The role of learning and coordination in strength training

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Summary

The central changes associated with a period of strength training have been investigated in a group of 32 young healthy volunteers. Subjects participated in one of three 12 week training programmes, which required different degrees of skill and coordination. Study 1 consisted of unilateral isometric training of the quadriceps with the contralateral leg acting as a control, the apparatus providing firm back support and a lap strap. In Study 2 training consisted of unilateral concentric leg-extension with back support and hand-grips. In Study 3 subjects performed bilateral leg-extension with no back support. Measurements of maximum voluntary isometric strength were made at 2–3 week intervals and a continual record was kept of the weights lifted in Studies 2 and 3. The largest increase in isometric force was seen for the trained leg in Study 1 (approximately 40%). There was no significant change in strength in the contralateral untrained leg. In Studies 2 and 3 there was a large increase in training weights (about 200%) associated with smaller increase in isometric force (15–20%). It is concluded that a large part of the improvement in the ability to lift weights was due to an increased ability to coordinate other muscle groups involved in the movement such as those used to stabilise the body. The importance of these findings for athletic training and rehabilitation is discussed.