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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 9;5(8):e12033. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012033.

Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men.

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  • 1Exercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.



We aimed to determine the effect of resistance exercise intensity (%1 repetition maximum-1RM) and volume on muscle protein synthesis, anabolic signaling, and myogenic gene expression.


Fifteen men (21+/-1 years; BMI=24.1+/-0.8 kg/m2) performed 4 sets of unilateral leg extension exercise at different exercise loads and/or volumes: 90% of repetition maximum (1RM) until volitional failure (90FAIL), 30% 1RM work-matched to 90%FAIL (30WM), or 30% 1RM performed until volitional failure (30FAIL). Infusion of [ring-13C6] phenylalanine with biopsies was used to measure rates of mixed (MIX), myofibrillar (MYO), and sarcoplasmic (SARC) protein synthesis at rest, and 4 h and 24 h after exercise. Exercise at 30WM induced a significant increase above rest in MIX (121%) and MYO (87%) protein synthesis at 4 h post-exercise and but at 24 h in the MIX only. The increase in the rate of protein synthesis in MIX and MYO at 4 h post-exercise with 90FAIL and 30FAIL was greater than 30WM, with no difference between these conditions; however, MYO remained elevated (199%) above rest at 24 h only in 30FAIL. There was a significant increase in AktSer473 at 24h in all conditions (P=0.023) and mTORSer2448 phosphorylation at 4 h post-exercise (P=0.025). Phosporylation of Erk1/2Tyr202/204, p70S6KThr389, and 4E-BP1Thr37/46 increased significantly (P<0.05) only in the 30FAIL condition at 4 h post-exercise, whereas, 4E-BP1Thr37/46 phosphorylation was greater 24 h after exercise than at rest in both 90FAIL (237%) and 30FAIL (312%) conditions. Pax7 mRNA expression increased at 24 h post-exercise (P=0.02) regardless of condition. The mRNA expression of MyoD and myogenin were consistently elevated in the 30FAIL condition.


These results suggest that low-load high volume resistance exercise is more effective in inducing acute muscle anabolism than high-load low volume or work matched resistance exercise modes.

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