top of page
Mark Lifting Barbel Strong Lab_edited.jpg


Evidenced based strength and conditioning training

Dr Mark Stevenson is a qualified strength and conditioning coach with St Mary's University (The home of British Rugby training) and has a PhD in Bayesian statistics from Queen Mary University. He will do the hard work of reading and digesting the emerging and ongoing scientific literature in the field of evidence based strength and conditioning. Leaving you to focus on your training and getting real results, backed by science.

Book your first online consultation now:

Strong Lab: Welcome

"...for our wisdom is better than the strength of men or of horses. ... nor is it right to prefer strength to excellent wisdom."


Strong Lab: Quote


The cutting edge of health and fitness research

CrossFit Class


Feb 2020

What influence does resistance exercise order have on muscular strength gains and muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis.

A great article that confirms something strength athletes have known for a long time, do your high priority heavy training first if you want to get stronger. If you just want to get big it doesn't really matter. 


The objectives of this paper were to: (a) systematically review studies that explored the effects of exercise order (EO) on muscular strength and/or hypertrophy; (b) pool their results using a meta-analysis; and (c) provide recommendations for the prescription of EO in resistance training (RT) programmes. A literature search was performed in four databases. Studies were included if they explored the effects of EO on dynamic muscular strength and/or muscle hypertrophy. The meta-analysis was performed using a random-effects model with Hedges' g effect size (ES). The methodological quality of studies was appraised using the TESTEX checklist. Eleven good-to-excellent methodological quality studies were included in the review. When all strength tests, that is, both in multi-joint (MJ) and single-joint (SJ) exercises were considered, there was no difference between the EOs (ES = -0.11; p = 0.306). However, there was a difference between the MJ-to-SJ and SJ-to-MJ orders for strength gains in the MJ exercises, favouring starting the exercise session with MJ exercises (ES = 0.32; p = 0.034), and the strength gains in the SJ exercises, favouring starting the exercise session with SJ exercises (ES = -0.58; p = 0.032). No significant effect of EO was observed for hypertrophy combining site-specific and indirect measures (ES = 0.03; p = 0.862). In conclusion, increases in muscular strength are the largest in the exercises performed at the beginning of an exercise session. For muscle hypertrophy, our meta-analysis indicated that both MJ-to-SJ and SJ-to-MJ EOs may produce similar results.


Image by Maciej Karoń


Nov 2018

This article confirms something that has bothered me for a while. It is hard to train HIT or other aerobic training approaches and build maximal leg strength. Squatting sucks when your legs are still thrashed from Kung Fu or sprints. I just have to accept that I have competing goals and that my kung fu stance training takes priority over my max squat. 


The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to assess the effect of concurrent high intensity interval training (HIIT) and resistance training (RT) on strength and hypertrophy. Five electronic databases were searched using terms related to HIIT, RT, and concurrent training. Effect size (ES), calculated as standardised differences in the means, were used to examine the effect of concurrent HIIT and RT compared to RT alone on muscle strength and hypertrophy. Sub-analyses were performed to assess region-specific strength and hypertrophy, HIIT modality (cycling versus running), and inter-modal rest responses. Compared to RT alone, concurrent HIIT and RT led to similar changes in muscle hypertrophy and upper body strength. Concurrent HIIT and RT resulted in a lower increase in lower body strength compared to RT alone (ES = -0.248, p = 0.049). Sub analyses showed a trend for lower body strength to be negatively affected by cycling HIIT (ES = -0.377, p = 0.074) and not running (ES = -0.176, p = 0.261). Data suggests concurrent HIIT and RT does not negatively impact hypertrophy or upper body strength, and that any possible negative effect on lower body strength may be ameliorated by incorporating running based HIIT and longer inter-modal rest periods.


Foam Bed Roll


Oct 2019

I dont foam roll, I dont like it, I dont feel it does anything lasting for me. So I leap at any chance to read a paper that confirms my bias. I view it like massage, if you like it and you feel like it helps then do it. It does not replace the hard work of stretching out under load and opening up the joints and lengthening the muscles. 



Foam Rolling (FR), aims to mimic the effects of manual therapy and tackle dysfunctions of the skeletal muscle and connective tissue. It has been shown to induce improvements in flexibility, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to further elucidate the acute, systemic and tissue-specific responses evoked by FR.


In a crossover study, 16 (34 ± 6y, 6f) participants received all of the following interventions in a random order: a) 2 × 60 seconds of FR at the anterior thigh, b) 2 × 60 seconds of passive static stretching of the anterior thigh (SS), and c) no intervention (CON). Maximal active and passive knee flexion range of motion (ROM), passive stiffness, sliding of fascial layers, as well as knee flexion angle of first subjectively perceived stretch sensation (FSS) were evaluated before and directly after each intervention.


Flexibility increased only after, FR (active (+1.8 ± 1.9%) and passive ROM (+3.4 ± 2.7%), p = .006, respectively) and SS (passive ROM (+3.2 ± 3.5%), p = .002). Angle of FSS was altered following FR (+4.3° (95% CI: 1.4°-7.2°)) and SS (+6.7° (3.7°-9.6°)), while tissue stiffness remained unchanged after any intervention compared to baseline. Movement of the deepest layer (-5.7 mm (-11.3 mm to -0.1 mm)) as well as intrafascial sliding between deep and superficial layer (-4.9 mm ( to -0.7 mm)) decreased only after FR.


FR improved knee flexion ROM without altering passive stiffness, but modified the perception of stretch as well as the mobility of the deep layer of the fascia lata. The mechanisms leading to altered fascial sliding merit further investigation.


Strong Lab: News & Updates
bottom of page