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The development of skeletal muscle hypertrophy through resistance training: the role of muscle damage and muscle protein synthesis

Abstract

Resistance training (RT)-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy is a highly intricate process. Despite substantial advances, we are far from understanding exactly how muscle hypertrophy develops during RT. The aim of the present review is to discuss new insights related to the role of skeletal muscle damage and muscle protein synthesis (MPS) in mediating RT-induced hypertrophy. Specifically, the thesis that in the early phase of RT (≤ 4 previous RT sessions) increases in muscle cross-sectional area are mostly attributable to muscle damage-induced muscle swelling; then (after ~ 10 sessions), a modest magnitude of muscle hypertrophy ensues; but only during a latter phase of RT (after ~ 18 sessions) is true muscle hypertrophy observed. We argue that the initial increases in MPS post-RT are likely directed to muscle repair and remodelling due to damage, and do not correlate with eventual muscle hypertrophy induced by several RT weeks. Increases in MPS post-RT session only contribute to muscle hypertrophy after a progressive attenuation of muscle damage, and even more significantly when damage is minimal. Furthermore, RT protocols that do not promote significant muscle damage still induce similar muscle hypertrophy and strength gains compared to conditions that do promote initial muscle damage. Thus, we conclude that muscle damage is not the process that mediates or potentiates RT-induced muscle hypertrophy.

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Abbreviations

AMPK:

5′ Adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase

CSA:

Cross-sectional area

CK:

Creatine kinase

DOMS:

Delayed onset muscle soreness

DXA:

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

fCSA:

Muscle fibre cross-sectional area

IL-1β:

Interleukin 1 beta

IL-6:

Interleukin 6

Mb:

Myoglobin

MPB:

Muscle protein breakdown

MPS:

Muscle protein synthesis

MRI:

Magnetic resonance imaging

mTOR:

Mechanistic target of rapamycin

MVIC:

Maximum voluntary isometric contraction

MyoPS:

Myofibrillar protein synthesis

PGC-1α:

Peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma coactivator 1 alpha

RE:

Resistance exercise

RT:

Resistance training

SC:

Satellite cells

TNF-α:

Tumour necrosis factor alpha

US:

Ultrasound

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the participants of our studies and funding agencies: the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP; Grants #2012/24499-1, 2013/21218-4, 2014/19594-0, 2016/24259-1 and 2017/04299-1), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq; Grants #303085/2015-0 and 448387/2014-0), and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

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FD, CAL and CU wrote, reviewed and approved the final content of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Felipe Damas.

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Communicated by Micheal Lidinger.

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Damas, F., Libardi, C.A. & Ugrinowitsch, C. The development of skeletal muscle hypertrophy through resistance training: the role of muscle damage and muscle protein synthesis. Eur J Appl Physiol 118, 485–500 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-017-3792-9

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Keywords

  • Skeletal muscle
  • Resistance exercise
  • Myofibrillar protein synthesis
  • Edema
  • Soreness
  • Satellite cells