Drinkwater, E. J., Lawton, T. W., Lindsell, R. P., Pyne, D. B., Hunt, P. H., & McKenna, M. J. (2004). Repetition failure is a key determinant of strength development in resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(5), Supplement abstract 395.

This study compared the effect of different set designs and volume on the magnitude of strength development when training to repetition failure. Elite junior basketball players (N = 12) and senior volleyball players (N = 10) were tested on 6- and 3-repetition maximum mass of bench press and 40 kg Smith Machine bench press throw power. For six weeks, groups trained either 4 sets of 6 repetitions every 121 seconds (4x6), 8 sets of 3 repetitions every 72 seconds (8x3), or 12 sets of 3 repetitions every 72 seconds (12x3). All Ss trained with progressive increases in resistance between 90-100% 6 RM to ensure repetition failure by the end of each session.

The 4x6 and 12x3 groups reached failure on more repetitions than the 8x3 group. All groups improved significantly and similarly in 6 RM, 3 RM, and bench press throw.

Implication. Repetition failure appears to be the central ingredient for developing strength. Set and rest duration, set volume, and repetitions missed were not related to strength gains.

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