Should women use different strength training rest intervals than men? – Triathlete

Each month, Dr. Jeffrey Sankoff reviews a recent study or body of research to talk to researchers, explain the process behind it, and break down the findings.

This month: an article that looks at the effects of different rest intervals in strength training for women and, more generally, what the research says about the differences in strength training for men and women.

The off-season for triathletes, and particularly the time around the New Year, is often a time when the focus shifts from high-volume endurance work to strength building that is both specific to swimming-cycling-running and more generally the whole body. Coaches and athletes have come to understand and appreciate how integral strength training should be to triathlon training. Improved durability and resistance to injury, as well as overall performance gains, are felt to be directly attributable to strength work.

While in the past the gym often looked like a boys club, more and more women have entered this space and there is now an increased interest in ensuring that strength training is also designed to accommodate physiological differences so that women can fully benefit from this type of training.

“Women have physiological differences when it comes to muscle types and their distribution. Additionally, women may have more efficient energy systems that allow them to be more resilient to fatigue than men,” said Desmond Millender, PhD student in the Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of New Mexico. Millender and her co-authors recently published an article on the effects of different rest intervals on women’s bodybuilding performance.

Millender wanted to assess whether the specific muscle physiology of women required a different approach to strength training, as the majority of research in this area has been done on men. He told me, “It has been speculated that female lifters may require shorter rest intervals than male lifters due to physiological differences that include muscle fiber distribution, muscle fiber types, fiber size type 1 muscle and glycogen utilization during high intensity exercise. Women have also been reported to produce less blood lactate, experience lower strength declines, and recover strength faster than men during and after resistance training.

The study the New Mexico researchers did compared the effects of one-minute and three-minute rest intervals in female weightlifters. They looked at the total amount of work done, the ability to perform repetitive sets without fatigue, and measurements of serum lactic acid, a marker of cellular fatigue. The researchers evaluated upper and lower body exercises in this way. The hypothesis was that women would do as well or better with shorter rest intervals, as previous studies have suggested this would be a likely outcome.

The results turned out to be different from what was expected.

The main findings were that for both upper and lower body exercises, when a short rest interval was used, lifters were significantly limited in the total amount of weight they could lift and suffered significant fatigue with large decreases in lifting capacity between the first and second sets. . Interestingly, despite reported fatigue and demonstrated decreases in lifting ability, lactate levels did not change.

The findings were surprising to Millender. “Several studies suggest that women may need less time to recover between sets compared to men. On the contrary, our study suggests that the duration of rest intervals is just as important for women as for men. also found the results related to lactate levels interesting, but difficult to explain.”Total volume lifted decreased under the short versus long rest interval conditions. This could be attributed to metabolic stress and disability.” to resynthesize metabolites for energy, but this was not supported by the results of elevated lactate levels.Unfortunately, our study was not equipped to determine why this occurred.

The women in the study also had no major differences between upper and lower body exercises, when it comes to performance, regardless of rest interval length. This suggests that muscle groups in both areas fatigued at a similar rate and also benefited from longer rest intervals. “This finding was quite interesting,” Millender said. “It has been suggested that the upper body musculature generally has a greater distribution of fast-twitch muscle fibers and, therefore, has a reduced ability to extract oxygen during upper body tasks. For this reason, we expected better fatigue resistance during the leg press than with the chest press, but this was not the case.

I asked Millender what it should be like for women who use strength training as part of their overall program. “That’s an interesting question. Currently, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends using shorter rest intervals (less than 90 seconds) when performing low-intensity resistance training. However, our results show that rep performance decreased significantly with three-minute rest intervals, implying that 90 seconds may not be enough for such a workout.

Millender believes it is important for women to use longer rest intervals when lifting in order to recover appropriately and to be able to maximize their ability to lift a higher total volume of weight than would otherwise be possible. possible. “In fact, there is evidence that longer rest intervals lead to superior strength, and a recent study confirmed that decreasing total volume lifted explained the lower effects of shorter rest intervals on long-term adaptations. term.” he said.

Based on this research, it appears that the predicted effects of women’s specific muscle physiology, to be able to perform well with shorter rest intervals, were not supported by the observed results. Therefore, women should consider longer rest intervals between sets when weight training, as physiological differences in performance between sports continue to be studied.

RELATED: Gender gap in sports research holding back female athletes

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