Neuromuscular adaptations and serum hormones in women during short-term intensive strength training

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Summary

The effects were investigated in ten women of intensive heavy resistance strength training lasting for 3 weeks on electromyographic (EMG) activity, muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and voluntary force production characteristics of leg extensor muscles. Blood samples for the determinations of serum hormones were taken from five of the subjects. Significant increases occurred in the higher force portions of the isometric force-time curve with an increase of 9.7 (SD 8.4)% (P<0.01) in maximal peak force. An increase of 15.8 (SD 20.9)% (P<0.05) took place also in the maximal neural activation (integrated EMG) of the trained muscles, while an enlargement of 4.6 (SD 7.4)% (P<0.05) occurred in the CSA of the quadriceps femoris muscle. Maximal force per muscle CSA increased significantly (P<0.05). No statistically significant changes were observed during the training in the mean concentrations of serum testosterone, free testosterone, cortisol and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). The individual concentrations of serum testosterone: SHBG ratio correlated with the individual changes obtained during the training in the muscle CSA (r=0.99;P<0.01). The present findings in women indicated that the increases in maximal strength during short-term but intensive strength training were primarily due to the increased voluntary activation of the trained muscles, while muscle hypertrophy remained limited in magnitude. Large interindividual differences in women in serum testosterone concentrations could indicate corresponding differences in muscle hypertrophy and strength development even during a short-term but intensive strength training period.