Muscle hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance-trained women

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990;60(1):71-9. doi: 10.1007/BF00572189.


Twenty-four women completed a 20-week heavy-resistance weight training program for the lower extremity. Workouts were twice a week and consisted of warm-up exercises followed by three sets each of full squats, vertical leg presses, leg extensions, and leg curls. All exercises were performed to failure using 6-8 RM (repetition maximum). Weight training caused a significant increase in maximal isotonic strength (1 RM) for each exercise. After training, there was a decrease in body fat percentage (p less than 0.05), and an increase in lean body mass (p less than 0.05) with no overall change in thigh girth. Biopsies were obtained before and after training from the superficial portion of the vastus lateralis muscle. Sections were prepared for histological and histochemical examination. Six fiber types (I, IC, IIC, IIA, IIAB, and IIB) were distinguished following routine myofibrillar adenosine triphosphatase histochemistry. Areas were determined for fiber types I, IIA, and IIAB + IIB. The heavy-resistance training resulted in significant hypertrophy of all three groups: I (15%), IIA (45%), and IIAB + IIB (57%). These data are similar to those in men and suggest considerable hypertrophy of all major fiber types is also possible in women if exercise intensity and duration are sufficient. In addition, the training resulted in a significant decrease in the percentage of IIB with a concomitant increase in IIA fibers, suggesting that strength training may lead to fiber conversions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Isotonic Contraction
  • Muscles / pathology*
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Weight Lifting*