Influence of number of sets on blood pressure and heart rate variability after a strength training session

Tiago Figueiredo, Matthew R Rhea, Mark Peterson, Humberto Miranda, Claudio M Bentes, Victor Machado de Ribeiro dos Reis, Roberto Simão
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2015, 29 (6): 1556-63
The purpose of this study was to compare the acute effects of 1, 3, and 5 sets of strength training (ST), on heart rate variability (HRV) and blood pressure. Eleven male volunteers (age: 26.1 ± 3.6 years; body mass: 74.1 ± 8.1 kg; height: 172 ± 4 cm) with at least 6 months previous experience in ST participated in the study. After determining the 1 repetition maximum (1RM) load for the bench press (BP), lat pull down (LPD), shoulder press (SP), biceps curl (BC), triceps extension (TE), leg press (LP), leg extension (LE), and leg curl (LC), the participants performed 3 different exercise sequences in a random order and 72 hours apart. During the first sequence, subjects performed a single set of 8-10 repetitions, at 70% 1RM, and with 2-minute rest interval between exercises. Exercises were performed in the following order: BP, LPD, SP, BC, TE, LP, LE, and LC. During the second sequence, subjects performed the same exercise sequence, with the same intensity, 2-minute rest interval between sets and exercises, but with 3 consecutive sets of each exercise. During the third sequence, the same protocol was followed but with 5 sets of each exercise. Before and after the training sessions, blood pressure and HRV were measured. The statistical analysis demonstrated a greater duration of postexercise hypotension after the 5-set program vs. the 1 set or 3 sets (p ≤ 0.05). However, the 5-set program promoted a substantial cardiac stress, as demonstrated by HRV (p ≤ 0.05). These results indicate that 5 sets of 8-10 repetitions at 70% 1RM load may provide the ideal stimulus for a postexercise hypotensive response. Therefore, ST composed of upper- and lower-body exercises and performed with high volumes are capable of producing significant and extended postexercise hypotensive response. In conclusion, strength and conditioning professionals can prescribe 5 sets per exercises if the goal is to reduce blood pressure after training. In addition, these findings may have importance, specifically in the early phase of high blood pressure development, but more research is needed in hypertensive populations to validate this hypothesis.

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