SRU Research Focus: Mitchell McCleary is trying to discover how people get stronger faster


Student doing exercise research

Mitchell McCleary, a Slippery Rock University junior health and physical education major, is working with participants to measure the effects of different types of upper body muscular training.

June 6, 2023

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Mitchell McCleary, a Slippery Rock University junior health and physical education major from Slippery Rock, is conducting research this summer into which types of muscular training results in more strength gains.

Funded by a grant through SRU's Summer Collaborative Research Experience program, McCleary's project, titled "Community Strength Training: Muscular Power vs. Muscular Strength Upper Body Training," is being conducted under the advisement of Istvan Kovacs, associate professor of physical and health education. The SCORE grant supports faculty-student research projects for up to $5,000 and helps develop the research skills and discipline techniques for undergraduates.

Summary: People often measure strength by how much they can "max" on the bench press by doing one repetition. This is a comparative study that also looks at power and how fast the weight moves. The purpose of this research is to examine whether a muscular strength-based traditional training program or a muscular power-based training program result in better overall strength gain in various strength measures of the upper body. 

Research question: To what degree does traditional, muscular strength-based training result in better performance in a one-repetition maximum, versus the velocity-based training popular among powerlifters?  

Methods: McCleary is hosting training sessions at SRU (60 minutes each, up to three times per week) for 28 participants representing a variety of ages and abilities. The researchers are tracking two exercises completed at the beginning of each workout and six exercises that are completed afterward. Through pre- and post-tests at the beginning of the nine-week training programs, the results will measure how well participants increase their upper body strength and power, both individually and as a group.

Why this topic: "I am interested in velocity-based training because it is sub-maximal training that develops maximal strength gain," McCleary said. "I think this concept is very interesting and has many questions that still need answered."

How will this study benefit others?: "The findings will add to the general body of information about strength and conditioning," McCleary said. "Velocity-based training has rarely been researched in the bench press. This study will enhance the current literature and answer the effectiveness of velocity-based for the development of maximal strength." 

How do SRU students benefit from conducting research?: "I'm gaining experience working with a diverse population as well as learning about the research process," said McCleary, who plans to attend graduate school in the health or human performance field after he graduates from SRU. "Additionally, by completing undergraduate research, I have a unique opportunity to stand out among my peers, and I have gotten to meet many knowledgeable people."

What's next? McCleary will conclude the data collection and trainings on July 9. He plans to submit the findings at regional and national conferences, including the Society of Health and Physical Educators of America National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in March 2024.

More information about SRU's physical and health education programs are available on the department's webpage and more information about the SCORE grant is available on SRU's Grants Office webpage under internal funding opportunities tab.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854  |