Practicing the Test Produces Strength Equivalent to Higher Volume Training

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Sep;49(9):1945-1954. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001300.


Purpose: To determine if muscle growth is important for increasing muscle strength or if changes in strength can be entirely explained from practicing the strength test.

Methods: Thirty-eight untrained individuals performed knee extension and chest press exercise for 8 wk. Individuals were randomly assigned to either a high-volume training group (HYPER) or a group just performing the one repetition maximum (1RM) strength test (TEST). The HYPER group performed four sets to volitional failure (~8RM-12RM), whereas the TEST group performed up to five attempts to lift as much weight as possible one time each visit.

Results: Data are presented as mean (90% confidence interval). The change in muscle size was greater in the HYPER group for both the upper and lower bodies at most but not all sites. The change in 1RM strength for both the upper body (difference of -1.1 [-4.8, 2.4] kg) and lower body (difference of 1.0 [-0.7, 2.8] kg for dominant leg) was not different between groups (similar for nondominant). Changes in isometric and isokinetic torque were not different between groups. The HYPER group observed a greater change in muscular endurance (difference of 2 [1,4] repetitions) only in the dominant leg. There were no differences in the change between groups in upper body endurance. There were between-group differences for exercise volume (mean [95% confidence interval]) of the dominant (difference of 11,049.3 [9254.6-12,844.0] kg) leg (similar for nondominant) and chest press with the HYPER group completing significantly more total volume (difference of 13259.9 [9632.0-16,887.8] kg).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that neither exercise volume nor the change in muscle size from training contributed to greater strength gains compared with just practicing the test.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / methods*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*
  • Young Adult