Weight training – what is the right way to do it?

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FAU researchers investigate the effects that different training programmes have on health

Sport is healthy – that should be common knowledge. But how much influence do different types of training sessions have on the human body? Are protein supplements beneficial? And how many sets per exercise have the best effect? Scientists at the Institute of Medical Physics at FAU have investigated this together with the University’s Institute of Radiology in the PUSH strength study. In terms of the ratio between fat and muscle, two methods promised the most success: intensive training with multiple sets per exercise and training with only one set but with an additional nutritional supplement with high-quality protein.

In the PUSH study, the researchers assessed a total of 120 untrained men aged between 30 and 50 for five months in four training groups with the support of the Post SV Nürnberg sports club, Kieser Training Erlangen and the Staedtler Foundation. The first group completed a single-set training programme – only one set per exercise (with 10 to 12 exercises) – and was also given high-quality protein. The second group trained in the same way but without a nutritional supplement. Group three carried out multiple-set training without a protein supplement with two to three sets per exercise; group four was the control group with no training or protein supplement.

After a four-week conditioning period, all of the groups carried out high-intensity training two or three times per week for another 18 weeks with less than 10 repetitions per set, high resistance – i.e. heavy weights – and different ‘load strategies’ up to complete muscle fatigue.

The scientists then examined the training regimes and tested the effect which each training programme had onbody composition – the muscle mass and density and the percentage of body fat – and the muscle strength and risk of cardiovascular disease. The results confirmed once again that the health benefit of physical training cannot be emphasised enough. All of the types of training showed highly-relevant and beneficial changes in terms of muscle strength, muscle mass and density, the percentage of body fat and, a particularly positive effect, the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Multiple-set training and protein supplements prove to be beneficial
When examined in detail, both the group with more comprehensive multiple-set training and the group with single-set training which had a high-quality protein supplement showed significantly better results for body composition. However, they did not show any relevant differences in terms of the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Overall, it is clear from the PUSH study that efficient training (30 minutes per training session) twice or three times a week accompanied by an intake of high-quality protein is enough to have a highly relevant influence on body composition and considerably reduce cardiac and metabolic risk factors.

‘It was established a long time ago that strength training is an important factor when it comes to protecting against cardiovascular diseases, but also bone diseases like osteoporosis,’ says Prof. Dr. Klaus Engelke, professor of medical physics at the Department of Medical Physics. ‘Studies like this enable us to better understand how different types of training affect body composition – it is only by doing this that we can continue to make fine adjustments to the training programme.’ Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kemmler, sports scientist and also a professor at the Chair of Medical Physics, adds: ‘Especially when weight training is not only a leisure activity but is used as a targeted method of prevention, efficient training is incredibly important – also to make sure the motivation levels of the people training stay high.’

Germany’s most successful osteological research group
The osteoporosis research centre at FAU was recently awarded the research group prize for the best osteological research group over the past three years by the German Academy of Osteological and Rheumatological Sciences (DAdorW) and the German Osteology Governing Body (DVO). Deciding factors for the award were the successful acquisition of external funding and the high rate of publication with over 100 scientific publications, and with it the impressive success of the research carried out by the group led by Professor Dr. Wolfgang Kemmler and Professor Dr. Klaus Engelke. Research Focus Areas at the Department of Medical Physics,which is part of the Institute of Medical Physics, include the development of new imaging techniques and new image analysis techniques for the diagnosis of osteoporosis, as well as conducting longitudinal training studies as part of promoting health amongst older and high risk groups

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kemmler
Phone: +49 9131 8523999

Dr. Simon von Stengel
Phone: +49 9131 8523999

Addition informations