Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Muscle fiber types in women athletes and non-athletes

  • 196 Accesses

  • 34 Citations


Muscle biopsies were obtained from the vastus lateralis muscle of 5 female collegiate field hockey players and 5 untrained female students. The fibers were classified histochemically as fast-twitchoxidative-glycolytic (FOG), fast-twitch-glycolytic (FG) and slow-twitch-oxidative (SO). The fibers were found to be similar to those of males in distribution and histochemical properties, but were smaller. In the women athletes all 3 fiber types were larger than the respective fibers in the controls. Also, the athletes had a much higher percentage of oxidative fibers (SO+FOG), 83% vs. 46%. A direct relationship between fiber size and oxidative activity was observed in fasttwitch fibers, whereas the reverse was found in slowtwitch fibers.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Baldwin, K., Klinkerfuss, G., Terjung, R., Mole, P., Holloszy, J.: Respiratory capacity of white, red, and intermediate muscle: Adaptative response to exercise. Am. J. Physiol.222, 373–378 (1972)

  2. Baldwin, K., Cooke, D., Cheadle, W.: Time course adaptations in cardiac and skeletal muscle to different running programs. J. Appl. Physiol.42, 267–272 (1977)

  3. Barnard, R., Edgerton, V., Peter, J.: Effect of exercise on skeletal muscle. I. Biochemical and histochemical properties. J. Appl. Physiol.28, 762–766 (1970)

  4. Bergstrom, J.: Muscle electrolytes in man. Determined by neuron activation analysis on needle biopsy specimens. A study on normal subjects, kidney patients and patients with chronic diarrhoea. Scand. J. Clin. Lab. Invest.14, suppl. 68 (1962)

  5. Costill, D., Jansson, E., Gollnick, P., Saltin, B.: Glycogen utilization in leg muscles of men during level and uphill running. Acta Physiol. Scand.91, 475–481 (1974)

  6. Costill, D., Daniels, J., Evans, W., Fink, W., Krahenbuhl, G., Saltin, B.: Skeletal muscle enzymes and fiber composition in male and female track athletes. J. Appl. Physiol.40, 149–154 (1976)

  7. Edgerton, V., Gerchman, L., Carrow, R.: Histochemical changes in rat skeletal muscle after exercise. Exp. Neurol.24, 110–123 (1969)

  8. Edstrom, L., Nystrom, B.: Histochemical types and sizes of fibers in normal human muscles. Acta Neurol. Scand.45, 257–269 (1969)

  9. Edstrom, L., Ekblom, B.: Differences in sizes of red and white muscle fibres in vastus lateralis of musculus quadriceps femoris of normal individuals and atheletes. Relation to physical performance. Scand. J. Clin. Lab. Invest.30, 175–181 (1972)

  10. Eriksson, B., Gollnick, P., Saltin, B.: Muscle metabolism and enzyme activities after training in boys 11–13 years old. Acta Physiol. Scand.87, 485–497 (1973)

  11. Faulkner, J., Maxwell, L., Brook, D., Lieberman, D.: Adaptation of guinea pig plantaris muscle fibers to endurance training. Am. J. Physiol.221, 291–297 (1971)

  12. Goldspink, G.: Cytological basis of decrease in muscle strength during starvation. Am. J. Physiol.209, 100–104 (1965)

  13. Goldspink, G.: Succinic dehydrogenase content of individual muscle fibers at different ages and stages of growth. Life Sci.8, 791–808 (1969)

  14. Gollnick, P., Armstrong, R., Saubert, C., Piehl, K., Saltin, B.: Enzyme activity and fiber composition in skeletal muscle of untrained and trained men. J. Appl. Physiol.33, 312–319 (1972)

  15. Gollnick, P., Armstrong, R., Saltin, B., Saubert, C., Sembrowich, W., Shepherd, R.: Effect of training on enzyme activity and fiber composition of human skeletal muscle. J. Appl. Physiol.34, 107–111 (1973a)

  16. Gollnick, P., Armstrong, R., Sembrowich, W., Shepherd, R., Saltin, B.: Glycogen depletion pattern in human skeletal muscle fibers after heavy exercise. J. Appl. Physiol.34, 615–618 (1973b)

  17. Gollnick, P., Piehl, K., Saltin, B.: Selective glycogen depletion pattern in human muscle fibres after exercise of varying intensity and at varying pedalling rates. J. Physiol.241, 45–57 (1974)

  18. Guth, L., Samaha, F.: Qualitative differences between actomyosin ATPase of slow and fast mammalian muscle. Exp. Neurol.25, 138–152 (1969)

  19. Guth, L., Yellin, H.: The dynamic nature of the so-called “fiber types” of mammalian skeletal muscle. Exp. Neurol.31, 277–300 (1971)

  20. Holloszy, J.: Biochemical adaptations in muscle. Effects of exercise on mitochondrial oxygen uptake and respiratory enzyme activity in skeletal muscle. J. Biol. Chem.242, 2278–2282 (1967)

  21. Holloszy, J., Oscai, L., Don, I., Mole, P.: Mitochondrial citric acid cycle and related enzymes, adaptive response to exercise. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun.40, 1368–1373 (1970)

  22. Howells, K., Goldspink, G.: The effect of age and exercise on the succinic dehydrogenase content of individual muscle fibres from fast, slow and mixed hamster muscles. Histochemistry38, 195–201 (1974)

  23. Maxwell, L., Faulkner, J., Lieberman, D.: Histochemical manifestations of age and endurance training in skeletal muscle fibers. Am. J. Physiol.224, 356–361 (1973)

  24. Moesch, H., Howald, H.: Hexokinase (HK), glyceraldehyde-3 P-dehydrogenase (GAPDH), succinate-dehydrogenase (SDH), and 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA-dehydrogenase (HAD) in skeletal muscle of trained and untrained men. In: Metabolic Adaptation to Prolonged Physical Exercise. H. Howald and J. Poortmans (ed.) Basel: Birkhäuser 1973

  25. Nachlas, M., Tsou, K., DeSousa, E., Cheng, C., Seligman, A.: Cytochemical demonstration of succinic dehydrogenase by the use of a new p-nitrophenyl substituted ditetrazole. J. Histochem. Cytochem.5, 420–436 (1957)

  26. Peter, J., Barnard, R., Edgerton, V., Gillespie, C., Stempel, K.: Metabolic profiles of three fiber types of skeletal muscle in guinea pigs and rabbits. Biochemistry11, 2627–2633 (1972)

  27. Prince, F., Hikida, R., Hagerman, F.: Human muscle fiber types in power lifters, distance runners and untrained subjects. Pflügers Arch.363, 19–26 (1976)

  28. Saltin, B., Nazar, K., Costill, D., Stein, E., Jansson, E., Essen, B., Gollnick, P.: The nature of the training response; peripheral and central adaptations to one-legged exercise. Acta Physiol. Scand.96, 289–305 (1976)

  29. Stern, L., Payne, C., Gruener, R., Anderson, R., Hannapel, L.: Intercostal muscle biopsy in human neuromuscular disease. J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiat.38, 900–910 (1975)

  30. Terjung, R.: Muscle fiber involvement during training of different intensities and durations. Am. J. Physiol.230, 946–950 (1976)

  31. Thorstensson, A., Sjodin, B., Karlsson, J.: Enzyme activities and muscle strength after “sprint training” in man. Acta Physiol. Scand.94, 313–318 (1975)

  32. Thorstensson, A., Hulten, B., von Dobeln, W., Karlsson, J.: Effect of strength training on enzyme activities and fibre characteristics in human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol. Scand.96, 392–398 (1976)

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Prince, F.P., Hikida, R.S. & Hagerman, F.C. Muscle fiber types in women athletes and non-athletes. Pflugers Arch. 371, 161–165 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00580785

Download citation

Key words

  • Human muscle
  • Fiber types
  • Women
  • Exercise