Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Strength athletes who train with heavy weights get ripped

Bodybuilders who diet to reduce their fat percentage try to keep their training sessions as heavy as possible. This way they maintain their muscle mass. An excellent idea, and one confirmed by research done at Georgia Southern University in 2002. Not just because you prevent muscle breakdown this way: if you train with heavier weights, you also burn more energy. Once you’ve finished training. Yes, we’re talking about EPOC here.

Back in 2002, sports scientists already knew that weight training causes a peak in the body’s energy expenditure – after a training session. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption [EPOC] is the name given to the phenomenon. What wasn’t known then was whether training with heavy or light weights made any difference to your EPOC. That’s what these researchers wanted to figure out.

They did a trial with 14 female students who had been doing regular weight training for some time. They got their subjects to do 2 training sessions. In both sessions the students trained the most important muscle groups in 9 basic exercises: biceps-curl, shoulder-press, chest-fly, bench-press, lat pull-down, triceps-extension, leg-curl, leg-press and leg-extension. In both sessions the subjects did 2 sets of each exercise. Between sets they rested for one minute.

On the first occasion the students trained at a weight that was 45 percent of their 8RM. [The weight at which they could just complete 8 reps.] They did 15 reps twice. [LO] On the second occasion the students trained at a weight that was 85 percent of their 8 RM, doing 8 reps.

During both sessions, which lasted less than half an hour, the students burned the same amount of energy. But during the HI session the students’ heart beat rose by more, as did the concentration of lactic acid in the blood.

After the training sessions the researchers noticed a clear difference in oxygen uptake. The figure below shows the extra oxygen uptake per minute for three time intervals.

The researchers don’t say how many calories the women burned. We did a rough-and-ready calculation of the amount of oxygen the women used during the other intervals, and came up with 175 kcal burned during the first two hours after the LO session, and 370 kcal during the same period after the HI session.

The women didn’t train super hard, so the total energy burned after the training sessions is not very high. But the take-home message is clear. On a diet? Hit the heavy weights.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Apr; 34 (4): 715-22.

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