Cortisol and resistance exercise 9may actually provide a better measure than serum another study by Foster et al. (1998) revealed that acortisol of the stress response as it more accurately sudden increase in training load above normalmeasures the amount of unbound cortisol compared training limits caused a decrease in enduranceto serum measures (Vining et al., 1983). There is performance and led to injury or illness.also evidence that suggests fitter individuals show Periodization or variation of training intensityincreased cortisol responses compared to less trained should be utilized within a weekly training plan andindividuals (Marthur et al., 1986; Luger et al., 1987). can be monitored using session RPE values obtained The Borg 15-category scale for the rating of by the individual after each exercise session. Sessionperceived exertion (RPE) during physical activity RPE could also lead to optimal athletic performancehas been widely researched for its use in both with a reduced injury/illness cost due to overtrainingclinical and exercise settings (Noble and Robertson, with endurance exercise.1996). Borg based the RPE scale on the idea that a The purpose of this study was to measure themeasure of perceived exertion is the level of strain salivary cortisol responses to different intensities ofand/or heaviness experienced during physical effort, resistance exercise. The secondary purpose was toas estimated by a specific rating method (Borg, evaluate the effectiveness of using the session RPE1998). Since the unveiling of the original scale over scale to measure physical effort during bouts offorty years ago, the CR-10 RPE scale has become a resistance training exercise, as well as to examinestandard method to evaluate perceived exertion in the validity of this scale in rating entire resistanceexercise testing, training, and rehabilitation and has training sessions of different intensities.been validated against objective markers of exerciseintensity (Borg et al., 1985, Noble et al., 1983). METHODSHowever, to date this scale has not been evaluated tothe same extent for other high intensity exercises Experimental design and approach to the problemsuch as resistance training. A recent study by This study used a randomized, crossover design, inGearhart et al. (2001) showed that the Borg CR-10 which subjects completed two experimental trialsRPE scale can be used effectively during single set twice. For this study, subjects performed a lowresistance training sessions and that it is a valid intensity protocol, and a high intensity protocol formeasure of exercise intensity. A second study by two exercises (the bench press and the squat,Gearhart et al. (2002) yielded similar results thus respectively). For the purpose of safety and theexpressing promise to its application of the rating of elimination of possible external variables, whichsingle set perceived exertion. potentially could have affected results, both of these A series of studies by Foster (1998), Foster et exercises were performed on the Smith Machine.al. (1996; 2001) and Day et al. (in press) have Each subject completed a total of five sessions, onsuggested that a single session RPE rating may nonconsecutive days. Day one consisted of aaccurately reflect the intensity of an exercise familiarization session that included informedsession. A recent study conducted by Day et al. (in consent procedures, instruction on the use of CR-10press) demonstrated that the session RPE could be RPE scale and session RPE to rate perceivedused to quantify the intensity of a resistance training exertion. The subsequent four sessions consisted ofsession. However, the exercise protocol used by Day two high intensity workouts at 75% of 1-RM andet al (in press) used a single set format. In addition, two low intensity workouts at 30% of 1-RM. Thethe research done thus far using RPE during order of these sessions was randomized with least 72resistance exercise has not adequately addressed the hours between each session. The purpose ofefficacy of its use during typical multi-set, higher conducting the resistance exercise sessions on twointensity weight training sessions undertaken by occasions was to determine the reliability of themany trainees, particularly athletes (Gearhart et al., session RPE method for rating the intensity of the2001). It has been suggested that combined workout.psychological and physiological changes during highintensity training provide important indicators for Subjectsmonitoring training stress (Filaire et al., 2001). Seventeen volunteers between the ages of 18 and 25 Several studies have evaluated training load were recruited for this study including 8 men (Meanand prescribing exercise periodization using session ± SD; 21.6 ± 1.2 years; 1.8 ± 0.1m; 86.6 ± 11.0 kg;RPE (Foster et al., 1996; 2001). Foster et al. (1996) 11.0 ± 5.2% body fat) and 9 women (20.0 ± 0.9reported that self-directed increases in training load, years; 1.6 ± 0.1m; 60.6 ± 8 kg; 21.2 ± 2.8% bodyusing the session RPE scale as a marker of intensity fat). These volunteers were required to meet themultiplied by exercise duration in minutes to yield following requirements prior to participation in thisan index of the total training load, improved athletic study: absence of any skeletal, muscle,performance during cycling time trials. However, cardiovascular, or endocrine limitations; a history of
10 McGuigan et al.a resistance-training program of at least two sessions rate intensity of the entire workout (Figure 1). Aper week for at least three weeks prior to series of anchoring tests was used as previouslyparticipation in this study; and free of controlled and described by Gearhart et al. (2001) to establish highperformance-enhancing drugs for at least one month and low perceptual anchors. In addition, the subjectprior to and for the duration of the study. Subjects was shown the scale 30 minutes followingprovided informed consent as per the university’s conclusion of the training bout and asked, “How wasInstitutional Review Board. All subjects were your workout?” (Foster et al., 2001). RPE was takenmeasured for height, body mass, and percent body 30 minutes post-exercise to prevent particularlycomposition during the first testing session. During difficult or easy elements near the end of thethe duration of the study subjects were required to exercise session from skewing the overall rating ofrefrain from intense exercise 24 hours prior to each the session. As a comparison to studies wheretesting session, to follow the same diet on each day duration was multiplied by the session RPE toof each trial, and not to eat for at least 3-4 hours calculate the training load, we multiplied the sessionprior to any testing session. In addition, subjects RPE by the number of sets performed, the number ofwere instructed to abstain from alcohol and caffeine repetitions performed and weight lifted to create afor a minimum of 24 hours prior to any testing term representative of the training load. The goal ofsession. Percent body fat was estimated using four the session RPE is to encourage the subject to viewsite measurements of skinfolds as per Durnin and the training session globally and to simplify theWormesley (1973) myriad of exercise intensity cues during the exercise bout.Strength testingAt least one week prior to the acute resistance 45 *# 40exercise protocol, each subject had their one 35 Cortisol (nmol/l)repetition maximum (1RM) determined on the Smith 30machine squat and Smith machine bench press as 25previously described (Kraemer et al., 1998). This 20involved a number of warm-up trials being 15 10performed using 30% (8-10 reps), 50% (4-6), 70% 5(2-4), and 90% (1 repetition) of an estimated RM or 01-1.5 times subjects body weight (McBride et al., Pre IP 30min Post2002). Following the warm-up the subjects’ Timeresistance was increased where the individualcompleted a number of maximal efforts to determine 30% 75%1RM. Figure 1. Mean salivary cortisol concentrationsAcute resistance exercise protocol (±SD) before exercise, immediately followingThe high intensity resistance exercise protocol exercise and at 30 minutes of recovery (n = 10).consisted of 6 sets of 10 RM squats (75% of 1RM) * denotes significant differences between exerciseand 6 sets of 10RM bench presses (75% of 1RM) time points. # denotes significant differenceswith 2 minutes of rest between each set. A similar between the low intensity and high intensity exerciseprotocol has been previously used and has shown to sessions.result in changes in endocrine function (Hymer etal., 2001). If the subject failed to perform the 10 Salivary cortisolrepetitions on any given set due to fatigue the load Saliva samples were collected at the beginning ofwas immediately adjusted to permit completion of each testing session (without stimulation, by spittingthe remaining repetitions. The low intensity directly into a plastic tube), immediately followingresistance exercise protocol consisted of 3 sets of 10 completion of the resistance exercise session and 30repetitions at 30% of 1RM of the same exercises as minutes following completion of the last exercise (atthe high intensity protocol with 2 minutes of rest the same time as the obtaining the session RPE).between each exercise. Samples were obtained for all the testing sessions from ten of the subjects who completed the study.Rating of perceived exertion measures Salivary cortisol has been shown to have a circadianDuring the familiarization session, each subject was rhythm (Thuma et al., 1995; Raff et al.1998). Togiven instructions on the use of the modified CR-10 avoid any confounding effects due to variations incategory RPE scale (Noble et al., 1983; Borg et al., circadian rhythm all testing sessions were performed1985). The session RPE measure, which was at the same time of day. Samples were stored at -developed by Foster et al. (1996; 2001), was used to 80ºC until analyzed. There is a strong relationship
Cortisol and resistance exercise 11between salivary and serum unbound cortisol both at 30 minutes following the conclusion of the trainingrest (r = .93) and during exercise (r = .90) bout and asked “How was your workout?”.(O’Connor and Corrigan, 1987). Saliva measures ofcortisol concentrations are independent of saliva RESULTSflow rate (Riad-Fahmy et al., 1983). Salivarycortisol concentrations were determined in duplicate There was a significant increase in the level ofby Enzyme Immunoassay using a Diagnostic salivary cortisol immediately following the highSystems Laboratories Salivary Cortisol Enzyme intensity exercise session (Figure 2). There was aImmunoassay Kit (DSL, Webster, Texas). Assay significant difference between the low intensity andplates were read using an Opsys MRTM Microplate high intensity exercise session immediately post-Reader (Dynex Technologies, Chantilly, USA). exercise. The low intensity exercise did not result inIntra-assay variance was 7.2% and the sensitivity of any significant changes in cortisol levels.the assay was 0.011 µg·dL-1.Statistical Analysis 10 30%Statistical significance was set at the p < 0.05 level. * 75% *Changes within groups for salivary cortisol 8measures and RPE values were analyzed using two 6way repeated measures analysis of variance. RPEComparisons among the groups were made using 4analysis of variance. The Tukey post-hoc test wasused to identify significantly different group means. 2Each subject’s RPE values was averaged and 0compared to his/her session RPE rating. This test Session 1 Session 2was completed to identify if significant differencesexist between the session RPE rating and the Figure 3. Average RPE for the bench press exerciseaccumulated RPE ratings obtained during each during each testing session. * denotes significantresistance training session. Interclass correlation differences between 30% and 75% exercise bouts.coefficients (ICC) were calculated to establish thereliability of the session RPE method. Bivariate There was a significant difference between therelationships were calculated using Pearson’s mean RPE values for each intensity (p < 0.05)product moment correlations to examine the (Figure 3 and 4). There was also a significantrelationship between changes in cortisol levels and difference between the session RPE values for eachsession RPE. Lastly bivariate correlations were intensity of lifting (high intensity 7.1 vs. lowcomputed relating changes in cortisol and training intensity 1.9) (p < 0.05) (Figure 5). There was noload. significant difference between the average RPE values and the session RPE values for the squat exercise. However, there was a significant difference between the average RPE value for the bench press exercise and the session RPE value during each intensity for the bench press exercise (p < 0.05). 10 30% * * 75% 8 6 RPE 4 2Figure 2. Modification of the category ratio rating 0of perceived exertion (RPE) scale for this study Session 1 Session 2(Foster, 2001). The verbal anchors have beenchanged slightly to reflect American English (eg. Figure 4. Average RPE for the squat exercise duringlight becomes easy; strong or severe becomes hard). each testing session. * denotes significantBriefly, the subject is shown the scale approximately differences between 30% and 75% exercise bouts.
12 McGuigan et al. A test for reliability of the session RPE to function as it represents more accurately the level ofpredict the same value across two different trials of unbound cortisol (Vining et al., 1983).the same intensity was performed. The ICC was 0.95 In the present investigation we showed that awith the 95% confidence interval of 0.90-0.97. high intensity bout of resistance exercise significantly increases the level of salivary cortisol. This in agreement with the majority of studies that 10 30% have shown that high intensity resistance exercise * * 75% elevates serum cortisol (Mulligan et al., 1996; Fry et 8 al., 2000; Nindl et al., 2001; Smilios et al., 2003). A Session RPE 6 recent study by Smilios et al. (2003) showed that different resistance exercise protocols produce 4 different hormonal response patterns depending on the number of sets that are performed. 2 Previous research has shown that the volume 0 of resistance exercise as measured by the number of Session 1 Session 2 sets performed, affects the hormonal concentrations. Studies have demonstrated that performing three setsFigure 5. Session RPE data for the low intensity and of each exercise results in higher levels of cortisol,high intensity sessions. * denotes significant testosterone and growth hormone compared to onedifferences between 30% and 75% exercise bouts. set of each exercise (Mulligan et al., 1996; Gotshalk et al., 1997). Our data also confirmed that salivary There were no significant correlations between cortisol levels were significantly elevated when asalivary cortisol levels immediately post or 30 higher volume of work was performed (6 sets versusminutes post exercise and measures of RPE (both 3 sets). In addition to the number of sets performed,average RPE and session RPE). There were also no another factor that may be affect the salivary cortisolsignificant correlations between salivary cortisol response is the training status of the subjects. Thelevels and load. majority of subjects in the present study were only recreationally trained, as reflected by the averageDISCUSSION squat 1RM to bodyweight ratio (1.62 for men and 1.16 for women). It has been suggested that multipleEarlier studies have shown that resistance exercise set workouts are more effective for well trainedhas a significant effect on cortisol levels following individuals (ACSM, 2002) and hormonal responsesexercise (Mulligan et al., 1996; Nindl et al., 2001). are influenced by the training status of the individualThe present study showed that salivary cortisol (Fry et al., 2000). For the present study there was aresponses were significantly different immediately strong correlation (r = .54, p = 0.08) between thepost exercise between the low intensity and high squat 1RM to bodyweight ratio and the percentageintensity exercise sessions (145%). Immediately change in salivary cortisol concentrations from pre-following the high intensity acute resistance exercise to post the exercise bout. Although this was not about there was a significant elevation of 97% in significant relationship it does suggest that thesalivary cortisol from baseline. This increase in training status of the subjects is related to thesalivary cortisol was significantly larger than the hormonal response. There was however a widecortisol response for the low intensity resistance range of individual responses of salivary cortisol toexercise session. the different intensities of resistance exercises, as Salivary cortisol levels have been shown to demonstrated by the large standard deviationsincrease following acute exercise with the response (Figure 1). In addition, the inclusion of both mendependent on the intensity and duration of activity and women in the present study could provide a(Lac and Berthon, 2000; Jacks et al., 2002). To our confounding factor. There was no significantknowledge there are no studies that have measured differences between the men and women in thesalivary cortisol following different intensities of study for both salivary cortisol responses and sessionresistance exercise. However, there is limited RPE values. However, this could have contributed toresearch investigating salivary cortisol responses to the large variation of salivary cortisol responses asresistance exercise. Salivary cortisol provides a there may have been variation in the menstrualstress free, non-invasive procedure (Vining and status of the female subjects. We attempted toMcGinley, 1987) that avoids additional stress caused control for the time of day by having the subjectsby venipuncture (Lac et al., 1993). Salivary cortisol complete their testing for all sessions at the samemay also be a better measure of adrenocortical time. All testing was conducted in the morning as
Cortisol and resistance exercise 13salivary cortisol has been shown to have a circadian do not necessarily reflect the type of workout thatrhythm (Thuma et al., 1995; Raff et al.1998). would be used traditionally by exercisers. Future The second purpose of this study was to studies could investigate the effect of exerciseevaluate the reliability and effectiveness of the protocols designed to improve maximum strength,session RPE method to rate an overall resistance hypertrophy and power on the hormonal responses,training session using multi-set exercises. Based on in addition to session RPE.the data, the session RPE method appears to be a Other researchers have investigated perceivedreliable method of quantifying resistance training exertion and resistance exercise (Gearhart et al.,intensities. We have previously shown that the 2001; 2002). Resistance training consists of asession RPE method is a reliable measure for complex milieu of variables including sets,evaluating single-set exercise bouts (Day et al., in repetitions, rest periods and type of exercisepress). However, multiple set workouts have been performed. Therefore, resistance exercise representsrecommended for optimal development of strength a unique mode to study perceived exertion andand power (ACSM, 2002). Therefore, we felt it was hormonal responses. The RPE values for each setimportant to determine the reliability of this measure were taken in addition to the session rating. Thewith multiple set training. This was the rationale for purpose of taking the set RPE values was to furtherusing two sessions of each exercise intensity. There familiarize the subjects with rating their perceivedwas a significant difference between the session effort on the modified CR-10 scale. We believed thisRPE values for each intensity for the two exercises would increase the accuracy of the session RPE(bench press and squat). The average RPE value and value. This study provides further evidencesession RPE value for the bench press exercise were validating the findings of Gearhart et al. (2002) andalso significantly different. For the squat exercise Day et al. (in press), where fewer repetitions of ahowever, no significant difference was found heavier resistance was perceived to be more difficultbetween average RPE value and session RPE value. than performing more repetitions of a lighter These findings are similar to a previous study resistance. Training volume in resistance exercise isconducted in our laboratory (Day et al., in press). a composite of the number of sets, number ofAnother study conducted recently in our laboratory repetitions and the amount of resistance lifted. Thiscompared session RPE during easy, moderate, and is an important difference from non resistance typehigh intensity resistance training to session RPE of training where the total duration of exercise induring comparable intensities of steady state aerobic minutes is the appropriate duration measure.exercise on a cycle ergometer (Sweet et al., in Because of the long periods of recovery required inpress). Session RPE and the mean RPE all increased resistance training, particularly in high intensityas the % 1-RM increased despite a decrease in resistance training, time per se is probably anrepetitions and total workload. The results of this inappropriate measure of training volume. Previousseries of studies supports the idea that the session studies by Day et al. (in press), Gearhart et al. (2001)RPE is a valid method for quantifying the intensity and Sweet et al. (in press) have shown that RPE isof resistance training, and is generally comparable to most influenced by exercise intensity and not by theaerobic training. The difference between the bench volume of exercise being performed. Furtherpress and squat exercises for mean RPE versus research is required to investigate the role of trainingsession RPE is similar to our previous findings, in volume during resistance exercise, on both RPE andthat it appears that RPE measurements taken after salivary hormonal responses.each set varied widely depending on the type ofresistance exercise being performed, ie. large muscle CONCLUSIONSmass exercises versus small muscle mass exercises(Day et al., in press; Sweet et al., in press). Many In conclusion, there was a significant differencefactors could have influenced variations in RPE between the salivary cortisol responses immediatelymeasurements such as motor unit recruitment and following the high and low intensity exerciseenergy expenditure. protocols. This study has demonstrated that salivary In the present study we used an exercise measures of cortisol can be used to delineateprotocol designed to clearly delineate between between high and low intensity workouts. Thehigher volume, high intensity bouts of exercise and a results of this study have also shown that sessionlow intensity workout to investigate the hormonal RPE is a reliable and useful tool of measuring theresponse and perceived exertion. However, there intensity of a resistance training session. This scalewas no attempt to equate the exercise protocols for would be a beneficial tool for researchers, strengthtotal work performed, although the rest periods were coaches, recreational weightlifters, and athletes asthe same for both protocols. It is also important to they strive to rate the work intensity of a resistancenote that the exercise bouts used in the present study training session. Overall, the session RPE scale was
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Cortisol and resistance exercise 15Noble, B.J., G. Borg, I. Jacobs, R. Ceci, and P. Kaiser. AUTHORS BIOGRAPHY (1983). A category-ratio perceived exertion scale: Michael R. MCGUIGAN Relationship to blood and muscle lactate and heart Employment rate. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Ass. Prof. in the Department of Exercise and Sport 15, 523-528. Science, Univ. of Wisconsin-La Crosse.Noble, B.J. and Robertson, R.J. (1996) Perceived Degrees Exertion. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. PhDObminski, Z. and Stupnicki, R. (1997) Comparison of the Research interests testosterone-to-cortisol ratio values obtained from Hormonal and muscular responses to resistance training hormonal assays in saliva and serum. Journal of E-mail: email@example.com Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 37, 50-55. Alison D. EGANOConnor, P. and Corrigan, D. (1987) Influence of short- Employment term cycling on salivary cortisol levels. Medicine Undergraduate student in the Depart. of Exercise and and Science in Sports and Exercise 19, 224-228. Sport Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.Passelergue, P. and Lac, G. (1999) Saliva cortisol, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org testosterone and T/C ratio variations during a Carl FOSTER wrestling competition and during post-competitive Employment recovery period. International Journal of Sports Prof. in the Depart. of Exercise and Sport Science, Medicine 20, 109-113. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.Raff, H., Raff, J.L. and Findling, J.W. (1998) Late-night Degrees salivary cortisol as a screening test for Cushing’s PhD syndrome. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Research interests Metabolism 83, 2681-2686. Clinical and exercise physiology, high performanceRiad-Fahmy, D., Read, G.F. and Walker, R.F. (1983) physiology, exercise physiology. Salivary steroid assays for assessing variation in E-mail: email@example.com endocrine activity. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry 19, 265-272. Dr. Mike McGuiganSmilios, I., Pilianidis, T., Karamouzis, M. and 221 Mitchell Hall, Department of Exercise and Sport Tokmakidis, S.P. (2003) Hormonal responses after Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, various resistance exercise protocols. Medicine and WI, USA Science in Sports and Exercise 35, 644-654.Sweet, T.W., Foster, C., McGuigan, M.R. and Brice, G. Quantification of resistance training using the session RPE method. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, in press. KEY POINTSThuma, J.R., Gilders, R., Verdun, M., and Loucks, A.B. (1995) Circadian rhythm of cortisol confounds • The present study showed that salivary cortisol responses to exercise: implications for cortisol responses were significantly future research. Journal of Applied Physiology 78, different immediately post exercise 1657-1664. between the low intensity and high intensityVining, R.F. and McGinley, R.A. (1987) The exercise sessions measurement of hormones in saliva: possibilities and pitfalls. Journal of Steroid and Biochemistry • Salivary measures of cortisol can be used to 27, 81-94. delineate between high and low intensityVining, R.F., McGinley, R.A., Maksvytis, J.J. and Ho, resistance exercise bouts. K.Y. (1983). Salivary cortisol: a better measure of • The session RPE method appears to be a adrenal cortical function than serum cortisol. reliable method of quantifying resistance Annals of Clinical Biochemistry 20, 329-335. exercise