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Changes in strength and cross sectional area of the elbow flexors as a result of isometric strength training

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Changes in strength and size of the elbow flexor muscles have been compared during six weeks of isometric strength training in six male and six female subjects. Isometric training of one arm resulted in a significant increase in isometric force (14.5±5.1%, mean±SD,n = 12). No differences were seen in the response of male and female subjects. The extent of the change was similar to that reported for training studies of other muscles, thus refuting the suggestion that the elbow flexors may be especially amenable to training. Biceps and brachialis cross-sectional area (CSA) was measured from mid-upper arm X-ray computerized tomography before and after training. Muscles increased in area (5.4±3.8%) but this was smaller than, and not correlated with, the increase in strength. The main change in the first six weeks of strength training was therefore an increase in the force generated per unit cross-sectional area of muscle. The arrangement of fibres in the biceps is nearly parallel to the action of the muscle and it is argued that the increase in force per unit cross-sectional area is unlikely to be due to changes in the pennation of the muscle fibres as has been suggested for other muscles.

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Davies, J., Parker, D.F., Rutherford, O.M. et al. Changes in strength and cross sectional area of the elbow flexors as a result of isometric strength training. Europ. J. Appl. Physiol. 57, 667–670 (1988).

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