Benefits of higher resistance-training volume are related to ribosome biogenesis

J Physiol. 2020 Feb;598(3):543-565. doi: 10.1113/JP278455. Epub 2020 Jan 15.


Key points: For individuals showing suboptimal adaptations to resistance training, manipulation of training volume is a potential measure to facilitate responses. This remains unexplored. Here, 34 untrained individuals performed contralateral resistance training with moderate and low volume for 12 weeks. Moderate volume led to larger increases in muscle cross-sectional area, strength and type II fibre-type transitions. These changes coincided with greater activation of signalling pathways controlling muscle growth and greater induction of ribosome synthesis. Out of 34 participants, thirteen displayed clear benefit of MOD on muscle hypertrophy and sixteen showed clear benefit of MOD on muscle strength gains. This coincided with greater total RNA accumulation in the early phase of the training period, suggesting that ribosomal biogenesis regulates the dose-response relationship between training volume and muscle hypertrophy. These results demonstrate that there is a dose-dependent relationship between training volume and outcomes. On the individual level, benefits of higher training volume were associated with increased ribosomal biogenesis.

Abstract: Resistance-exercise volume is a determinant of training outcomes. However not all individuals respond in a dose-dependent fashion. In this study, 34 healthy individuals (males n = 16, 23.6 (4.1) years; females n = 18, 22.0 (1.3) years) performed moderate- (3 sets per exercise, MOD) and low-volume (1 set, LOW) resistance training in a contralateral fashion for 12 weeks (2-3 sessions per week). Muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and strength were assessed at Weeks 0 and 12, along with biopsy sampling (m. vastus lateralis). Muscle biopsies were also sampled before and 1 h after the fifth session (Week 2). MOD resulted in larger increases in muscle CSA (5.2 (3.8)% versus 3.7 (3.7)%, P < 0.001) and strength (3.4-7.7% difference, all P < 0.05. This coincided with greater reductions in type IIX fibres from Week 0 to Week 12 (MOD, -4.6 percentage points; LOW -3.2 percentage points), greater phosphorylation of S6-kinase 1 (p85 S6K1Thr412 , 19%; p70 S6K1Thr389 , 58%) and ribosomal protein S6Ser235/236 (37%), greater rested-state total RNA (8.8%) and greater exercise-induced c-Myc mRNA expression (25%; Week 2, all P < 0.05). Thirteen and sixteen participants, respectively, displayed clear benefits in response to MOD on muscle hypertrophy and strength. Benefits were associated with greater accumulation of total RNA at Week 2 in the MOD leg, with every 1% difference increasing the odds of MOD benefit by 7.0% (P = 0.005) and 9.8% (P = 0.002). In conclusion, MOD led to greater functional and biological adaptations than LOW. Associations between dose-dependent total RNA accumulation and increases in muscle mass and strength point to ribosome biogenesis as a determinant of dose-dependent training responses.

Keywords: resistance-training; ribosome biogenesis; training-volume.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Resistance Training*
  • Ribosomes