Physiologic and molecular bases of muscle hypertrophy and atrophy: impact of resistance exercise on human skeletal muscle (protein and exercise dose effects)

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Jun;34(3):403-10. doi: 10.1139/H09-042.


Normally, skeletal muscle mass is unchanged, beyond periods of growth, but it begins to decline in the fourth or fifth decade of life. The mass of skeletal muscle is maintained by ingestion of protein-containing meals. With feeding, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is stimulated and a small suppression of muscle protein breakdown (MPB) occurs, such that protein balance becomes positive (MPS>MPB). As the postprandial period subsides and a transition toward fasting occurs, the balance of muscle protein turnover becomes negative again (MPB>MPS). Thus, during maintenance of skeletal muscle mass, the long-term net result is that MPS is balanced by MPB. Acutely, however, it is of interest to determine what regulates feeding-induced increases in MPS, since it appears that, in a number of scenarios (for example aging, disuse, and wasting diseases), a suppression of MPS in response to feeding is a common finding. In fact, recent findings point to the fact that loss of skeletal muscle mass with disuse and aging is due not chronic changes in MPS or MPB, but to a blunted feeding-induced rise in MPS. Resistance exercise is a potent stimulator of MPS and appears to synergistically enhance the gains stimulated by feeding. As such, resistance exercise is an important countermeasure to disuse atrophy and to age-related declines in skeletal muscle mass. What is less well understood is how the intensity and volume of the resistance exercise stimulus is sufficient to result in rises in MPS. Recent advances in this area are discussed here, with a focus on human in vivo data.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Proteins
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy / metabolism*
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / metabolism*
  • Resistance Training*


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins