Unilateral high-load resistance training influences strength changes in the contralateral arm undergoing low-load training

Zachary W. Bell, Vickie Wong, Robert W. Spitz, Yujiro Yamada, Jun Seob Song, Ryo Kataoka, Raksha N. Chatakondi, Takashi Abe, Jeremy P. Loenneke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within-subject training models have become common within the exercise literature. However, it is currently unknown if training one arm with a high load would impact muscle size and strength of the opposing arm training with a low load.

Parallel group.

116 participants were randomized to one of three groups that completed 6-weeks (18 sessions) of elbow flexion exercise. Group 1 trained their dominant arm only, beginning with a one-repetition maximum test (≤5 attempts), followed by four sets of exercise using a weight equivalent to 8–12 repetition maximum. Group 2 completed the same training as Group 1 in their dominant arm, while the non-dominant arm completed four sets of low-load exercise (30–40 repetition maximum). Group 3 trained their non-dominant arm only, performing the same low-load exercise as Group 2. Participants were compared for changes in muscle thickness and elbow flexion one-repetition maximum.

The greatest changes in non-dominant strength were present in Groups 1 (Δ 1.5 kg; untrained arm) and 2 (Δ1.1 kg; low-load arm with high load on opposite arm), compared to Group 3 (Δ 0.3 kg; low-load only). Only the arms being directly trained observed changes in muscle thickness (≈Δ 0.25 cm depending on site).

Within-subject training models are potentially problematic when investigating changes in strength (though not muscle growth). This is based on the finding that the untrained limb of Group 1 saw similar changes in strength as the non-dominant limb of Group 2 which were both greater than the low-load training limb of Group 3.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-445
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes

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