Authors: Keith B. Painter, Luis Rodríguez-Castellano, & Michael H. Stone

Corresponding Author:
Luis Rodríguez-Castellano
Department of Sport, Exercise, Recreation, and Kinesiology
Center of Excellence of Sport Science and Coach Education
East Tennessee State University
Johnson City, TN, USA, 37614-1701

Luis Rodríguez-Castellano is a Sports Physiology and Performance Fellow PhD student in East Tennessee State University.

The authors did not claim any funding from any agency for the creation of this manuscript.

High Volume Resistance Training and its Effects on Anaerobic Work Capacities Over Time: A Review


Performing resistance training (RT) may improve physical performance capabilities, with anaerobic work capacity (AWC) being one of the characteristics targeted by coaches and athletes. High volume resistance training (HVRT) is typically prescribed in RT programs with the expectancy of improving AWC. However, much of the research available is unclear concerning the effects of HVRT on AWC over time. Therefore, this review will focus on the longitudinal effects of HVRT on AWC. Searches were conducted on SportDiscus, PubMed, Google Scholar, relevant articles from references of qualifying studies, and by using strategies previously suggested (20). Fourteen studies met the following inclusion criteria: a) peer-reviewed, b) testing of AWC pre- and post-HVRT, c) subjects between the ages of 18-40 years, d) a study of at least 4 weeks in duration, e) the study had to use a RT intervention with a set and repetition scheme of ≥ 3 x 8 or base volume load (bVL) of 24 reps, f) and training had to occur at least twice a week for multiple muscle groups. Contrasting protocols within qualifying studies made it challenging to compare between them. Many studies did not meet our criteria mainly due to lack of required duration and pre- and post-training performance testing. The findings of this review indicate that moderately high-volume load (VL) of 4 ± 1 sets of 12 ± 3 repetitions can improve AWC more efficiently than higher VL protocols while mitigating potential strength losses, especially when enough intra-set rest is provided. Moreover, the various implemented protocols and mixed results make generalizability impractical. Coaches and athletes should use this information with good judgement. Reporting full descriptions of the protocols (ie. VL per day) and the inclusion of performance measurements are warranted for future research to understand the contributions of HVRT to AWC.

Keywords: Anaerobic Work Capacity, Resistance Training, High Volume, Anaerobic Endurance



The effects of resistance training (RT) have become increasingly more scrutinized in the scientific literature and there is much debate on the methodologies of implementation, mechanisms of adaptations, and physiological impact. Many athletes trying to optimize their abilities use RT programs to improve physiological qualities for better sports performance. Copious articles related to RT have focused on muscle hypertrophy, strength/power adaptations, and injury prevention (11, 10, 28, 33, 38, 53). However, anaerobic work capacity (AWC) is an important factor to consider when programming for some sports (51) and can be defined as the amount of work that can be accomplished primarily using the anaerobic energy systems.

Often researchers will indirectly assess AWC by implementing what historically has been known as a “muscular endurance” test (9, 17, 18, 31, 41, 42, 45-47, 53). Although endurance has been defined as the ability of the muscle to resist fatigue under a submaximal load (14) or the maximal number of repetitions performed with a specified load (1, 31), it is best described as the ability to maintain or repeat a given force or power output (6). “Muscular endurance” has been the term commonly used to described endurance activities that are of high intensity. It should be noted that the term “muscular endurance” suggests that fatigue is wholly a muscle phenomenon. Indeed even in short-term activities other physiological (and psychological) aspects can contribute to fatigue such as the nervous system (6, 50). As endurance activities represent a continuum from low intensity exercise endurance (LIEE) to high intensity exercise endurance (HIEE), a better way to refer to the term “muscle endurance” in this review would be HIEE as the exercises and tests used usually fall ≤ 2 minutes (6, 50). Additionally, loads used have oscillated from absolute to relative, and relative loads have varied in percentages of one-repetition maximum (1RM). The typical duration of HIEE tests range from 15-90 s (or ≥ 8 repetitions), similar to other exercises and tests that measure for AWC (i.e. 200 & 400 m sprints, 50 & 100 m in swimming, Wingate Anaerobic Test, etc.) which highly tax the anaerobic metabolism. Anaerobic work capacity is associated with a large metabolic component; so, to develop HIEE using RT, it has been suggested to implement high repetitions with lower intensities (12, 14, 31, 43, 51). It has been recommended to employ ≥ 3 sets of 8-20 repetitions to improve HIEE in most adults while possibly minimizing rest between sets (1, 51). This is often included in various RT programs as a “strength-endurance” phase (10, 11, 38), with the frequency and intensities manipulated to attain a HIEE or AWC goal (51).

Developing AWC is multifaceted, and one physiological component necessary for many sports is anaerobic capacity (AC) (19, 43). High AC is vital for optimal AWC in order to perform repeated high-intensity bouts in many sports successfully. However, AWC should not be confused with AC or metabolism, as the former refers to the total work performed during an exhaustive work bout, while the latter are the processes that provide for energy during short duration maximal exercise (19). These high-intensity efforts could be performed in a continuous manner, such as in short-duration sprinting, cycling, and swimming events; or in random intermittent manner during many individual and team sport games or practice.

Great emphasis is placed on proper adaptations to AWC in training, team practice and/or specific sports conditioning when annual plans are employed (7, 36, 43). Although AWC is mainly powered by the AC of the athlete, aerobic metabolism does have an influence on duration and outcome (19). Considering the advantages of using RT to improve athletic performance (10, 11, 33, 38), conflicts within the literature concerning this area still exist, specifically when comparing the effects of high-volume resistance training (HVRT) on AWC. A plurality of the research studies assessing AWC that met our criteria were conducted on untrained to recreationally trained subjects (9, 17, 18, 27, 32, 35, 40-43, 45-47, 52), while none measured changes in athletes before and directly after the HVRT portions of their studies. In this review, the primary focus will be directed toward the impact of HVRT on AWC. The literature search for this review was conducted using the strategies suggested by Greenhalgh & Peacock (20) and had the following criteria applied: a) peer-reviewed, b) testing of AWC pre- and post-HVRT, c) subjects had to be between the ages 18-40 years, d) the study had to be at least 4 weeks in duration, e) the study had to use a RT intervention with a set and repetition scheme of ≥ 3 x 8 or base volume loads (bVL) of ≥ 24 repetitions, f) and training had to occur at least twice a week for multiple muscle groups.  A total of 14 articles met the inclusion criteria. Additional analyses of these articles were calculated using Cohen’s d effect sizes (ES).

High Volume Resistance Training

There is considerable debate about optimal implementation strategies for RT and the adaptations that occur from differing set and repetition schemes (e.g. “set” x “repetitions”, 3 x 10, 2 x 20, etc.) or bVL. The strength-endurance continuum is one training concept stating that training with higher repetitions and lighter intensities will elicit more endurance effects, while lifting with heavier intensities and lower repetitions will lead to more strength improvements (3, 12, 52). However, this concept does not account for rest periods and the cross-over effect of RT on improving endurance performance (7, 52).   

Many programs implemented in research have involved a period of HVRT to illicit muscle hypertrophy, improve strength, and/or increase HIEE (3, 8, 9, 16-18, 27, 35, 38, 40-43, 45-47, 52). These programs included total repetition ranges of 24-150 per exercise and were conducted at least twice a week (average bVL = 101.4 ± 62.7 per week). With such large bVL variations a better suited method of comparing RT programs would be by estimating work with volume load (VL) (21, 24, 25, 38, 41, 45, 46). However, many of the studies satisfying the criteria of this review did not report training VL (3, 9, 18, 27, 40, 42, 45, 47, 52).

This can lead to some confounding results in work performed, especially with RT programs that use a repetition maximum (RM) scheme.  In order to equate VL there cannot be a variable range in either the sets or repetitions performed.  As shown in the following table (See Table 1), VL can fluctuate drastically between 8 and 12 repetitions which (8-12 repetitions) is a commonly prescribed bVL for HVRT in the literature (38, 41, 45-47) or it can be equated by a drastic reduction in intensity with higher repetitions. Additionally, when implementing a RM scheme there is a range in which the repetitions should be performed (i.e. 3 x 8-12 RM, 2 x 15-20 RM, 4 x 6-8 RM, etc.), and if a weight can be lifted more than the prescribed number of repetitions then the weight is increased during the training session or in the following training session (3, 9, 18, 40, 41, 45-47, 52) which further muddles comparisons.

Table 1

Volume Load Variations





Load (kg)







2400 kg






3600 kg






3600 kg

Though there is continued debate over HVRT implementation strategies, it is widely accepted that continuous, prolonged HVRT can lead to performance decrements from fatigue and overtraining.  Of the qualifying studies implementing HVRT, the time frames observed ranged from 4 to 24 weeks averaging 8 ± 4.6 weeks. However, other training studies that implement HVRT as a portion of training have done so within the time frame of 4 weeks or less (10, 11, 38, 50).

Measurements of Anaerobic Work Capacity

When testing for AWC, it is important to consider what energy systems are being assessed. Researchers have previously classified AWC tests as either alactic work capacity (durations of 1-10 s), intermediate (durations of 20-60 s), and long duration (≥ 90 s) (19, 30). The separation of these work capacities can be complicated since energy systems are not exclusively used at any time. Hence, the use of AWC, which engulf all the qualities to be measured, seems more appropriate. Many tests have been performed in laboratory settings to measure AWC (4, 19, 22, 31). Depending on the nature of a sport and variables to be evaluated, differing AWC tests have been utilized; continuous constant-load, intermittent, or all-out (19, 43).

Continuous constant-load tests are typically performed in a laboratory setting and require the athlete to maintain a certain power output until it can no longer be maintained. Usually these power outputs exceed the maximal oxygen consumption workload intensity. Many tests have proposed the use of a variety of standard velocities, gradient inclines, and work outputs at a standard cycle rate (19, 22). Typically, AWC is shown to be higher in sprint rather than endurance athletes and it has significant correlations with 400 m run time (19). On the other hand, intermittent tests are performed as either repeated, gradually building from submaximal to maximal intensities, or all-out maximal intensities (4, 31, 43). These tests seem to be more appropriate for many team sports where repeated bursts of high-intensity sprints are required. An important difference between a constant-load and an all-out test is that the subject is required to exert maximum efforts throughout the entire test duration in the latter. An example of a common all-out test that has been used is the Wingate Anaerobic Test (WAnT) (26).

Some limiting factors of these testing procedures are the requirement of sophisticated equipment, costs, and technical knowledge. This has led to other assessments of AWC in research and coaching which include intermmittent and RM tests.  Some of these tests include repeated sprint tests (4, 43), repeated WAnT (33), and a maximum set of repetitions on a chosen exercise (9, 16-18, 31, 41, 42, 47, 48, 52). Results from these tests could either be analyzed for each sequential individual repetition or by using a summation of all repetitions.

 Resistance Training and Anaerobic Work Capacity

Resistance training and many sporting events rely heavily on the anaerobic energy systems (See Table 2). Additionally, many RT sessions and sporting events could last longer than one hour placing a repeated heavy demand on AWC. The repeated use of the anaerobic system is the underpinning reason that AWC is vital in developing prolonged high intensity work. Studies have related RM testing to AWC (3, 31, 52), though there have been some differences in how it has been assessed.

Table 2

Table 2

Repetition Maximum Testing

Some studies used RM testing to assess AWC by providing a specified load to be lifted until muscular failure (MF).  Anderson and Kearney (3), observed changes in HIEE for the bench press with the use of bVL schemes of low resistance-high repetition (1 x 100-150 RM), medium resistance-medium repetition (2 x 30-40 RM), and high resistance-low repetition (3 x 6-8 RM) in untrained young men (age 20.65 ± 1.79 years) 3 days a week for 9 weeks. Differences were assessed using MF with a given load (absolute and relative) pre- and post-training. While both the high repetition and low repetition groups performed higher bVL than is typically prescribed in current RT programs, they did provide a stark contrast. Interestingly, there was no statistical difference in absolute endurance improvements, though the moderate-repetition group had the greatest ES (1.51) compared to the high (1.06) and low repetition (0.88) groups. However, relative endurance tests showed both the medium and high repetition groups improved >20% each having strong ES (1.03, 1.20; respectively), but the low repetition group decreased by 7% with a small ES (0.55). While subjects seemingly produced better activation of AC pathways, this was at the expense of optimal maximal strength gains in the high (+4.9%) and medium repetition group (+8.2%), which did not compare to the low repetition group (+20.2%). Though significant statistical differences were not found, ES indicate the medium repetition group out preformed the high repetition group in strength gains (1.17, 0.65; respectively).

To further expand on the Anderson and Kearney (3) study, Stone and Coulter (52) attempted to replicate the results with young women (age 23.1 ± 3.5 years) and added similar training measures to the lower body and RM tests via squats. The training protocols use in this study did vary somewhat from the Anderson and Kearney study with the low-repetition group performing 3×6-8 RM with 2-3 min rest between sets; the moderate-repetition group performing 3×9-11 RM with 2 min rest between sets; and the high-repetition group preforming 2×20-28 RM with 1 min rest between sets. They (52) found that low-repetition was the sole protocol that produced a HIEE decrement, and that the medium-repetition group performed similarly to the high-repetition group in most measures of HIEE. However, the moderate-repetition group had the highest average ES (1.68) for upper and lower body strength gains. Both studies provided evidence that the magnitude of HIEE improvements were similar between the moderate- and high-repetition groups (3, 52), but the optimal method for developing both HIEE while also continually improving strength was in the moderate-repetition groups.

Campos et al. studied healthy men (n = 32; age 22.5 ± 5.8 years) during one of 3 progressive RT programs (Low = 4 x 3-5 RM, Intermediate = 3 x 9-11 RM, High = 2 x 20-28 RM) with a control group performing no exercises (9).  These training sessions were each conducted twice per week the first 4 weeks and 3 times per week the remaining 4 weeks, for a total of 8 weeks with progressively increasing VL. The AWC test was conducted using a leg press, squat, and knee extensions at 60% 1RM, performing to MF. The High group performed statistically more repetitions in the AWC tests than all the other groups but was significantly lower in all maximal strength gains.  Interestingly, both the Low and Intermediate group only produced statistically significant improvements in the AWC test for squats. This study also provided additional evidence of increased cross-sectional area with the average ES of the Intermediate group (0.74) outperforming the High group (0.50).

Schoenfeld et al. (47), also studied the effects of low- versus high-load RT.  They progressed male (n = 18, age range of 18-33 years) experienced lifters (1.5-9 years of lifting consistently > 3 times per week) through either high-load or low-load training 3 times per week for 8 weeks.  The high-load group training consisted of 3 x 8-12 RM and the low-load performed 3 x 25-35 RM. To assess AWC, they used an RM test to MF with the load corresponding to 50% of each subject’s current 1RM on the bench press. The low-load produced substantial AWC improvements but failed to produce statistically significant strength improvements.

Using the same AWC testing protocols, Schoenfeld et al. (45) attempted to ascertain differences between constant and varied loads in healthy men (n = 19; age 23.9 ± 3.2 years) with resistance training experience (4.7 ± 3.2 years).  The constant group performed a weekly bVL of 72-108 (3 x 8-12 RM, 3 days per week) and the varied group performed a weekly bVL of 90-138 (Day1 = 3 x 2-4 RM, Day2 = 3 x 8-12 RM, Day 3 = 3 x 20-30 RM). Although the bVL was higher in the varied group, the reported weekly VLs were statistically higher for the constant group. Oddly enough, the graphical depiction of VL deviations for the varied group were lower (± 10,000 approx.) than that of the constant group (± 20,000 approx.), but there was no mention of this discrepancy. Both groups showed significant increases in all measures but were not statistically different from each other. 

Another study by Schoenfeld, et al. (46) assessed AWC testing via repetitions to MF by comparing training groups of low volume (1 x 8-12 RM), medium volume (3 x 8-12 RM), and high volume (5 x 8-12 RM) over 8 weeks.  Subjects (n = 34) were healthy males (age 23.8 ± 3.8 years) with RT experience (4.4 ± 3.9 years). Their evaluation of AWC was the bench press to MF using 50% of the initial 1RM. While all groups had statistically significant pre- and post-training improvements, no statistical differences were found between groups in bench press strength (ES = 0.27) or AWC (ES = 0.14). They did find that higher volumes were associated with greater hypertrophic responses, leading to the question of how much of the AWC changed due to AC improvements versus possible muscle fiber gains.

An alternate method of structuring HVRT programs is by increasing the number of sets performed per session instead of the repetitions per set.  This method was investigated in untrained men (n = 43) comparing 1-, 3-, and 5- sets using 8-12 RM 3 days per week for 6 months (41).  They used a 20 RM on bench press and leg press to assess AWC and found that the 1-set group had inferior gains compared to the other two groups.  Interestingly, the 5-set group was the only group with statistically different AWC results compared to the one set group in the leg press, but also produced statistically better results than the other groups in the bench press AWC test. The 5-set group also had statistically greater absolute muscle thickness results in the elbow flexors and extensors.

Giessing et al (18) chose to manipulate the speed of the movement. They used recreationally active students (n = 30; age 23 ± 3 years) in a “high intensity training” program or a 3-set circuit twice a week for 10 weeks. The high intensity training group performed 1 x 10 RM with controlled movement speeds (concentric = 2 s, isometric = 1 s, eccentric = 4 s) then performed 2 x 2-3 more immediately afterward dropping the weight 10-15% each set. The 3-set circuit group performed 1 x 10 RM on each exercise but performed the circuit 3 times. Of note, the authors do mention that loads were only increased if participants achieved >15 repetitions which indicates these programs may have repetition fluccuation from 10 to 15 potentially leading to a weekly bVL of 60-90 for the 3-set circuit group. Their assessments of AWC were conducted pre- and post-training in the form of an RM test using 50% of the absolute load for each participants determined 10 RM for each exercise.  The authors found statistical pre- and post- differences in both groups, but found statistical differences between groups for only 3 exercises (heel raises, elbow flexion, and knee flexion), which all favored the high intensity training group. Overall, the 3-set circuit group experience an average increase of 16 ± 13.5 repetitions.

McGee and others (32) had one group of young male subject (17-26 years old) perform a 3 x 10 set load repetition scheme for 7 weeks. Subjects were tested using a squat (1 squat per 6 seconds) that began with a 60 kg load which increased every minute by 2.5 kg until exhaustion. The total repetitions, calculated load, and the final maximum mass lifted at exhaustion increased from pre- to post-test (ES = 1.00, 0.97, 0.93; respectively). In comparison to a single set protocol, multiple sets and higher volumes produced superior gains in HIEE.

Wingate Testing and Anaerobic Work Capacity

Psilander and colleagues (40) used the WAnT for pre and post testing, which was performed after a 40-minute time trial and 20 minutes of easy pedaling. Moderately trained cyclists (n = 9; age 34 ± 2 years, 5.0 ± 1.6 years of cycling experience and 7.1 ± 1.0 h/week of training) visited the laboratory 2 times per week in exchange for 2 sessions of their normal training schedule. After performing the endurance training sessions, the subjects were separated into an experimental (5 x 15 repetitions at 65%, 70%, 75%, 75% and 65% for sets 1-5, respectively in the leg press), and control (2.5 to 4 additional minutes equating for energy expenditure) for 8 weeks. Although increases in strength and peak power (alactic) were observed for the experimental group, compared to the controlled group, no improvements were noted for mean power (alactic and lactic) during any AWC variables in the WAnT.  

Using the WAnT, a group of healthy college aged males (n = 24; age range 18-22 years) completed 8 weeks of training with 3 x 8-10 RM of a split-body routine consisting of multi-joint and single-joint exercises where subjects were instructed to train at an intensity that elicited MF (27). No statistically significant changes were observed for either peak or mean power, however significant improvements of 1RM strength were observed in the bench press and leg press exercises over-time (27).  

Interestingly, Netreba and others (35) conducted a study in which physically active young men trained their knee extensors and flexors, and hip extensors 3 times a week for 8 weeks using a Power Hummer training machine. One group (n = 9; age = 20 ± 4 years) trained with a 6-10 RM scheme performing 7 sets on a Monday, and 3 sets on Wednesday and Friday with full limb range of movement. The intensity range for this group was kept around 80-85% of the maximum voluntary force produced for each exercise. While the experimental group (n = 9; age = 21 ± 4 years) trained by maintaining constant tension on the muscle with a training load of 50% of the maximum voluntary force for each exercise. The protocol for the experimental group was performed accordingly in order to maintain a constant muscle tension during the exercise period. They found improvements in alactic power during the first 10 s of the WAnT test in both groups after the training period (35).

Other Testing Methods for Anaerobic Work Capacity

Repeated sprint ability is an important characteristic for many athletes and has been used for the assessment of AWC. Robinson and others (43), used a repeated maximal effort cycle test that consisted of 15 x 5 s intervals with 50 s of rest between them. The testing was performed before and after 5 weeks of 5 x 10 at a set load with assistance exercises limited to 3 x 10 at a set load. Three equally divided (n = 33) groups were differentiated by distinct rest intervals (180 s, 90 s, and 30 s). The variables measured were peak power, mean power and total work of each repetition, and average peak power from all repetitions. Statistically significant time effects for all variables were shown for all groups, yet no differences between the groups were observed. This was despite increased strength in the squat for the group that used longer rest between sets compared to the shortest. The authors suggest that this provides evidence that there is a rest period continuum, in which longer rest periods attained greater strength gains which is related to the higher relative training intensity used by the longer rest interval group.


Mechanical and metabolic mechanisms may develop at differing rates, but distinguishing between muscle growth, neurological development, and AC increases and how they impact AWC has shown to be difficult. Many studies directly and indirectly attempted to amplify AWC under varying training protocols, but comparisons are problematic due to contrary testing and RT program implementation methods. While reporting of VL data has become more prevalent in recent literature, standardization of this procedure would help in cross comparisons. Additionally, reporting means and standard deviations of relative VL per day may also aid in this process. However, with this lack of VL data, classifications of HVRT have been made challenging.

The studies examined had weekly bVL ranges of 36 to 360 and many did not report loads used during training. Most data from the examined studies point to training with < 20 repetitions to optimally increase AWC (9, 35, 41-43, 45-47, 52). Moreover, calculations of ES indicate that training 3×10-15 repetitions may be the most advantageous method to improve AWC and strength. This may indicate that load may play a bigger role in developing AWC changes than is currently known. Since fast glycolysis and phosphagen both are more intensity dependent, it stands to reason that training with higher intensities and higher volumes can positively affect AWC. This relationship may be supported by the evidence of moderately high training volumes increasing the AWC the same as higher volume RT programs (3, 9, 45, 46, 52).

Additionally, RT has shown to affect muscle size, type, and number (9-11, 46, 53). This relationship seems to be correlated with training intensities, but without VL data it cannot be determined. It is possible that slow-twitch Type I muscle fibers are developed to a greater extent with higher repetitions and training to failure, since some training groups experienced significantly higher AWC testing values, without significant strength improvements (9, 29). During HVRT, a common practice from strength and conditioning coaches is to prescribe multiple sets of 10 or more repetitions. With this HVRT prescription, rest intervals can fluctuate, but many of the articles reviewed mention rest periods of ≤ 3 min during training (18, 27, 41, 43, 45-47). Rest intervals are somewhat controversial, as the intervals are dependent on the type of exercise, number of repetitions to be performed per set, and other factors (9, 43). However, rest intervals shorter than 3 min may not represent the optimal protocol for an athlete training for AWC improvements since ATP recovery requires approximately 3-5 min, and PCr fully recovers at approximately 8 min (5, 43, 49).

Additional problems in the existing literature are the testing methods themselves. Studies using RM to MF tests have differed in the loads, exercises, and implementation strategies.  Loads used for AWC testing have been absolute, relative, or a combination with relative loads ranging from 45% to 60% 1RM (3, 9, 18, 42, 45-47, 52). Additionally, these relative loads have differed on which 1RM to use as a basis for testing with some using the pre-training load only (3, 9, 18, 42, 45, 46), some using current 1RMs (47), and others using some combination (52). While using relative loads is a method of obviating differing strength levels, it has been speculated to favor weaker individuals (3, 6).  This may confound results when comparing groups that had statistical strength increases using an initial 1RM and then test with a load substantially higher than the previous testing. 

Moreover, none of the articles that satisfied our criteria assessed athletes. Rather, they used untrained (n = 9) or recreationally trained (n = 5) individuals as subjects. This may also confound some results as it has been shown that trained athletes can respond differently than others (13). Assessing AWC of trained individuals after HVRT may help distinguish the frequency in which HVRT is needed to optimize and maintain AWC.

The few studies that met our criteria using the WAnT (27, 35, 40) and repeated maximal effort cycling (43) were unable to reach a clear conclusion due to evident mixed results. These problems stem from logistical arrangement of the assessments, as shown by Psilander and colleagues (40), in which 60 minutes of exercise preceded the WAnT. This could severely hinder a true WAnT, due to the accumulating fatigue (26). Another problem observed was in the study by Netreba and colleagues (35), where an atypical RT protocol was implemented, in which 7 sets were being prescribed on the first session of the week for the 8-week protocol. Coupled with the use of RM schemes, this type of training would increase fatigue substantially. Also, the total work performed between groups was doubled by the classical group compared to the low intensity group (15,392 vs 7,693 kgm) which complicates comparisons even more. Moreover, the simplified version of the WAnT used does not allow for a full understanding of the AWC spectrum.

The misuse of proper prescription leading towards testing or competition in power events can undermine the results of the optimal expression of power as shown by Kerksick and colleagues (27) and disputes have been made on whether RM training schemes yield greater results compared to a set bVL using a set load (10, 11, 38). With the use of a RM scheme, it could be possible that fatigue accumulated throughout the study negating any positive results. This is something to consider in future research, as athletes aiming to peak for competition reduce overall VL while increasing intensity in order to dissipate fatigue (11, 51).  

Only one study using repeated maximal all-out efforts met our criteria for HVRT (43).  Although improvements were observed for each repeated sprint in all groups despite the rest interval protocol used for the HVRT (180 s, 90 s, or 30 s), strength gains were greater in the higher rest interval group as compared to the lowest. This is important as the objective of strength and conditioning for an athletic population is to increase all muscle qualities that garner success in sports (strength, power, muscle endurance, etc.). Hence, increased rest intervals may elicit greater benefits. This aspect was an important statement mentioned by the authors in which they specify that lower rest intervals is not necessary to increase AC.

In sports that require repeated maximal efforts, optimal RT programs should focus on building strength and AWC together. Findings from this review indicate that a moderately high VL consisting of approximately 4 ± 1 sets of 12 ± 3 repetitions can improve AWC more efficiently than higher VL training while mitigating strength losses. Moreover, length of time implementing HVRT should be programmed carefully, and depends on the objective of the program to be prescribed. Since HVRT programs stress the peripheral nervous system, increasing neuromuscular fatigue, a prolonged exposure might be detrimental to certain athletes as it has been shown to negatively affect neuroendocrine responses, affecting performance and reducing rate of force development (39).

The duration of the reviewed studies varied (4-24 weeks), making it difficult to determine an optimal time frame that should be allocated to the prescription of HVRT for athletes. Most of the studies that found increases in an AWC test had a minimum duration of 5 weeks (9, 17, 18, 35, 41-43, 45, 47, 51, 52). However, there were studies that did not find improvements when implementing HVRT for 8 weeks (27, 40, 46). These results may be skewed due to the use of single-joint exercises which add to the local muscular stress that develops overtime with added movements (27).


In reviewing the evidence provided in these studies, HVRT does improve AWC but seems to be subject to a bell curve; more volume does not efficiently improve AWC and not enough volume may decrease AWC.  Prescribing ranges between 10 to 15 repetitions might help in improving AWC while also providing a minimal stimulus for strength gains. Moreover, increments in strength gains could also provide an additional stimulus that could help in improving AWC at relative intensities driven by the fact that less muscle fiber recruitment is needed at absolute loads. Additionally, within limits (≈ 3 – 5 min) longer rest periods may be more important with higher repetition schemes as the amount of rest between sets during training does not seem to substantially affect the performance of AWC during testing but does influence the maximal strength improvements.

Furthermore, a variety of field tests have been studied for the measurement of performance or AWC in sports. However, to our knowledge, no study using a field test measured for AWC before and directly after a HVRT protocols that could meet our criteria. This is important to examine in future studies as they could render more ecologically valid results that could be more easily used by coaches and practitioners. This would also enhance the understanding of the role of fatigue in the AWC expression.

More research needs to be conducted using differing VL in HVRT in order to better understand its effects, especially with athletes. No study using an elite athletic population met our criteria and the applications to that population of the information compiled in this review should be used with caution. Moreover, it is not well known how the gains in AWC from HVRT are maintained throughout RT training plans or competitive seasons. This relationship will better our understanding of HVRT programming in the future.


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