Muscle thickness correlates to muscle cross-sectional area in the assessment of strength training-induced hypertrophy

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018 Mar;28(3):846-853. doi: 10.1111/sms.12961. Epub 2017 Sep 21.


Muscle thickness (MT) measured by ultrasound has been used to estimate cross-sectional area (measured by CT and MRI) at a single time point. We tested whether MT could be used as a valid marker of MRI determined muscle anatomical cross-sectional area (ACSA) and volume changes following resistance training (RT). Nine healthy, young, male volunteers (24 ± 2 y.o., BMI 24.1 ± 2.8 kg/m2 ) had vastus lateralis (VL) muscle volume (VOL) and ACSAmid (at 50% of femur length, FL) assessed by MRI, and VL MT measured by ultrasound at 50% FL. Measurements were taken at baseline and after 12 weeks of isokinetic RT. Differences between baseline and post-training were assessed by Student's paired t test. The relationships between MRI and ultrasound measurements were tested by Pearson's correlation. After RT, MT increased by 7.5 ± 6.1% (P < .001), ACSAmid by 5.2 ± 5% (P < .001), and VOL by 5.0 ± 6.9% (P < .05) (values: means ± SD). Positive correlations were found, at baseline and 12 weeks, between MT and ACSAmid (r = .82, P < .001 and r = .73, P < .001, respectively), and between MT and VOL (r = .76, P < .001 and r = .73, P < .001, respectively). The % change in MT with training was correlated with % change in ACSAmid (r = .69, P < .01), but not % change in VOL (r = .33, P > .05). These data support evidence that MT is a reliable index of muscle ACSAmid and VOL at a single time point. MT changes following RT are associated with parallel changes in muscle ACSAmid but not with the changes in VOL, highlighting the impact of RT on regional hypertrophy.

Keywords: anatomical cross-sectional area; magnetic resonance imaging; ultrasound; volume.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anatomy, Cross-Sectional*
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy*
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / anatomy & histology*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / diagnostic imaging
  • Resistance Training*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Young Adult