The influence of gender on muscular adaptation of the elbow flexors to 24 wk of heavy resistance training was studied in five male bodybuilders (MB) and five female bodybuilders (FB) who were highly competitive. Muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), fiber area, and fiber number were determined from the biceps brachii, and voluntary elbow flexor torque was obtained at velocities of contraction between 0 and 300 degrees/s. Biceps and flexor CSA was 75.8 and 81% greater, respectively, in MB than in FB, but muscle CSA was not significantly altered by the training program in either group. Because estimated fiber number and the volume density of nonmuscle tissue were similar in MB and FB, most of the gender difference in muscle CSA appeared to be due to greater absolute mean fiber areas in MB (10.51 and 10.68 x 10(3) microns 2 pre- and posttraining, respectively) than in FB (5.33 and 5.96 x 10(3) microns 2 pre- and posttraining, respectively). In neither MB nor FB did fiber type achieve further hypertrophy during the 24-wk training program. These data suggest that the extent of any change in muscle mass or muscle fiber characteristics is minimal after a bodybuilder of either gender has attained a high degree of muscle mass and a highly competitive status.