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Physiol Rep. 2017 Sep;5(18). pii: e13457. doi: 10.14814/phy2.13457. Epub 2017 Sep 27.

Molecular, neuromuscular, and recovery responses to light versus heavy resistance exercise in young men.

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School of Kinesiology, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.
Applied Neuromuscular Physiology Laboratory, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.
Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine - Auburn Campus, Auburn, Alabama.
School of Kinesiology, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama


Recent evidence suggests that resistance training with light or heavy loads to failure results in similar adaptations. Herein, we compared how both training modalities affect the molecular, neuromuscular, and recovery responses following exercise. Resistance-trained males (mean ± SE: 22 ± 2 years, 84.8 ± 9.0 kg, 1.79 ± 0.06 m; n = 15) performed a crossover design of four sets of leg extensor exercise at 30% (light RE) or 80% (heavy RE) one repetition maximum (1RM) to repetition failure, and heavy RE or light RE 1 week later. Surface electromyography (EMG) was monitored during exercise, and vastus lateralis muscle biopsies were collected at baseline (PRE), 15 min (15mPOST), and 90 min following RE (90mPOST) for examination of molecular targets and fiber typing. Isokinetic dynamometry was also performed before (PRE), immediately after (POST), and 48 h after (48hPOST) exercise. Dependent variables were analyzed using repeated measures ANOVAs and significance was set at P ≤ 0.05. Repetitions completed were greater during light RE (P < 0.01), while EMG amplitude was greater during heavy RE (P ≤ 0.01). POST isokinetic torque was reduced following light versus heavy RE (P < 0.05). Postexercise expression of mRNAs and phosphoproteins associated with muscle hypertrophy were similar between load conditions. Additionally, p70s6k (Thr389) phosphorylation and fast-twitch fiber proportion exhibited a strong relationship after both light and heavy RE (r > 0.5). While similar mRNA and phosphoprotein responses to both modalities occurred, we posit that heavy RE is a more time-efficient training method given the differences in total repetitions completed, lower EMG amplitude during light RE, and impaired recovery response after light RE.


Electromyography; mammalian target of rapamycin; postexercise recovery; resistance training

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