A comparison of strength and muscle mass increases during resistance training in young women

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Abstract

Strength gains with resistance training are due to muscle hypertrophy and nervous system adaptations. The contribution of either factor may be related to the complexity of the exercise task used during training. The purpose of this investigation was to measure the degree to which muscle hypertrophy contributes to gains in strength during exercises of varying complexity. Nineteen young women resistance trained twice a week for 20 weeks, performing exercises designed to provide whole-body training.

The lean mass of the trunk, legs and arms was measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry and compared to strength gains (measured as the 1-repetition maximum) in bench press, leg press and arm curl exercises, pre-, mid- (10 weeks) and post-training. No changes were found in a control group of ten women. For the exercise group, increases in bench press, leg press and arm curl strength were significant from pre- to mid-, and from mid- to post-training (P <ā€‰0.05). In contrast, increases in the lean mass of the body segments used in these exercises followed a different pattern. Increases in the lean mass of the arms were significant from pre- to mid-training, while increases in the lean mass of the trunk and legs were delayed and significant from mid- to post-training only (Pā€‰<ā€‰0.05). It is concluded that a more prolonged neural adaptation related to the more complex bench and leg press movements may have delayed hypertrophy in the trunk and legs. With the simpler arm curl exercise, early gains in strength were accompanied by muscle hypertrophy and, presumably, a faster neural adaptation.

Accepted: 8 July 1997