Low-volume circuit versus high-volume periodized resistance training in women

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Apr;33(4):635-43. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200104000-00019.


Purpose: The purpose of this investigation was to determine the long-term training adaptations associated with low-volume circuit-type versus periodized high-volume resistance training programs in women.

Methods: 34 healthy, untrained women were randomly placed into one of the following groups: low-volume, single-set circuit (SSC; N = 12); periodized high-volume multiple-set (MS; N = 12); or nonexercising control (CON) group (N = 10). The SSC group performed one set of 8-12 repetitions to muscular failure 3 d x wk(-1). The MS group performed two to four sets of 3-15 repetitions with periodized volume and intensity 4 d x wk(-1). Muscular strength, power, speed, endurance, anthropometry, and resting hormonal concentrations were determined pretraining (T1), after 12 wk (T2), and after 24 wk of training (T3).

Results: 1-RM bench press and leg press, and upper and lower body local muscular endurance increased significantly (P < or = 0.05) at T2 for both groups, but only MS showed a significant increase at T3. Muscular power and speed increased significantly at T2 and T3 only for MS. Increases in testosterone were observed for both groups at T2 but only MS showed a significant increase at T3. Cortisol decreased from T1 to T2 and from T2 to T3 in MS. Insulin-like growth factor-1 increased significantly at T3 for SSC and at T2 and T3 for MS. No changes were observed for growth hormone in any of the training groups.

Conclusion: Significant improvements in muscular performance may be attained with either a low-volume single-set program or a high-volume, periodized multiple-set program during the first 12 wk of training in untrained women. However, dramatically different training adaptations are associated with specific domains of training program design which contrast in speed of movement, exercise choices and use of variation (periodization) in the intensity and volume of exercise.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Composition
  • Female
  • Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*


  • Hormones
  • Hydrocortisone