The role of resistance exercise intensity on muscle fibre adaptations

Sports Med. 2004;34(10):663-79. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434100-00004.


Although many training variables contribute to the performance, cellular and molecular adaptations to resistance exercise, relative intensity (% 1 repetition maximum [%1RM]) appears to be an important factor. This review summarises and analyses data from numerous resistance exercise training studies that have monitored percentage fibre type, fibre type cross-sectional areas, percentage cross-sectional areas, and myosin heavy chain (MHC) isoform expression. In general, relative intensity appears to account for 18-35% of the variance for the hypertrophy response to resistance exercise. On the other hand, fibre type and MHC transitions were not related to the relative intensity used for training. When competitive lifters were compared, those typically utilising the heaviest loads (> or =90% 1RM), that is weightlifters and powerlifters, exhibited a preferential hypertrophy of type II fibres when compared with body builders who appear to equally hypertrophy both type I and type II fibres. These data suggest that maximal hypertrophy occurs with loads from 80-95% 1RM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / physiopathology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle Development / physiology*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*