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Effects of high and low volume of strength training on muscle strength, muscle volume and lipid profile in postmenopausal women

Abstract: Changes in lipid profile are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), especially in postmenopausal woman who have been associated with age-related loss of muscle mass. The beneficial role of aerobic exercise in the prevention of CVD has been well documented. However, the effect of strength training has not been established. The purpose of this study was to determine the changes of lipoprotein levels after 12 weeks of different volumes of strength training and its correlation with strength and muscle volume in postmenopausal women. The participants were randomized into three groups: low volume (LVST; n = 12, 1 set) and high volume of strength training (HVST; n = 11, 3 sets), or control group (n = 12). Training groups performed 12 weeks of supervised strength exercises, 15 maximum repetitions, five times a week, 20 minutes for LVST and 40 minutes for HVST for each training session. Measurements included body composition, strength and muscle volume, as well as blood analysis (glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein, and high-density lipoprotein) pre- and post-training. The HVST and LVST improved the one-repetition maximum knee extension strength (p < 0.001), maximal dynamic strength (p < 0.001), and muscle volume (p = 0.048). Post-training triglyceride was lower in HVST when compared to LVST and the control group (p = 0.047). Even though they present the same neuromuscular and morphological adaptations in postmenopausal women, the HVST is more effective than LVST in improving the lipid profile of postmenopausal woman, and can be considered as an ideal program of intervention to reverse changes in lipid metabolism commonly found in this group.

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Alex’s Notes: The study at hand was a simple one that aimed to determine what effects high- versus low-volume resistance training would have on the lipid profiles of post-menopausal women. The subjects included 35 healthy women (60 years old; 25.7 BMI) that were not doing any structured strength training for at least one year prior to the start of the study. These women were divided into three groups for 12 weeks: low-volume strength training (LVST; 1 set), high-volume (HVST; 3 sets), or no strength training (control).

“The groups LVST and HVST performed eight exercises (bench press, biceps curl, triceps halter, 1 arm row back, leg press, knee extensor, knee flexion, and abdomen crunch), all exercises performed in 15 maximum repetitions (RM); a 40-second time interval was used between sets and exercises. The duration of each training session was approximately 20 minutes for LVST and 40 minutes for HVST.”

Additionally, all the women received nutritional advice from professionals in the area so as to ensure a wide-range of diets. Two important findings came from this study. First, strength and muscle mass increased similarly in both strength training groups, further supporting the notion that making metabolic currency deposits only requires minimal dedication. In this case, that would be 20 minutes per day for – I am assuming because the authors did not state this – three times per week.

The second important finding was that strength training had no lipoprotein benefits compared to the control group, but that HVST and only HVST significantly reduced circulating triglycerides. In fact, relative to the control group, this reduction was on average 33%. The authors rightly conclude,

“Therefore, the realization of a greater volume of strength training should be primarily used by individuals with metabolic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, because HVST has an effect on the metabolism of fat. In fact, HVST should be recommended as a nonpharmacological strategy, considering its influence in reducing and attenuating several alterations involved in this period (sarcopenia, osteopenia, insulin resistance, inflammatory markers, among others).”

The takeaways from this study suggest that if you working with clients in whom high triglycerides are a problem, spending a little extra time under the bar is your best bet. However, if you simply have older women that want to get in better shape, 1 set per muscle group is enough to boost her health, at least in the beginning. Use that time to build rapport and encourage her to continue striving after the newbie gains have passed.

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