Factors that contribute to and account for strength and work capacity in a large cohort of recreationally trained adult healthy men with high- and low-strength levels

Chad M Kerksick, Jerry L Mayhew, Megan E Grimstvedt, Mike Greenwood, Chris J Rasmussen, Richard B Kreider
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2014, 28 (5): 1246-54
The factors that best account for differences in strength across all types of exercise, body types, and training histories are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of strength level and body composition on upper- and lower-body work capacity in adult men. From a cohort of 295 adult men (25.6 ± 7.5 years, 178 ± 8 cm, 85.2 ± 15 kg), low-strength (LS, n = 72) and high-strength (HS, n = 66) samples were selected based on 1 repetition maximum (1RM) bench press (BP) and leg strength (LP) values. Work capacity for each exercise was determined from the product of repetition weight (80% 1RM) and maximum repetitions-to-fatigue (RTF). Body composition was measured using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. The HS group was significantly greater than the LS group in total body mass and fat-free mass but not in age, height, fat mass, or %fat. Low-strength and HS groups were not significantly different (p > 0.05) in RTF for either BP (8.7 ± 3.1 vs. 8.3 ± 1.9 reps, respectively) or LP (15.6 ± 7.6 vs. 17.0 ± 6.3 reps, respectively), making the ratio of RTF for BP vs. LP nonsignificant (LS = 2.0 ± 1.0; HS = 2.2 ± 0.9). The HS group produced significantly greater (p < 0.001) absolute and relative work capacities for both BP and LP compared with the LS group. Repetitions-to-fatigue had a greater influence on BP (r2 = 0.74) and LP (r2 = 0.85) work capacities in the LS group than did RepWt (r2 = 0.07 and 0.28, respectively). In the HS group, RTF (r2 = 0.79) had a greater influence than RepWt (r2 = 0.10) on BP work capacity, whereas the 2 components were more similar for LP work capacity (r2 = 0.64 and 0.47, respectively). When evaluated at the same %1RM, muscular endurance is similar across divergent strength levels meaning that work capacity (load × reps) will be greater for HS individuals. Controlling for the influence of body composition variables (e.g., fat or fat-free mass) does not eliminate the difference in work capacity between strength groups suggesting that other factors are accounting for strength expression. Prescribing repetitions against a fixed relative load is largely dependent on exercise type and must be considered by strength and conditioning professionals.

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