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News from August 2009

Negative Life Stress and Strength Gains After Resistance Training

August 13, 2009

The positive effects of exercise on depression, and as a stress management tool has been the subject of much recent study. The link between disproportionate and long-term stress, such as job loss, or a death in the family, to negative health affects has also been proven. Life stress and health are connected, but solutions may not be as simple as getting out to the gym for some stress-busting exercise.

In a recent study done at the University of Texas (Austin), researchers found a significant decrease in adaptation to resistance training for people who were undergoing disproportionate life stress. Taking into account the potential mediating factor of social support on those undergoing significant stress (i.e. those who have family or other social support, experience reduced adverse health affects to stress), researchers undertook to examine the impact of stress on the response to strength training.

The study involved 135 undergraduates enrolled in weight training classes that met for 1.5 hours, two times per week. Participants completed the college version of the Adolescent Perceived Events Scale (APES), the Social Support Inventory, and one-repetition maximal lifts (1RM) for the bench press and squat. Maximal lifts were repeated after 12 weeks of training. Median splits for stress and social support were used to form groups. Results indicated that the low stress participants experienced a significantly greater increase in bench press and squat than their high stress counterparts. Strength gains were, however, unrelated to social support scores in either the low or high stress group. Although more research is necessary, high life stress may lessen a person’s ability to adapt to weight training. It may benefit coaches and trainers to be aware of their athletes’ and clients’ stress within and outside the training setting.

The complete study: Strength Gains After Resistance Training: The effect of stressful, negative life events, John B. Bartholomew, Matthew A. StultsS-Kolehmainen, Christopher C. Elrod,
and Janice S. Todd, 2008,
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(4) 1215–1221