Dorgo, S., Reed-Jones, R. J., Murray, N. G., & Ambati, P. V. (2014). Short-term strength adaptations in trained and untrained young adults elicited by minimal and overload resistance training intensities. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(5), Supplement abstract number 915.

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Early muscular strength increase is considered to occur mainly due to neuromuscular adaptations. It is possible that those gains may be elicited through practicing resistance training movements with minimal overload.

This study compared the short-term strength changes between a group of trained and three groups of untrained Ss training with: i) overload resistance; ii) minimal resistance; and iii) no activity training (control). Adults (N = 54) participated in the investigation. Untrained Ss (N = 39) were randomly assigned to the overload-resistance, minimal-resistance, or control groups while 15 Ss formed a trained group. The bench press and back squat one repetition maximum (1-RM) tests and an isometric bench press test with force plate data were administered every two weeks. Training was performed as three sets of ten repetitions twice weekly for six weeks. The trained and overload-resistance groups used 75% of 1-RM, the minimal-resistance group used a weightless 5-ft. PVC pipe, and the control group remained inactive.

The trained group was significantly stronger in all tests than the untrained groups with no initial differences between the three untrained groups. For bench press, from pre- to post-test the trained group, overload-resistance group, and minimal-resistance groups all improved significantly. The control group did not improve. A significant group by time interaction suggested a different improvement pattern across the groups. For back squat, all groups improved significantly, with a significant group by time interaction across the groups. In both cases, the trained-resistance and overload-resistance groups showed the greatest level of improvement, while the minimal-resistance group showed less but still significant strength improvement. For the isometric bench-press, none of the groups showed significant improvements, but group by time interaction was significant showing an improvement trend for the trained- and overload-resistance groups, while the minimal-resistance and control groups showed no improvement.

Implication. Overload intensity appears to be superior even in the initial neuromuscular adaptation period of strength gains. Practicing training movements without any load appears to provide a sufficient training stimulus to elicit initial strength changes in untrained Ss. For specific groups of untrained Ss, performing resistance-training movement patterns without resistance could be an effective initial resistance-training experience.

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