European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 112, Issue 7, pp 2393–2402 | Cite as

Cycling exercise-induced myofiber transitions in skeletal muscle depend on basal fiber type distribution

  • Sebastian GehlertEmail author
  • Sebastian Weber
  • Bente Weidmann
  • Katrin Gutsche
  • Petra Platen
  • Christine Graf
  • Karin Kappes-Horn
  • Wilhelm Bloch
Original Article


The link between specific changes in myofiber type proportions and modulation of training in human skeletal muscle has yet to be unraveled. We investigated whether a defined increase in training volume induces a corresponding change of myofiber shifting in human skeletal muscle with distinct basal myofiber distribution. Twenty-one male cyclists (Age 26 ± 4 years) with different performance levels were exposed to increased cycling training volume with reduced power output for 3 months. Biopsies were taken from vastus lateralis muscle PRE–POST and the proportions of type I, IIa, IIx and IIc myofibers were determined. Total training time did not correlate to the degree of fiber type shifting of any type. In the entire sample of subjects, the proportion of type I myofibers tended to increase (P = 0.14) while IIa fibers decreased significantly (P < 0.05). Subgroups of subjects possessing higher (HPS) and lower proportions (LPS) of type I myofibers at baseline showed a distinct pattern in changing myofiber distribution. Subjects in HPS offered no change in myofiber proportions of any type. In contrast, subjects in LPS showed marked increases in type I (P = 0.06) and a significant reduction in IIa myofibers (P = 0.01). An inverse correlation between baseline proportion of type I and IIa myofibers and its change was observed. We conclude that individual myofiber composition constitutes a modulating factor for exercise-induced changes in its distribution. This might be influenced by altered demands of myofiber recruitment in relation to the intensity of muscle contraction but also by its relative abundance in contracting muscle.


Myofiber recruitment Neuromuscular activity Myofiber shifting Fiber type distribution Endurance exercise 



The technical assistance of the Muscle Lab, Department of Neurology, University of Bonn is greatly appreciated.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Gehlert
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Sebastian Weber
    • 1
  • Bente Weidmann
    • 1
  • Katrin Gutsche
    • 1
  • Petra Platen
    • 2
  • Christine Graf
    • 4
  • Karin Kappes-Horn
    • 5
  • Wilhelm Bloch
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department for Molecular and Cellular Sports Medicine, Institute of Cardiology and Sports MedicineGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Sports Medicine and Sports NutritionRuhr UniversityBochumGermany
  3. 3.The German Research Center of Elite SportGerman Sport University CologneCologneGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Motor Control and Movement TechniqueGerman Sports University CologneCologneGermany
  5. 5.Department of NeurologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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