Evidence of a Ceiling Effect for Training Volume in Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength in Trained Men – Less is More?

PURPOSE:

To compare the effects of different resistance training volumes on muscle performance and hypertrophy in trained men.

METHODS:

37 volunteers performed resistance training for 24 weeks, divided into groups that performed five (G5), 10 (G10), 15 (G15) and 20 (G20) sets per muscle group per week. Ten repetition maximum (10RM) tests were performed for the bench press, lat pull down, 45º leg press, and stiff legged deadlift. Muscle thickness (MT) was measured using ultrasound at biceps brachii, triceps brachii, pectoralis major, quadriceps femoris and gluteus maximus. All measurements were performed at the beginning (pre) and after 12 (mid) and 24 weeks (post).

RESULTS:

All groups showed significant increases in all 10RM tests and MT measures after 12 and 24 weeks when compared to pre (p <0.05). There were no significant differences in any 10RM test or changes between G5 and G10 after 12 and 24 weeks. G5 and G10 showed significantly greater increases for 10RM than G15 and G20 for most exercises at 12 and 24 weeks. There were no group by time interaction for any MT measure.

CONCLUSIONS:

The results bring evidence of an inverted “U shaped” curve for the dose response curve for muscle strength. Whilst the same trend was noted for muscle hypertrophy, the results did not reach significance. Five to 10 sets per week might be sufficient for bringing about optimal gains in muscle size and strength in trained men over a 24-week period.