Thursday, 31 May 2012

There's No Such Thing As 'Cardio' - Resistance Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations

A paper I have been working on for a very long time has been published in Journal of Exercise Physiology Online examining the effects of resistance training to momentary muscular failure on measures of cardiovascular fitness in addition to the acute physiological responses and chronic physiological adaptation that serve to explain these observations.

Having this paper published has been a breakthrough for myself, being my first paper as lead author, and alot of work has been put in by myself and the other authors in producing the document here today. Several review processes and rejections have refined the paper into its final incarnation.

Here is the abstract (full text freely available by clicking on the title):

Resistance Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations.

Steele J, Fisher J, McGuff D, Bruce-Low S, Smith D. Resistance Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations. JEPonline 2012;15(3):53-80.

Research demonstrates resistance training produces significant improvement in cardiovascular fitness (VO2 max, economy of movement). To date no review article has considered the underlying physiological mechanisms that might support such improvements. This article is a comprehensive, systematic narrative review of the literature surrounding the area of resistance training, cardiovascular fitness and the acute responses and chronic adaptations it produces. The primary concern with existing research is the lack of clarity and inappropriate quantification of resistance training intensity. Thus, an important consideration of this review is the effect of intensity. The acute metabolic and molecular responses to resistance training to momentary muscular failure do not differ from that of traditional endurance training. Myocardial function appears to be maintained, perhaps enhanced, in acute response to high intensity resistance training, and contraction intensity appears to mediate the acute vascular response to resistance training. The results of chronic physiological adaptations demonstrate that resistance training to momentary muscular failure produces a number of physiological adaptations, which may facilitate the observed improvements in cardiovascular fitness. The adaptations may include an increase in mitochondrial enzymes, mitochondrial proliferation, phenotypic conversion from type IIx towards type IIa muscle fibers, and vascular remodeling (including capillarization). Resistance training to momentary muscular failure causes sufficient acute stimuli to produce chronic physiological adaptations that enhance cardiovascular fitness. This review appears to be the first to present this conclusion and, therefore, it may help stimulate a changing paradigm addressing the misnomer of ‘cardiovascular’ exercise as being determined by modality.


Key Words: Aerobic, Metabolic, Molecular, Myocardial
It is my sincere hope that this review will help to stimulate a change within the academic world with regards the typical exercise paradigms laboured under and illuminate the false dichotomy between resistance training and 'cardio'/endurance exercise that so many assume.

In light of the recent BBC Horizons programme on exercise that highlighted to the wider audience the benefits of intense exercise I am also attempting to get as much popular press coverage for this paper to try and disseminate what so many of us in the HIT world already understand through books such as Doug McGuff's (who I want to thank for assisting in the preparation and reviewing of the manuscript) and John Little's Body By Science.

Resistance training to momentary muscular failure is all that is necessary for optimal physiological fitness in all dimensions.

Read, share, enjoy, and as always feedback (both positive and negative) is welcomed and encouraged.

20 comments:

  1. Excellent, and congratulations on getting this published James

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  2. A very good and very much needed paper James. The work you put into this is phenomenal. This needs to be widely promoted!

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  3. Congratulations!!! Excellent job. I must say, I did not expect this paper to see the light of day (at least in my lifetime). I commend your hard work and incredible persistence in getting this work published. I am humbled that you have listed me as an author.

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  4. Thanks All!!

    Doug I had been chewing the fat on the concept ever since I got into HIT about 5 years ago and when my copy of BBS came through you provided the fuel to create this. When we put together our Evidence Based Resistance Training Recommendations paper last year both myself and James Fisher were adamant the topic should be included and I took on the task of reviewing the literature and writing it up with relish. I never thought it would grow into what it did and so it definitely warranted its own paper. As such and as I said when I first got in contact with you, your idea's and writings kicked it off in my mind with a framework and so you definitely deserved to be on the paper and to provide your expertise and feedback.

    JEPonline's review process was phenomenal and based upon prior publications in the journal (our Is Truth in Authority or Authority in Truth paper notably) they have an critical yet unbiased approach and unlike other journals allow the authors to rebut reviewers comments even if the reviewers suggest rejection. They allow for a proper rational scientific discourse between authors and reviewers. Its not suprising that they were receptive to what is going to be for many a highly controversial paper. Hence the need to get it acknowledged and discussed by wider and wider audiences. Academics need to consider its value to their work and the lay public need to be consider its value to their individual pursuits of health and fitness. Hopefully the gaps in the literature will begin to be filled based upon our recommendations also. I know that once I finish my PhD research I want to begin to look at some of them if they haven't already been examined come that time.

    Thanks again!!!

    James

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  5. James, after reading this impressive and persuasive paper, I am left wondering if the 'cardio'/strength training dichotomy is similarly false when looked at from the perspective of 'cardio' modalities. Is one bout of a maximal sprint as effective for all intents and purposes as multiple bouts, as is prescribed in most interval training/HIIT programs? At any rate, well done!

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Absolutely! In fact that makes me think again about the paper I shared earlier this year

      http://jamessteeleii.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/stepping-in-right-direction-resistance.html

      In it Stuart Phillips and Richard Winett highlight the peculiar trend in research that most studies tend to overcomplicate their interventions when first beginning to explore new areas (i.e. starting with multiple set, periodised programs in RT when looking at new outcomes in health), when they should be beginning with a minimal and uncomplicated program. After examining that only then should they begin to examine the effects of altering certain variables such as volume, frequency etc.

      The same applies to studies of HIIT. The typical 'Wingate' style protocol appears to have just been plucked out the air in terms of the number of sprints involved. Its just as arbitrary as the magic number 3 in RT. Gibala's studies have been influential in examining the area, but I think they should have begun with single bout sprints and then proceeded to examine the effects of multiple bouts.

      Thanks

      James

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  6. James,

    I am finishing up my PhD. soon. I want to have a couple of articles published before my defense. Would you please guide me through the process of getting published in JEPonline. Thanks for your help.

    Ralph

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    1. Hi Ralph,

      I've replied to your email.

      Thanks

      James

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  7. James,

    Fantastic stuff! I'll need to chew on this a bit but to see it published in JEP is a major accomplishment and you should be proud!

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  8. Kudos to you James! It's great to see all your hard work pay off in getting this published. I'm looking forward to reading it on the plane next week.

    Eric

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  9. @Skyler and Eric

    Thanks both. I'm looking forward to the feedback from everyone on this.

    I've just sent it over the Stuart Phillips at McMaster so will be great to see what he has to say also.

    I'm hoping it will make a bit of a splash and even if alot of people disagree it should stimualte discussion.

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  10. James, This is Great stuff. Now mainstream academia needs to "catch-up" to you - must be a nice feeling, huh? Again, Congrats!!

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  11. Excellent work James!! Finally HIT gets some much needed notice it deserves!!! Slowly but surely HIT is getting noticed!!

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  12. Hello James,
    I just ran across a link to your earlier review (EVIDENCE-BASED RESISTANCE TRAINING
    RECOMMENDATIONS) via a comment to the New York Times. I was wondering - how many of the recommendations have evidence from long term trials (say, longer than 8 months) as opposed to just short term trials (3 months or shorter)? Do you think it's likely that long term trial data might change the recommendations substantially?

    Great work!

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    1. Hi mikec,

      There has really been limited evidence from longer term trials in most cases. Some like set volume have had longer term trials conducted in a small number of cases. I'd have to check back through the studies though.

      It may in fact be the case that results differ after a certain period of time has elapsed. More likely however I think that a persons limits are almost reached by that time and so hinder the effects of any training.

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  13. What type of RT are we talking about? What kind of failure? Go beyond 1RM? Repetition failure? What excercises have been used, what rep/set scheme?

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    1. Hi McManiaC,

      If you take a look through the review you'll note that the studies cited in support have used a wide range of volume/frequency/load schemes. The common factor in all those that show improvement though is that they performed RT using whatever resistance type they used to the point of momentary muscular failure according to the authors methodology. What I mean is that they continued to perform repetitions until another was no longer possible.

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  14. That link is broken. I could only find this text link...

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:a-mVNl_d5sgJ:faculty.css.edu/tboone2/asep/JEPonlineJUNE2012_Steele.docx+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&lr=lang_en%7Clang_pt

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    1. or try this cached one...

      http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:a-mVNl_d5sgJ:faculty.css.edu/tboone2/asep/JEPonlineJUNE2012_Steele.docx

      Delete
  15. Interesting article. One thing i couldn't find in there was any diccusion of the time spent operating at V02 Max and what type of training allowed an athelete to be able to perform at a higher percentage of their VO2 max for prolonged periods. Is this important?

    chris

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