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Effects of Different Weekly Set Progressions on Muscular Adaptations in Trained Males: Is there a Dose-Response Effect?

PURPOSE: This study investigated the effect of progressively adding sets for the lower- limb every two weeks versus performing a constant set volume in resistance-trained males.

METHODS: Thirty-one resistance-trained males (age 24.4 ± 2.9 years; height 175.5 ± 6.5 cm; body mass 80.1 ± 9.4 kg; body fat 14.4 ± 3.1%; resistance training [RT] experience 5.1 ± 2.2 years; one repetition maximum (1-RM) barbell back squat:body mass ratio 1.7 ± 0.1 a.u.) were randomly allocated into a Constant Group (CG, n = 10), a four sets progression group (4SG, n = 10) or a six sets progression group (6SG, n = 11). After a 2-week washout period and another 2-week familiarization period, participants performed a lower-limb training program twice a week for 12 weeks. Maximum dynamic strength (1-RM) in the barbell back squat, vastus lateralis cross-sectional area (CSA), and the sum of lateral thigh muscle thickness (∑MT) at 30, 50 and 70% of the femur length were assessed at baseline and after the 12-week training program.

RESULTS: Regarding 1-RM, multiple comparisons revealed that 6SG elicited higher muscle strength gains than 4SG (p = 0.002) and CG (p < 0.0001), and 4SG had greater improvements than CG (p = 0.023). CSA and ∑MT showed no between-group differences (p = 0.067 and p = 0.076, respectively). However, an inspection of 95% confidence intervals suggests a potential dose-response relationship, with results appearing to plateau in the higher volume conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that progressively adding four or six sets per week every two weeks elicited greater lower-limb strength in resistance-trained individuals over a 12-week training period. While our findings indicate a possible small benefit for higher volume conditions regarding hypertrophic adaptations in this population, the limited certainty of our findings warrants caution.

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