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A Comparison of Compound Set and Traditional Set Resistance Training in Women: Changes in Muscle Strength, Endurance, Quantity, and Architecture

  • Justin J. Merrigan
  • Margaret T. JonesEmail author
  • Jason B. White
Original Article

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of using compound sets during a 12-week lower body resistance training program on muscle strength, endurance, hypertrophy, architecture, and soreness. Thirty-one recreationally active females were randomly assigned to one of three groups: traditional sets, compound sets, or control. The training groups performed Smith Machine squat and leg press at matched intensities, volumes, and cumulative rest per session. During compound sets, the squat was performed immediately prior to the leg press, while 1 min rest separated the exercises during traditional sets. A non-exercise control group did not perform resistance training. One-repetition maximum strength, muscle endurance, muscle thickness, cross-sectional area, pennation angle, training session time, and soreness were compared from pre- to post-training (α level < 0.05). Squat and leg press muscle strength and endurance were significantly increased following compound and traditional sets (P < 0.001). Compound and traditional sets were greater than the control group’s post-test 1-RM strength and muscle endurance on squat and leg press (P < 0.05). Cross-sectional area and muscle thickness increased after compound and traditional set training from pre- to post-training (P < 0.05). Neither training group had changes to pennation angle. There were no differences between training time per session, as well as subjective soreness at 12 (P > 0.80), 24 (P > 0.50), or 48 (P > 0.30) h post-workout. In conclusion, compound set training, with equated rest, is a method of resistance training that elicits gains similar to traditional sets in young females.

Keywords

Superset Muscle hypertrophy Muscle size Cross-sectional area Ultrasound Female 

Introduction

Muscle size [8], pennation angle (PA) [16], and strength increase with consistent resistance training [18, 20]. Although greater PA may lead to decreased contractile forces placed on tendons, resistance training increases both PA and strength due to an increase in muscle fiber cross-sectional area (CSA) [1]. However, it has been reported that females have smaller muscle size and lower pennation angles compared to males [19], thus making it difficult to assume the magnitude of muscle size and architecture changes would be similar between sexes. This has been noted in previous research that found no alteration in PA, despite increases in females’ muscle size [31]. Yet, the changes that do exist in females’ muscle architecture relate to their changes in performance due to resistance training [21]. Despite the impact of muscle architecture on strength and apparent sex differences, limited research exists on resistance training-induced muscle architecture changes in females.

Muscular adaptations from resistance training, such as hypertrophy, can be best elucidated through high training volumes [17]. Further, when training induces fatigue, via reduction of rest time, there is a greater likelihood of strength gains in short periods of time [28]. This may be accomplished by using paired sets of two exercises performed consecutively without rest, such as super sets (agonist–antagonist muscle groups) or compound sets (agonist–agonist muscle groups). One proposed benefit of this type of training modality is being a time-efficient means of developing strength [24]. Yet, to be time efficient, the total rest during paired-set training must be reduced, which brings to question whether this method is appropriate for certain populations due to high levels of fatigue.

Additionally, it has been suggested that the use of compound training requires longer recovery between sessions [5]. Yet, this was suggested on the premise of one training session and it is likely that adaptations over time would limit muscle damage in subsequent sessions [22]. Furthermore, equated rest time between paired sets and traditional sets would permit longer rest time after completion of each paired set and potentially limit fatigue. For example, following 5 weeks of training using 15–20 repetitions three times per week, leg press strength was improved by a further 45.9% when using 80-s compared to 20-s rest periods [14]. Therefore, by allowing more rest at the end of a compound set (i.e., 20 total repetitions), it may be possible to elicit further strength gains. This may also limit fatigue and allow for evaluation of compound sets in lesser-trained females, providing insight on a training method that remains understudied despite its popularity. Further, muscle architecture changes after training with paired sets is yet to be established.

When evaluating muscle changes due to resistance training, it is advisable to evaluate measures at multiple locations within the same muscle due to disproportionate increases in muscle mass [16, 27]. Although the majority of aforementioned research has involved males, non-homogenous changes across the transverse section of the vastus lateralis have been noted in females [31], but it is unknown whether there may be differences in architectural changes throughout the length of the musculature. In comparison to males, females have shown lower PA in the distal vastus medialis, but not the proximal, which may alter the force vectors and partially explain the regional differences in muscle thickness [13]. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate changes in muscle strength, endurance, quantity, (i.e., muscle hypertrophy), and architecture after 12 weeks of resistance training in females. Furthermore, muscle thickness and architecture changes were examined at two sites along the same muscle, to investigate if changes due to training are uniform throughout the muscle. Differences in workout time and subjective soreness were also noted.

Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

To determine which method, compound or traditional sets, was more effective in improving the aforementioned variables of interest, recreationally active females were pair matched for training groups based on body mass index and randomly assigned to: compound set (n = 10), traditional set (n = 12), or a control group that did not train (n = 10). All resistance training included lower body exercises performed with a full range of motion and proper technique, which was monitored and supervised for each subject. All testing measures were taken pre- and post-training following familiarization. Strength and endurance tests were completed on separate days for squat and leg press, in a random order, and were separated by 72 h of rest. Ultrasound measures were taken at the start of training and 1 week after the completion of training to reduce the influence of muscle swelling on changes in size. Supervised training sessions occurred twice weekly and were separated by 3 days. Compound and traditional set training groups were matched for duration, relative intensity, volume, and cumulative rest. Each group performed a 5-min standardized warm-up, Smith Machine squat, and 45° leg press, in the order given. The compound set group performed the squat and leg press with no rest between exercises, aside from switching machines, which was considered one set. The rest between compound sets was  150 s for three sets and 140 s when four sets were completed. The traditional set group performed the prescribed sets of squats with 1 min rest between sets, rested for another minute and then performed the leg press with 1 min of rest between sets. The cumulative rest for each group was 5 min before the completion of the last set. Both training groups performed three sets for the first 7 weeks and four sets for the last 5 weeks, for each exercise. The full testing and training schedule are displayed in Table 1.
Table 1

Training schedule (2 days per week), displayed as sets × repetitions at load

Variable

Compound set

Traditional set

Week 1

Pre-testing

Weeks 2–3

3 (2 exercises/set) × 8 at 70% 1-RM

6 × 8 at 70% 1-RM

Weeks 4–5

3 (2 exercises/set) × 10 at 70% 1-RM

6 × 10 at 70% 1-RM

Weeks 6–7

3 (2 exercises/set) × 12 at 70% 1-RM

6 × 12 at 70% 1-RM

Week 8

3 (2 exercises/set) × 8 at 80% 1-RM

6 × 8 at 80% 1-RM

Week 9

4 (2 exercises/set) × 8 at 80% 1-RM

8 × 8 at 80% 1-RM

Weeks 10–11

4 (2 exercises/set) × 10 at 80% 1-RM

8 × 10 at 80% 1-RM

Weeks 12–13

4 (2 exercises/set) × 12 at 80% 1-RM

8 × 12 at 80% 1-RM

Week 14

Strength and endurance post-testing

Week 15

Muscle size and architecture post-testing

The total number of compound and traditional sets performed are underlined. Rest periods for each group: compound sets, between exercises, 0 rest, between each set of 3, 150 s rest, between each set of 4, 140 s rest; traditional sets, 1 min of rest between each exercise and set for both three and four sets. All prescribed repetitions were completed by each subject

Subjects

Thirty-one females (mean ± SD; 21 ± 2 years), who were not currently following a prescribed resistance training program, were recruited for the study. All subjects reported being recreationally active, which consisted of participation in a variety of physical activities such as occasional aerobic or resistance exercises (1–2 times per week combined maximal), club sports, yoga, and pilates classes. Subjects had to attend 22 of the 24 training sessions to be included, which led to the removal of two subjects from the compound set group due to personal reasons unrelated to the training. After thorough explanation of what the study entailed, subjects were asked to sign an informed consent and complete a health history questionnaire. Those who were pregnant, at risk of injury due to cardiovascular, metabolic, pulmonary or musculoskeletal problems, as determined from their health history questionnaire or a prior medical examination, or did not satisfactorily pass joint integrity tests performed by a licensed athletic trainer, were excluded from the study. Exclusion criteria also ensured all subjects were healthy nonsmokers, regularly menstruating, free from disease or debilitating conditions, and non-drug or steroid users. Markedly overweight with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 27, underweight (BMI less than 19), and hypertensive individuals (blood pressure greater than 140 mmHg systolic and 90 mmHg diastolic) were also excluded from the study. It was requested that subjects refrained from any additional resistance training and supplement use during the study, as well as maintenance of normal dietary habits. These parameters were approved by the University Institutional Review Board.

Familiarization

Prior to beginning training, all subjects completed an orientation to ensure safety and diminish any learning effect on training, as subjects had little experience with the exercises. During orientation, each subject accumulated at least 3 h in the weight room becoming familiarized with the Smith Machine squat and 45° seated leg press. Subjects were required to perform satisfactory lifts for each exercise, evaluated by a certified strength and conditioning specialist (NSCA–CSCS). After multiple lifts were deemed acceptable, controls were set for range of motion. For the squat, elastic bands were set between the Smith Machine supports and positioned, so the end of the barbell made contact with the bands when the subject’s thighs were parallel to the floor. For the leg press, each subject held a flexed position (90°) to record depth level, which was marked on the leg press rails. Elastic band height and leg press depth level were recorded for each subject and used for all training.

Muscular Strength and Endurance

Following familiarization, muscle strength and endurance testing was performed on separate sessions for the squat and leg press with a rest of 72 h. Each subject completed a 5-min standardized warm-up on a cycle ergometer prior to testing. For strength testing, a one-repetition maximum (1-RM) was performed with identical procedures for each subject and exercise. All pre-maximum sets were based on percentages of self-estimated 1-RM and performed in the following order: 8–10 repetitions at 40–60% 1-RM, rest 2–3 min, 3–5 repetitions at 75% 1-RM, rest 3–5 min, and 1–3 repetitions at 80–90% 1-RM. Then the subject was allotted 4–5 min of rest before a 1-RM attempt. If a lift attempt failed, the weight was decreased before a second 1-RM attempt was made after 5 min of rest. If the lift was successful, 4–5 min of rest was given and another 1-RM was attempted with increased weight. This method was repeated as necessary until a lift failed more than once. Attempts completed within the approved range of motion for each subject and exercise were deemed successful. Absolute and relative (load lifted divided by body mass) strength values were analyzed and reported.

After each 1-RM was ascertained, 15 min of rest was provided to prepare for repetitions to fatigue. The intensity was adjusted to 60% of each subject’s recorded 1-RM on both exercises and the subjects executed as many repetitions as possible. Repetitions were counted only if proper form and range of motion were maintained. Subjects were informed that a pause for longer than 3 s after completion of a repetition or a significant loss of form would conclude the test. The total number of repetitions performed served as the measure for absolute muscular endurance [25]. The same load used in pre-testing was used for post-testing to evaluate improvements in absolute muscle endurance after 12 weeks of training.

Muscle Size and Architecture

Muscle thickness, CSA, and PA were estimated via ultrasound of the vastus lateralis. The study utilized two-dimensional B-mode ultrasound imaging (eSaote BioSound MyLab 25, Biosound Esaote, Inc., Indianapolis, IN, USA) with a 5-cm linear transducer (frequency, 7.5 MHz; axial resolution < 0.5 mm). Settings for sonographs were standardized with a depth of 5 cm and gain of 52. Direct measurement of muscle thickness, PA, and estimations of CSA were attained from sonographs, by using reflected echoes that delineate muscle structures (skin and adipose tissue, muscle fascicles, aponeuroses, and bone) for measurement. Digitizing software (Scion Image for Windows, http://www.scioncorp.com) allowed researchers to import the sonographs, find landmarks, and make measurements.

The vastus lateralis muscle of the right leg was measured with the subjects lying supine, with their upper legs elevated and relaxed, and knees slightly flexed (35°–45°). To improve transducer communication and reduce the chance of touching skin, a water-soluble conductor gel was placed on the site of measurement. For CSA, double-sided tape guided the transducer as it scanned the entire segment (distal) taking multiple pictures from every angle of the vastus lateralis, which were then superimposed to create a cross-sectional model of the muscle. The transducer was then placed perpendicular to the skin and parallel to the muscle fascicles. Muscle thickness and pennation angle were taken at 50% (proximal) and 25% (distal) of thigh length (distance from the proximal patella to the anterior superior iliac spine), respectively. Multiple measurements were taken at each site. Muscle thickness was calculated as the mean of the distances between the superficial and deep aponeuroses at the ends and center of each 5 cm-wide sonograph. Pennation angles were defined as angles between the echoes of deep aponeurosis and interspaces among the fascicle. The average value of two measurements was used for CSA, muscle thickness, and PA.

Workout Time and Soreness

Workout time was monitored by supervisors via stop watches and recorded for each session. The time clock started when contact was made with the Smith Machine barbell after completion of the warm-up, and ended when the last repetition of the final leg press set was completed. Rest periods between sets were monitored similarly. Subjects were cued to prepare for the next set approximately 15 s before it began.

A soreness scale [29] was provided to subjects so they could subjectively provide their post-workout soreness rating for 2 days following each session. This allowed for potential identification of differences between compound set and traditional set for sensation of delayed onset of muscle soreness and/or post-exercise pain.

Statistical Analysis

Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS 24.0 for Windows (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Data were normal and screened for outliers, which were removed from analysis if greater than 2.5 standard deviations from the group mean. Mixed model (between/within) analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) tests were used to determine differences between or within groups, pre-training and post-training for all variables. Although the baseline measurements were no different between groups, the use of ANCOVA may help account for ceiling or floor effects in detecting changes over time [30]. Significance was bound by α level of P < 0.05. In the case of significant effects, pairwise comparisons were used with Bonferroni adjustments. The reliability of ultrasound measurements was found by calculating the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for all images from the two sites. The ICCs were as follows: muscle thickness, 0.92 at proximal and 0.89 at distal; PA, 0.91 at proximal and 0.88 at distal; CSA, 0.97. T test was used to compare training time between groups and the nonparametric L statistic was used to compare subjective soreness between groups post-workout. Effect sizes were calculated using Cohen’s d and were defined as small, d = 0.20–0.49; moderate, d = 0.50–0.79; and large, d ≥ 0.80 [7]. In addition to statistical analysis and effect sizes, the number of subjects who exceeded the minimal difference needed to be considered before a real change in pre- to post-test was considered for muscle CSA and thickness.

Results

Subjects’ age (controls, 20.6 ± 1.3 years; traditional sets, 20.9 ± 3.4 years; compound sets, 20.6 ± 1.1 years), height (controls, 1.65 ± 0.06 m; traditional sets, 1.63 ± 0.09 m; compound sets, 1.65 ± 0.06 m), baseline weight (controls, 61.5 ± 8.6 kg; traditional sets, 61.4 ± 9.6 kg; compound sets, 62.3 ± 11.0 kg), post-training weight (controls, 61.8 ± 5.5 kg; traditional sets, 62.33 ± 8.8 kg; compound sets, 63.3 ± 9.5 kg), and body composition (body fat: controls, 26.3 ± 5.5%; traditional sets, 29.2 ± 4.5%; compound sets, 27.0 ± 6.8%) were not different between groups (P > 0.05).

Muscular Strength

The results in absolute and relative muscle strength are shown in Table 2. A significant interaction (P < 0.001) existed for squat and leg press absolute and relative muscle strength. Traditional and compound sets led to significant increases in 1-RM strength for both the squat (P < 0.001) and leg press (P < 0.001) and did not differ from each other at post-testing (P ≥ 0.374). Both training groups also had greater squat and leg press 1-RM strength at post-testing compared to the control group (P < 0.001), which had no significant difference between the two training groups (P = 0.356–4.75). Similarly, relative differences in strength existed between the two training groups and the control group for both squat (P ≤ 0.001) and leg press (P ≤ 0.024).
Table 2

Relative and absolute muscular strength (mean ± SD)

Variables

Group

Pretest

Post-test

Effect size

Absolute strength, leg press (kg)

Control

152.69 ± 27.26

158.47 ± 33.97

0.19

Traditional sets

158.52 ± 21.23

227.84 ± 27.45*§

2.83

Compound sets

155.97 ± 30.56

236.99 ± 38.90*§

2.32

Absolute strength, squat (kg)

Control

51.24 ± 14.95

53.31 ± 14.67

0.14

Traditional sets

50.38 ± 6.34

74.81 ± 6.39*§

3.84

Compound sets

55.11 ± 9.70

80.97 ± 11.20*§

2.47

Relative strength, leg press (kg lifted/kg body mass)

Control

2.48 ± 0.38

2.55 ± 0.41

0.18

Traditional sets

2.61 ± 0.39

3.70 ± 0.54*§

2.31

Compound sets

2.58 ± 0.69

3.81 ± 0.84*§

1.60

Relative strength, squat (kg lifted/kg body mass)

Control

0.84 ± 0.22

0.86 ± 0.21

0.09

Traditional sets

0.83 ± 0.08

1.21 ± 0.14*§

3.33

Compound sets

0.91 ± 0.20

1.30 ± 0.26*§

1.68

Control group (n = 10); traditional set group (n = 12); compound set group (n = 10)

*Pre vs. post significance (P < 0.05); §significantly different from control (P < 0.05)

Muscular Endurance

The results of the muscle endurance assessments for squat and leg press are presented in Table 3. A significant interaction (P < 0.001) existed for squat and leg press muscle endurance. Traditional and compound sets led to significant increases in muscle endurance for both the squat (P < 0.001) and leg press (P < 0.001), and there were more repetitions to failure at post-testing compared to the control group (P < 0.001), which had no significant difference between the two training group (P > 0.604).
Table 3

Absolute muscular endurance (mean ± SD repetitions to fatigue)

Variables

Group

Pretest

Post-test

Effect size

Repetitions at 60%, leg press

Control

38.6 ± 18.3

43.1 ± 24.4

0.21

Traditional sets

27.1 ± 11.4

101.5 ± 36.4*§

2.76

Compound sets

41.9 ± 15.8

110.3 ± 51.1*§

1.81

Repetitions at 60%, squat

Control

13.9 ± 6.8

18.3 ± 9.5

0.53

Traditional sets

15.0 ± 4.0

64.3 ± 31.1*§

2.22

Compound sets

19.1 ± 8.8

74.0 ± 25.7*§

2.85

Control group (n = 10); traditional set group (n = 12); compound set group (n = 10)

*Pre vs. post significance (P < 0.05); §significantly different from control (P < 0.05)

Muscle Size and Architecture

A significant interaction effect existed for CSA (P < 0.001). Both training groups had significantly increased CSA from pre- to post-testing (P < 0.001) and had larger CSA at post-test compared to the control group (P < 0.001), which remained unchanged (P = 0.756). The proximal and distal vastus lateralis muscle thickness was significantly increased over time for both training groups (P < 0.001), but no significant interaction effect existed (P ≥ 0.208). No significant main training effect existed for PA (P ≥ 0.133), nor were there any interactions (P ≥ 0.492). A summary of muscle size and architecture results with effect sizes for each group is shown in Table 4.
Table 4

Vastus lateralis muscle thickness and cross-sectional area (mean ± SD)

Variables

Group

Pretest

Post-test

Effect size

Distal thickness (cm)

Traditional sets

1.90 ± 0.24

2.17 ± 0.23*

1.11

Compound sets

1.96 ± 0.20

2.12 ± 0.24*

0.72

Proximal thickness (cm)

Traditional sets

2.10 ± 0.19

2.34 ± 0.13*

1.47

Compound sets

2.24 ± 0.15

2.38 ± 0.25*

0.68

Cross-sectional area (cm2)

Control

28.9 ± 6.5

29.3 ± 6.0

0.06

Traditional sets

31.5 ± 5.3

38.0 ± 6.5*§

1.10

Compound sets

30.8 ± 5.9

37.6 ± 4.9*§

1.95

Distal pennation

Traditional sets

17.49 ± 3.03

17.72 ± 2.98

0.08

Angle (°)

Compound sets

18.61 ± 2.99

19.28 ± 2.50

0.24

Proximal pennation

Traditional sets

16.46 ± 2.12

17.60 ± 2.23

0.52

Angle (°)

Compound sets

19.05 ± 1.88

19.48 ± 2.21

0.21

C control group (n = 10), TS traditional set group (n = 12), CS compound set group (n = 8)

*Pre vs. post significance (P < 0.05); §significantly different from control (P < 0.05)

Workout Time and Soreness

There were no significant group differences in the time to complete the workout when three sets were to be performed (traditional sets, 8 min 37 s; compound sets, 8 min 54 s) and when four sets were to be performed (traditional sets, 11 min 22 s; compound sets, 11 min 48 s). Subjective soreness was not significantly different at 12 (P > 0.80), 24 (P > 0.50), or 48 (P > 0.30) h post-workout between traditional sets and compound sets.

Discussion

The main finding of the current study was that the compound set led to gains comparable to traditional set resistance training methods in recreationally active females. Both groups experienced gains in muscular strength, endurance, CSA, muscle thickness, and PA. No significant differences were observed between training groups for any measure.

On average, the compound and traditional set protocols significantly increased muscular strength in squat and leg press exercises and had greater 1-RM strength than the control group for both exercises post-training. Further, compound and traditional set groups experienced large increases in muscle endurance and performed more post-test squat and leg press repetitions than the control group. In males the use of paired sets generally results in greater training volumes in less time, which inherently fatigues active muscles [2, 24]. However, in the current study no subject failed to complete the goal number of repetitions for the leg press, despite squatting immediately prior to the leg press. One possible explanation for this discrepancy may be explained by the use of a single joint exercise (knee extension) to pre-fatigue the quadriceps prior to performing the leg press, compared to the multijoint exercise (squat) that distributes the load to a greater area used in the current study [2]. Another explanation why the females did not experience volitional fatigue is that they are more resistant to fatigue than their male counterparts [6]. Moreover, the rest and volume load between protocols was equated in the current study. In consideration of the aforementioned factors, it is likely that the extent of fatigue between the protocols was similar. This may explain why paired-set training did not result in greater strength gains as compared to traditional sets, since fatigue may contribute to the efficiency of paired-set training in strength gains [26]. Regardless, both training protocols resulted in strength and endurance gains, although these gains were heterogeneous across this sample as depicted by evaluation of individual responses (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Individual subject data for the pre- to post-test difference in cross-sectional area, as well as distal and proximal muscle thickness. The black solid line, for each variable, indicates the minimum difference needed to be considered a real change due to training in this experiment. Bars above this threshold would be considered real, while those below do not exceed the noise associated with the measurements

In conjunction with performance gains, the cross-sectional area of the vastus lateralis muscle increased significantly for both training protocols, with traditional sets increasing CSA by 20.6% and compound sets increasing CSA by 22.1%. These findings are in support of previous work with men in which 10 weeks of resistance training led to a 19% increase in quadriceps mean fiber CSA [10]. In the current study, both training groups also demonstrated significant increases in proximal and distal muscle thickness. This is in agreement with others who have found muscle thickness to correlate to CSA changes from strength training in males [12]. However, research in females has demonstrated gains in muscular strength without increases in muscle size [21, 31], which means other factors may influence strength gains in females. However, in the current study large effects were noted in muscle CSA and thickness following training, similar to those of strength and endurance. Further analysis of minimum detectable changes, demonstrated in Fig. 2, showed that the number of females with gains in CSA was comparable between protocols (50–60%), but more females exhibited muscle thickness increases following traditional set training. These individual gains in muscle size do not coincide with the gains in strength and endurance, which may suggest the influence of changes in size on strength gains to be individualized. Further, the muscle may thicken in a direction not measurable by muscle thickness readings from ultrasound and, thus, the muscle thickness measures would underestimate changes as noted in the current and prior findings [23]. Therefore, CSA measures may be valuable in conjunction or in place of muscle thickness measures when identifying muscle hypertrophy due to resistance training. Additionally, when training below levels of volitional fatigue, the responses to training may be more heterogeneous due to differing levels of fatigue experienced by each individual during training [9]. These individual responses occurred in muscle gains in function and hypertrophy within the current study; therefore, identifying individual responses may allow more detailed interpretations of the results and should be considered when analyzing hypertrophic responses to training.
Fig. 2

Individual subject data for the pre- to post-test difference in squat and leg press strength and endurance. The black solid line, for each variable, indicates the minimum difference needed to be considered a real change due to training in this experiment. Bars above this threshold would be considered real, while those below do not exceed the noise associated with the measurements

Despite previous findings of an increased PA in conjunction with increased muscle hypertrophy [1, 15], no changes in vastus lateralis PA existed after training with traditional or compound sets. The current findings do agree with other research which utilized single joint knee extensor training [4, 31]. However, when evaluating multijoint exercises, small increases in proximal vastus lateralis PA were noted following 5 weeks of squat (+ 1.5) and decreased following sprint/jump training (− 0.6) [3]. It was suggested that force–velocity characteristics of exercises are a driving factor in muscle architectural changes. In female softball players, vastus lateralis PA increased slightly following a strength training block, but decreased moderately following a power phase, while these changes were non-significant, the patterns agree with movement velocities’ impact on architectural changes [21]. Therefore, PA may have not been significantly altered in the current study due to the lower emphasis on high force production and movement velocity. Lastly, others have found no change in the pennation angle at multiple locations, but did find specific changes in muscle thickness existing across the transverse muscle plane after training in females [31]. The current study analyzed muscle thickness changes across the length of the vastus lateralis and noted significant changes at both locations.

The time to complete a session of training and cumulative rest was similar between traditional and compound sets, thus even though repetition speed was not controlled, time under tension for both training groups was likely similar. It is probable if additional rest was not given after the completion of compound sets, the training session would be completed significantly faster than the traditional set group; however, it is also possible that the compound set group would be unable to complete the prescribed repetitions of each set due to reduced total rest time [11]. Therefore, additional rest was provided in the current study during compound set training. Furthermore, despite the lack of structured resistance training in the current sample at the start of this study, there was no difference in subjective soreness at 48 h post-training between groups. However, this outcome might change if compound set utilized reduced rest between sets. Repeating the present study design with matched rest between sets might be beneficial.

Conclusions

This longitudinal study demonstrates that compound set can induce gains in muscle strength, endurance, and size similar to traditional strength training in young, recreationally active females, when training volumes and cumulative rest are matched. Although changes in muscle size were significant for both training groups, approximately half of the females experienced meaningful gains in size that may allude to the role of muscle size in strength changes for females. Further, muscle thickness increased at both measurement sites and may suggest similar changes along the muscle due to traditional set training. In conclusion, compound set training is a safe and effective modality for recreationally active and/or general fitness population of females.

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Copyright information

© Beijing Sport University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KinesiologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Frank Pettrone Center for Sports Performance, George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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