with heavy and lite training. So incorporating both power and strength exercises seems to be the key to making consistent gains. Researchers compared athletic performance with either a strength or power workout consisting of 3 exercises. The workouts were as follows:

-Strength workout (Heavy Weight): 4 sets of 5 reps for the barbell back squat, split-squats and push-press.

-Power workout (Lighter Weight): 4 sets of 5 reps for speed squats, split-squat jumps, and power-press.

Before, immediately after, and 24-hours after both workouts, the researchers tested the nervous system by testing maximal voluntary contraction, jump height, central activation ratio, and lactate. Maximal voluntary contraction decreased following the strength session and remained suppressed for 24 hours while it remained unchanged following power training. Ultimately, this study showed that strength sessions take a higher toll on the body and are likely to compromise performance 24 hours post-session. A greater neuromuscular and metabolic demand following the strength and not power session is evident in elite athletes, which impaired maximal force production up to 24 hours. This means lifters should incorporate both strength and power training in their workouts to alter the amount of stress placed on the nervous system. Combining both heavy and light weight, explosive lifting seems to be a good way of preventing overtraining.

In the latest study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research titled, “ACUTE EFFECTS OF TWO DIFFERENT RESISTANCE CIRCUIT TRAINING PROTOCOLS ON PERFORMANCE AND PERCEIVED EXERTION IN SEMIPROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYERS” researchers report that backing off can lead to a greater increase in performance than lifting heavy all the time. Researchers investigate the acute effects of two different resistance circuit training protocols on basketball. 9 semiprofessional basketball players performed a Power Circuit Training (Lighter 45% 1RM) and a High-Resistance Circuit Training (Heavy Weight- 6RM), on consecutive weeks. At the end of the study, researchers found that after the lighter weight Power Training Circuit, upper body power output was not negatively affected in basketball players. Furthermore, the Power Circuit Training was perceived as less intense than completing a Heavy Resistance Training bout. These findings suggested that power training may be the most appropriate option before a practice or game as it avoids acute resistance training-induced performance decrements and minimizes fatigue, thus preventing an increased risk of injury. Heavy-resistance training requires greater muscle tension development that results in an increment of motor unit recruitment and firing frequency, thus increasing the perception of effort.

So a combination of high and low intensity exercise can result in a reduction in stress on the nervous system and prevent overtraining. Its impossible to train heavy year round without overtraining, so combining periods of high and low volume exercise can result in improved performance and lead to improvements in athletic performance.


Linnamo, V, Hakkinen, K, and Komi, PV. Neuromuscular fatigue and recovery in maximal compared to explosive strength loading. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 77: 176–181, 1998.

Freitas TT, Calleja-González J, Alarcón F, Alcaraz PE. Acute Effects of Two Different Resistance Circuit Training Protocols on Performance and Perceived Exertion in Semiprofessional Basketball Players. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Feb;30(2):407-14.

Tesch, PA, Colliander, EB, and Kaiser, P. Muscle metabolism during intense, heavy-resistance exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 55: 362–366, 1986.

Howatson, G., Brandon, R., & Hunter, A. M. (2015). The Response To, and Recovery From Maximum Strength and Power Training in Elite Track and Field Athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. In Press.