Muscle Strength and Its Development

New Perspectives

Summary

Skeletal muscle undergoes substantial adaptation when it is subjected to a strength training regimen. At one extreme, these effects are manifested as profound morphological changes, such as those exemplified by bodybuilders. However, it is possible to increase strength without any change in muscle size. This dissociation underscores the notion that strength is not solely a property of muscle but rather it is a property of the motor system. The nervous system seems to be of paramount importance for the expression and development of strength. Indeed, it is probable that increases in strength can be achieved without morphological changes in muscle but not without neural adaptations. This review focuses on the role of the nervous system in the development of strength. In the strength literature, 3 topics exemplify the importance of the nervous system in strength development. These 3 topics are considered in detail in the review: electromyostimulation, cross-training effects, and EMG-force relationships. Evidence is presented from several different paradigms emphasising the significant contribution of neural mechanisms to the gains in strength with short term training. Although little is known about the specific neural mechanisms associated with strength training adaptations, the literature emphasises that the measure of human performance known as strength can be influenced by a variety of neurophysiological processes.

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Correspondence to Dr Roger M. Enoka.

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Enoka, R.M. Muscle Strength and Its Development. Sports Medicine 6, 146–168 (1988). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-198806030-00003

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Keywords

  • Muscle Strength
  • Motor Unit
  • Strength Training
  • Human Skeletal Muscle
  • Apply Physiology