Psychological stress impairs short-term muscular recovery from resistance exercise

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Nov;44(11):2220-7. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31825f67a0.


Purpose: The primary aim of this study was to determine whether chronic mental stress moderates recovery of muscular function, perceived energy, fatigue, and soreness in the first hour after a bout of strenuous resistance exercise.

Methods: Thirty-one undergraduate resistance training students (age = 20.26 ± 1.34 yr) completed the Perceived Stress Scale and Undergraduate Stress Questionnaire (USQ; a measure of life event stress) and completed fitness testing. After 5 to 14 d of recovery, they performed an acute heavy-resistance exercise protocol (10-repetition maximum (RM) leg press test plus six sets: 80%-100% of 10 RM). Maximal isometric force (MIF) was assessed before exercise, after exercise, and at 20, 40, and 60 min postexercise. Participants also reported their levels of perceived energy, fatigue, and soreness. Recovery data were analyzed with hierarchical linear modeling growth curve analysis.

Results: Life event stress significantly moderated linear (P = 0.013) and squared (P = 0.05) recovery of MIF. This relationship held even when the model was adjusted for fitness, workload, and training experience. Likewise, perceived stress moderated linear recovery of MIF (P = 0.023). Neither USQ nor Perceived Stress Scale significantly moderated changes in energy, fatigue, or soreness.

Conclusion: Life event stress and perceived stress both moderated the recovery of muscular function, but not psychological responses, in the first hour after strenuous resistance exercise.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Physical Fitness
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Resistance Training* / methods
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult