European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 90, Issue 5–6, pp 626–632 | Cite as

Effect of resistance exercise volume and complexity on EMG, strength, and regional body composition

  • Jeffrey M. McBrideEmail author
  • John B. Blaak
  • Travis Triplett-McBride
Original Article


This study was designed to examine the effects of a 12-week resistance training program using single versus multiple sets of a complex versus simple exercise on EMG, strength and regional body composition. Twenty-eight untrained men (n=15) and women (n=13) performed resistance training twice per week. Group 1 (S-1, n=9) performed one set of a leg press (LP) and bicep curl (BC) exercise, group 2 (M-6, n=9) performed six sets of a LP and BC exercise, and group 3 (C, n=10) was the control group. One-repetition maximums (1RMs) and EMG were measured in the LP and BC during pre-, mid-, and post-training. Lean body mass of the legs and arms were measured pre- and post-training by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Results of the study indicated that both S-1 and M-6 groups significantly increased percentage strength pre- to post-training in both the LP and BC [S-1 pre-/post-LP=41.2 (23.7)%, BC=8.5 (6.71)%; M-6 pre-/post-LP=52.6 (12.6)%, BC=22.8 (15.6)%; mean (SD)]. However, compared to S-1, M-6 showed a significantly greater increase in percentage strength in the BC (P≤0.05) from pre- to post-testing. Results also showed that M-6 produced a significant increase in biceps (single-joint) muscle EMG values pre- to mid-testing compared to S-1. There were no significant differences found in lean muscle mass gains for the legs or arms in either training group. The data from this study suggest that multiple sets produce a greater increase in percentage strength gain for a simple exercise. It is possible that some type of neural mechanism is responsible for the observed difference.


Multiple set Multi-joint Neuromuscular Single joint Single set 



Thank you to Chris Dodge, Adam Johnson, Tenille Kangas, and Sara Krajnik for providing technical assistance. This study was supported, in part, by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. This experiment complies with all current laws within the United States of America.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey M. McBride
    • 1
    Email author
  • John B. Blaak
    • 1
  • Travis Triplett-McBride
    • 1
  1. 1.Musculoskeletal Research Center, Department of Exercise and Sport ScienceUniversity of Wisconsin-La CrosseLa CrosseUSA

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