Skip to main content

The role of learning and coordination in strength training


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Belanger AY, McComas AJ (1981) Extent of motor-unit activation during effort. J Appl Physiol 51:1131–1135

    Google Scholar 

  • Chapman SJ, Edwards RHT, Greig C, Rutherford O (1984) Practical application of the twitch interpolation technique for the study of voluntary contraction of the quadriceps muscle in man. J Physiol 353:3 P

    Google Scholar 

  • Edwards RHT, Young A, Hosking GP, Jones DA (1977) Human skeletal muscle function: description of tests and normal values. Cli Sci Mol Med 52:283–290

    Google Scholar 

  • HÄkkinen K, Komi PV (1983) Electromyographic changes during strength training and detraining. Med Sci Sports Exerc 15:455–460

    Google Scholar 

  • Hellebrandt FA, Houtz SJ (1956) Mechanisms of muscle training in man: experimental demonstration of the overload principle. Phys Ther Rev 36:371–383

    Google Scholar 

  • Ikai M, Fukunaga T (1970) A study on training effect on strength per unit cross-sectional area of muscle by means of ultrasonic measurement. Int Z Angew Physiol 28:173–180

    Google Scholar 

  • Komi PV, Buskirk ER (1972) Effect of eccentric and concentric muscle conditioning on tension and electrical activity of human muscle. Ergonomics 15:417–434

    Google Scholar 

  • Moritani T, De Vries HA (1979) Neural factors versus hypertrophy in the time course of muscle strength gain. Am J Phys Med 58:115–130

    Google Scholar 

  • Rasch PJ, Morehouse LE (1957) Effect of static and dynamic exercises in muscular strength and hypertrophy. J Appl Physiol 11:29–34

    Google Scholar 

  • Sale D, MacDougall D (1981) Specificity in strength training: a review for the coach and athlete. Sports W-4

  • Thorstensson A, Karlsson J, Viitasalo JHT, Luhtanen P, Komi PV (1976) Effect of strength training on EMG of human skeletal muscle. Acta Physiol Scand 98:232–236

    Google Scholar 

  • Young A, Stokes M, Round JM, Edwards RHT (1983) The effect of high resistance training on the strength and cross-sectional area of the human quadriceps. Eur J Clin Invest 13:411–417

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rutherford, O.M., Jones, D.A. The role of learning and coordination in strength training. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 55, 100–105 (1986).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Key words

  • Strength training
  • Task specific performance
  • Isometric force
  • Coordination
  • Fixator muscles