Is Your Strength Training Regimen Outdated?

Not Chris Highcock

I’m reading Hillfit: Stength, an ebook  by Chris Highcock of Conditioning Research.  One of the scientific review articles he cites in support of his recommendations is an eye-opener.

Evidence-Based Resistance Training Recommendations is available free online.  It’s published in Medicina Sportiva, which I’m not familiar with.  I’ll confess I’ve read little of the hard-core literature on the science of strength training.  It’s one of my more recent interests.

An excerpt:

We recommend that appreciably the same muscular strength and endurance adaptations can be attained by performing a single set of ~8-12 repetitions to momentary muscular failure, at a repetition duration that maintains muscular tension throughout the entire range of motion, for most major muscle groups once or twice each week. All resistance types (e.g. free-weights, resistance machines, bodyweight, etc.) show potential for increases in strength, with no significant difference between them, although resistance machines appear to pose a lower risk of injury.

The article has already got me questioning some of my notions, such as how often to work out, number of reps moving a weight, speed of moving a weight, and whether I should stick with free weights.  Why not see if your dogma is supported?  Worth a look.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Fisher, James, et al.  Evidence-based resistance training recommendations.  Medicina Sportiva, 15 (2011): 147-162.

9 responses to “Is Your Strength Training Regimen Outdated?

  1. Do you prefer Hillfit to Smarter Science of Slim ?

  2. The problem I find is that there are just so many conflicting theories on what works best that I’m constantly tempted to switch regimes and never sure if I’m missing out on some vital points that may be key to improving the results I get.

    • Harrison, I’ve got the same problem. Particularly with a McGuff-style workout, I worry that I won’t have the cardiovascular endurance I need for long hikes with my son’s Boy Scout troop. So I still do interval sprints twice weekly, but only for 12 minutes each.

  3. I’ve been following this basic regimen since June after reading Doug McGuff’s Body by Science. I lift once per week for about 15 minutes using a slow cadence, to failure. I use machines for safety. I believe that the science supporting this method is going to keep accumulating.

    • Ali, you may well be right. I hope so.
      Many of the long-term health benefits of exercise (in terms of longevity, reducece cancer and cardiovascular disease) were documented by Steven Blair and colleagues. They tested and ranked fitness levels typically with a maximal exercise treadmill test. I don’t know how well the pure strength exercisers would do on treadmill stress tests. (I’m well aware you can get a component of “cardio” while doing a pure strength training program.)

  4. Of course, the “best” training is the one that you’ll do and stick with. Pretty much any strength training done with good form will generate some results, especially in a training-naive person. With that said, I’ve come to enjoy the program/book “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe. Very simple but a solid workout, nonetheless. And like you, I’ve also started to try the sprinting stuff. I love how quickly it’s done compared to cardio which drones on forever for me.

  5. Gentlemen, I was recently guided to this post by a colleague of mine…it seems almost shameful that since it is my own article (I am the Fisher from Fisher, et al) that I should comment, but I wanted to add something in a more conversational format. I was a swimmer to a respectably high level, and later a basketball player, now I just focus on training for health (and aesthetics!)..Only today I did the multi-stage fitness test (bleep test) and out ran all of my first year students (mostly high level collegiate athletes)….in practice I train 2x /week for up to 20 mins varying the exercises – today I did chest press, lat pull-down, calf press, leg extension, and leg curl. Other days I do deadlift (more for enjoyment), and bicep curl, tricep extension, lat raises, shoulder press, and leg press. Occasionally I do a barefoot run for the enjoyment of it, and I surf (when I have time), and mountain bike (when I have extra time). I can honestly say whilst I am not fit for the sports (formerly basketball and swimming) in a skill sense , physically I don’t think I have been leaner and fitter than now. I am thankfully very well conditioned for surfing and mountain biking. I eat paleo on a relatively strict basis (but allow dairy).

    My point in this comment is simply that we all question these workouts, we all wonder if we are accommodating for all the requirements or components of our respective sports or interest, but the reality is that simple scientific strength training works. Train through a full range of motion, to a muscular failure, in a controlled manner. Make workouts brief and intense, and enjoy the rest of your week.

    Thanks for the comment in the blog.

    Be well