One of the primary drivers of skeletal muscle adaptations is total resistance training volume. Provided that the volumes fall within the recovery capacity of the individuals, the magnitude of the stimulus will be greater with higher volume. When it comes to recovery from training however, total volume may not be the only factor we need to consider. For example, coaches need to be mindful of how sore athletes get from training during the in-season to minimize performance decrements during competitions. Apart from sets, reps and training intensity, a key variable that must be considered is proximity to muscular concentric failure during sets. However, the effects of training to failure versus volume matched work not to failure on the time course of recovery has received little investigation.
A new study published ahead of print in the European Journal of Applied Physiology investigated the time course of recovery following varying resistance training protocols that differed based on total volume and proximity to muscular failure. A group of 10 resistance-trained males performed 3 different training protocols on 3 separate occasions in a randomized order. The three protocols involved squats and bench press with 1) 3 sets of 5 with a 10 RM load, 2) 6 sets of 5 with a 10 RM load and 3) 3 sets of 10 with a 10 RM load. Neuromuscular performance, including counter-movement jump height and barbell velocity with standardized loads (e.g., 1 m/s and 75% of 1RM) was evaluated before and up to 72 hours post-training for each workout. Biochemical markers of muscle damage were also measured.
The results showed that training to muscular failure (3×10 with 10 RM) negatively effected acute neuromuscular recovery (counter-movement jump and barbell velocity performance in the squat and bench press) significantly more than the other protocols. Moreover, at 24 and 48 hours post-exercise, the non-failure protocols demonstrated significantly faster restoration of neuromuscular performance. Markers of muscle damage (e.g., creatine kinase) were greater at 24 and 48 hours in responses to the training to failure protocol compared with the non-failure protocols. Therefore, if athletes have important competitions in the upcoming 24-48 hours, training to muscular failure should be avoided as it will delay recovery.
Morán-Navarro, R., Pérez, C. E., Mora-Rodríguez, R., de la Cruz-Sánchez, E., González-Badillo, J. J., Sánchez-Medina, L., & Pallarés, J. G. (2017). Time course of recovery following resistance training leading or not to failure. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 1-13.