Currently, there are inconsistencies in the body of evidence for the effects of resistance and aerobic training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy.
We aimed to systematically review and meta-analyze current evidence on the differences in hypertrophic adaptation to aerobic and resistance training, and to discuss potential reasons for the disparities noted in the literature.
The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines were followed for this review. The Downs and Black checklist was used for the assessment of methodological quality of the included studies. A random-effects meta-analysis was employed. In total, three analyses were performed: (1) for whole-muscle knee extensor data; (2) for type I fiber cross-sectional area; and (3) for type II fiber cross-sectional area.
The final number of included studies in the present review is 21. All studies were of good or moderate methodological quality. The meta-analysis for whole-muscle hypertrophy resulted in a significant pooled difference (p < 0.001) in responses between the aerobic training and resistance training interventions. The pooled Hedge’s g, favoring resistance over aerobic training, was 0.66 (95% confidence interval 0.41–90; I2 = 0%). The meta-analysis for type I fiber cross-sectional area data resulted in a significant pooled difference (p < 0.001) between the aerobic training and resistance training groups. The pooled Hedge’s g, favoring resistance training over aerobic training, was 0.99 (95% confidence interval 0.44–1.54; I2 = 24%). The meta-analysis of type II fiber cross-sectional area data resulted in a significant pooled difference (p < 0.001) between the aerobic training and resistance training groups. The pooled Hedge’s g, favoring resistance training over aerobic training, was 1.44 (95% confidence interval 0.93–1.95; I2 = 8%).
The results of this systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that single-mode aerobic training does not promote the same skeletal muscle hypertrophy as resistance training. This finding was consistent with measurements of muscle hypertrophy both at the whole-muscle and myofiber levels. While these results are specific to the knee extensor musculature, it can be hypothesized that similar results would be seen for other muscle groups as well.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Fyfe JJ, Loenneke JP. Interpreting adaptation to concurrent compared with single-mode exercise training: some methodological considerations. Sports Med. 2018;48(2):289–97.
Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand: quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(7):1334–59.
American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine position stand: progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009;41(3):687–708.
Fyfe JJ, Bishop DJ, Stepto NK. Interference between concurrent resistance and endurance exercise: molecular bases and the role of individual training variables. Sports Med. 2014;44(6):743–62.
Ozaki H, Loenneke JP, Thiebaud RS, et al. Resistance training induced increase in VO 2 max in young and older subjects. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act. 2013;10(2):107.
Ahtiainen JP, Hulmi JJ, Kraemer WJ, et al. Strength, endurance or combined training elicit diverse skeletal muscle myosin heavy chain isoform proportion but unaltered androgen receptor concentration in older men. Int J Sports Med. 2009;30(12):879–87.
Ferrara CM, Goldberg AP, Ortmeyer HK, et al. Effects of aerobic and resistive exercise training on glucose disposal and skeletal muscle metabolism in older men. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2006;61(5):480–7.
Sillanpaa E, Hakkinen A, Nyman K, et al. Body composition and fitness during strength and/or endurance training in older men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008;40(5):950–8.
Poehlman ET, Dvorak RV, DeNino WF, et al. Effects of resistance training and endurance training on insulin sensitivity in nonobese, young women: a controlled randomized trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000;85(7):2463–8.
DeLorme TL. Technics of progressive resistance exercise. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1948;29(5):263–73.
Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA, Flanagan SD, et al. Understanding the science of resistance training: an evolutionary perspective. Sports Med. 2017;47(12):2415–35.
Konopka AR, Harber MP. Skeletal muscle hypertrophy after aerobic exercise training. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2014;42(2):53–61.
Ceccarelli G, Benedetti L, Arcari ML, et al. Muscle stem cell and physical activity: what point is the debate at? Open Med (Wars). 2017;12:144–56.
Rutkowska-Kucharska A, Szpala A. The use of electromyography and magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate a core strengthening exercise programme. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2018;31(2):355–62.
Short KR, Vittone JL, Bigelow ML, et al. Age and aerobic exercise training effects on whole body and muscle protein metabolism. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004;286(1):E92–101.
Harber MP, Konopka AR, Douglass MD, et al. Aerobic exercise training improves whole muscle and single myofiber size and function in older women. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2009;297(5):R1452–9.
Harber MP, Konopka AR, Undem MK, et al. Aerobic exercise training induces skeletal muscle hypertrophy and age-dependent adaptations in myofiber function in young and older men. J Appl Physiol. 2012;113(9):1495–504.
Hudelmaier M, Wirth W, Himmer M, et al. Effect of exercise intervention on thigh muscle volume and anatomical cross-sectional areas: quantitative assessment using MRI. Magn Reson Med. 2010;64(6):1713–20.
Izquierdo M, Hakkinen K, Ibanez J, et al. Effects of combined resistance and cardiovascular training on strength, power, muscle cross-sectional area, and endurance markers in middle-aged men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2005;94(1–2):70–5.
Izquierdo M, Ibanez J, Häkkinen K, et al. Once weekly combined resistance and cardiovascular training in healthy older men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(3):435–43.
Mikkola J, Rusko H, Izquierdo M, et al. Neuromuscular and cardiovascular adaptations during concurrent strength and endurance training in untrained men. Int J Sports Med. 2012;33(9):702–10.
Folland JP, Williams AG. The adaptations to strength training: morphological and neurological contributions to increased strength. Sports Med. 2007;37(2):145–68.
Kraemer WJ, Patton JF, Gordon SE, et al. Compatibility of high-intensity strength and endurance training on hormonal and skeletal muscle adaptations. J Appl Physiol. 1995;78(3):976–89.
Nelson AG, Arnall DA, Loy SF, et al. Consequences of combining strength and endurance training regimens. Phys Ther. 1990;70(5):287–94.
Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, et al. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(4):264–9.
Ozaki H, Loenneke JP, Thiebaud RS, et al. Cycle training induces muscle hypertrophy and strength gain: strategies and mechanisms. Acta Physiol Hung. 2015;102(1):1–22.
Schoenfeld B. Science and development of muscle hypertrophy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Inc. 2016.
Downs SH, Black N. The feasibility of creating a checklist for the assessment of the methodological quality both of randomised and non-randomised studies of health care interventions. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1998;52(6):377–84.
Davies TB, Kuang K, Orr R, et al. Effect of movement velocity during resistance training on dynamic muscular strength: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2017;47(8):1603–17.
Grgic J, Schoenfeld BJ, Skrepnik M, et al. Effects of rest interval duration in resistance training on measures of muscular strength: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2018;48(1):137–51.
Grgic J, Schoenfeld BJ, Davies TB, et al. Effect of resistance training frequency on gains in muscular strength: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2018;48(5):1207–20.
Higgins JPT, Deeks JJ, Altman DG, on behalf of the Cochrane Statistical Methods Group, editors. Chapter 22.214.171.124. Imputing standard deviations for changes from baseline. In: Higgins JP, Green S, editors. Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. Version 5.1.0 (updated March 2011). Cochrane Collaboration, Chichester, UK; 2011.
Willis LH, Slentz CA, Bateman LA, et al. Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. J Appl Physiol. 2012;113(12):1831–7.
Cohen J. Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hilsdale: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates; 1988.
Duval S, Tweedie R. Trim and fill: a simple funnel-plot-based method of testing and adjusting for publication bias in meta-analysis. Biometrics. 2000;56(2):455–63.
Bell GJ, Syrotuik D, Martin TP, et al. Effect of concurrent strength and endurance training on skeletal muscle properties and hormone concentrations in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2000;81(5):418–27.
de Souza EO, Tricoli V, Roschel H, et al. Molecular adaptations to concurrent training. Int J Sports Med. 2013;34(3):207–13.
de Souza EO, Tricoli V, Aoki MS, et al. Effects of concurrent strength and endurance training on genes related to myostatin signaling pathway and muscle fiber responses. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(11):3215–23.
Farup J, Kjolhede T, Sorensen H, et al. Muscle morphological and strength adaptations to endurance vs. resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(2):398–407.
Hepple RT, Mackinnon SL, Goodman JM, et al. Resistance and aerobic training in older men: effects on VO2peak and the capillary supply to skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol. 1997;82(4):1305–10.
Jubrias SA, Esselman PC, Price LB, et al. Large energetic adaptations of elderly muscle to resistance and endurance training. J Appl Physiol. 2001;90(5):1663–70.
Karavirta L, Hakkinen A, Sillanpaa E, et al. Effects of combined endurance and strength training on muscle strength, power and hypertrophy in 40-67-year-old men. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011;21(3):402–11.
McCarthy JP, Pozniak MA, Agre JC. Neuromuscular adaptations to concurrent strength and endurance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002;34(3):511–9.
Sipila S, Suominen H. Effects of strength and endurance training on thigh and leg muscle mass and composition in elderly women. J Appl Physiol. 1995;78(1):334–40.
Sipila S, Elorinne M, Alen M, et al. Effects of strength and endurance training on muscle fibre characteristics in elderly women. Clin Physiol. 1997;17(5):459–74.
Mitchell CJ, Churchward-Venne TA, West DW, et al. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. J Appl Physiol. 2012;113(1):71–7.
Gibala MJ. High-intensity interval training: a time-efficient strategy for health promotion? Curr Sports Med Rep. 2007;6(4):211–3.
Siddiqi Z, Tiro JA, Shuval K. Understanding impediments and enablers to physical activity among African American adults: a systematic review of qualitative studies. Health Educ Res. 2011;26(6):1010–24.
Counts BR, Buckner SL, Mouser JG, et al. Muscle growth: to infinity and beyond? Muscle Nerve. 2017;56(6):1022–30.
Terzis G, Georgiadis G, Stratakos G, et al. Resistance exercise induced increase in muscle mass correlates with p70S6 kinase phosphorylation in human subjects. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008;102(2):145–52.
Baar K, Esser K. Phosphorylation of p70(S6 k) correlates with increased skeletal muscle mass following resistance exercise. Am J Physiol. 1999;276(1 Pt 1):C120–7.
Mayhew DL, Hornberger TA, Lincoln HC, et al. Eukaryotic initiation factor 2B epsilon induces cap-dependent translation and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. J Physiol. 2011;589(Pt 12):3023–37.
Wilkinson SB, Phillips SM, Atherton PJ, et al. Differential effects of resistance and endurance exercise in the fed state on signalling molecule phosphorylation and protein synthesis in human muscle. J Physiol. 2008;586(Pt 15):3701–17.
Duchateau J, Enoka RM. Human motor unit recordings: origins and insight into the integrated motor system. Brain Res. 2011;1409:42–61.
Edström L, Grimby L. Effect of exercise on the motor unit. Muscle Nerve. 1986;9(2):104–26.
Coggan AR, Spina RJ, King DS, et al. Skeletal muscle adaptations to endurance training in 60- to 70-yr-old men and women. J Appl Physiol. 1992;72(5):1780–6.
Millet GY, Lepers R. Alterations of neuromuscular function after prolonged running, cycling and skiing exercises. Sports Med. 2004;34(2):105–16.
Damas F, Phillips SM, Libardi CA, et al. Resistance training-induced changes in integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis are related to hypertrophy only after attenuation of muscle damage. J Physiol. 2016;594(18):5209–22.
Steele J, Butler A, Comerford Z, et al. Similar acute physiological responses from effort and duration matched leg press and recumbent cycling tasks. PeerJ. 2018;6:e4403.
Mazzetti SA, Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, et al. The influence of direct supervision of resistance training on strength performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32(6):1175–84.
No external sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.
Conflict of interest
Jozo Grgic, Luke C. Mcllvenna, Jackson J. Fyfe, Filip Sabol, David J. Bishop, Brad J. Schoenfeld, and Zeljko Pedisic have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the contents of this review.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Grgic, J., Mcllvenna, L.C., Fyfe, J.J. et al. Does Aerobic Training Promote the Same Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy as Resistance Training? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 49, 233–254 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1008-z