This is in response to:
which was posted in Darden HIT article thread:
Reading the Smith paper just makes my head hurt. I can't possibly have an answer to everything, so here is a response to the most interesting parts, in my opinion.
What surprised me the most is total lack of consideration for subjects' training age, expirience and goals throughtout the text. It is not a matter of choosing an arbitary number of sets or protocol, it's about how much you need. As you improve, you will need more volume and more weight on the bar in order to progress. Only the most advanced will actually have to decrease the volume a bit, because of their improved neural ability. Still, their volume will be considerably higher then when they started.
Number of sets
Most of the case is made by using the studies of alleged superiority of one set protocols. Like I said before, having that kind of studies is not such a good idea. Nevertheless, Smith seems very biased when reviewing them, finding all kinds of problems with multiple sets studies (which do exist) but doesn't mention similar inconsistencies in single set ones.
Anyway, most of them don't show significant differences between two groups. That could mean that the time period is too short for differences to show, or that both one and three set protocols suck big time. And yes, 3 sets is 3x more then 1 set, by 3 sets is not high volume by any means.
There is no mention of studies that compare a periodized approach with one set to failure. How about 3 weeks of 5x5 followed by 3 weeks of 3x3? How about heavy/light/medium?
Smith seems bothered with one study where "the single-set group performed sets of 8-12 repetitions throughout the study whereas the multiple-set group performed some sets with 3-5 repetitions, again potentially biasing the results of the 1 RM tests." He concludes that author of study is biased (which may be), instead of realizing that for a particular goal (1RM) multiple sets of 3-5 reps, may indeed be better. For some other goals, and in different context, 1x8-12 can get the job done.
In another review, according to Smith, "the greater practice gained by the three set group facilitated greater improvement in the performance of the exercises" is not important, despite the fact relative strength (performing better with same bodyweight) is of crucial importance in sports. In that particular study, the lack of mass gains could be explained by bad diet, but that isn't mentioned anywhere.
What I find quite problematic is this part: "It is important to note that those advocating one set per exercise, including Jones, do not usually hypothesize that one set for every muscle group would lead to optimal muscle gains. Also, in a well-balanced training program it would be almost impossible to only perform one set/muscle group, as many exercises work more than one muscle. Therefore, these researchers have constructed a ?straw man' (one set/muscle group) to knock down, presumably knowing that most single-set trainees, although performing one set/exercise, perform more than one set/muscle."
So, doing 3 times one set of Squats, Leg Presses and Leg Curls is ok, but 3 sets or Squats is not. Yeah right!
What is never mentioned is the possibility that one set protocol doesn't result in any improvement. But there are tons of people, even on this thread, who had plateaued with HIT workouts. One set to failure doesn't not guarantee progress.
Frequency of training
This part is particularly cumbersome. It again uses some poorly constructed studies, on both sides, to try to get a point across. Studies are quoted, but as I don't have access to them I can't tell particular details.
One study showed that 2x is "better" (Carroll ) in 18 sessions. From that, Mr. Smith extrapolates that lower frequency, like AJ suggested is better. But, what about after those 18 sessions? What about protocols they used (ie. 2x might be better if it was HIT protocol every session)? What about increased work capacity of 3x a week group that wasn't measured? Oh yeah, untrained subjects. So many holes here...
It is very amusing when Mr Smith tries to prove that more experienced trainees don't need more frequency. First of all, just because one says he has 6 years experience in lifting weights, doesn't mean he knew what to do during that time, nor it does mean he knew how to raise his work capacity. Div 1 football players are not as experienced in lifting as powerlifiters etc. I'm also surpsied with comment that 4% strength increase (during which time?) is low. If you're an expirienced bencher, with 1RM of 400lbs, adding 15lbs, in say 10-12 weeks, is plenty.
" McLester et al. (80) examined the effects of a whole-body training program, consisting of nine exercises performed either one or three times/week". So the second did the same thing three times in a row. Really nice. How McLester could conclude it means that lower frequency is better for ALL training is beyoud me. Mr Lester, maybe your 3x a week routine sucked! And, what about delayed training effect? If that 3x a week period was followed by at least a week of unloading and/or peaking, the results would be much different.
Finally, Mr Smith completely overlooks the simple fact that ALL high level competitors in all sports like weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman, and also shotput, hammer, sprinting, bobsled, skiing etc. use very high frequencies and volumes. Yep, they should all stick to 2x a week.
Speed of movement
Firstly, we have either studies on cats, or studies that show that slow speeds are better when using low volumes, or studies that use untrained subjects.
When comparing more complex protocols, I see no mention of whether the subjects were actually advanced enough to warrant the use of plyos and depth jumps. In that case, having no differences just mean the subjects don't need that right now, not that the ideas are useless in general.
This is particulary interesting in this sction: "Jones (18) provided an interesting practical example of the efficacy of slow weight training for those involved in ?explosive' sports. In 1973, an Olympic weightlifting team was formed at DeLand High School, Florida. The team trained with only slow (mostly eccentric-only) weight training. Starting in 1973, and with no previous experience in weightlifting, the team established what is probably a world sporting record: the team was undefeated and untied for seven years, winning over 100 consecutive weightlifting competitions."
I have to call bullshit right here. How is it possible to train clean&jerk and snatch with slow, mostly eccentric movements? Maybe it was done for assistance work only, but it is also fishy that no one had previous expirience in OL. And what competitions exactly have they won and on what level? Probably a world record? Does AJ know what Oly lifting is? Snatch numbers, Clean numbers, please.
We also have a statement that explosive speeds can lead to injury, which is completely unfounded. Increased forces don't have to mean injury risk is increased. Forces when jumping/running are much higher than when lifting explosively.
Optimal repetition count
Since this is getting really long, just two issues here:
Smith states: " no study has demonstrated that very low repetitions are superior to a moderate number of repetitions for increasing strength. Yet, every weightlifter and powerlifter in the world contradicts that statement.
On an another study: "Again, no significant between-group differences in muscular endurance increases were found.". What about maximal strength/mass? If doing sets with 6-8RM produced similar strenght-endurance gains as 30-40RM, but also gave more max strength and mass, then 6-8RM range is superior. Anyway, those were all untrained females.
As you can see, there is much more than one problem with that "scientific" paper. In conclusion, I also noticed, there is no mention of long term planning. Things that worked for a brief period of time are assumed to continue to work indefinetly. Both practice and physiology show otherwise. If you sticked this long, you will most certainly be able to conclude that anyone can become a "Dr." in the field of exericse science.