Skeletal muscle undergoes profound changes in morphological, physiological, and biochemical character when subjected to prolonged periods of increased use. Although increased use may be brought about in a variety of ways, the results show consistent features. In particular, endurance exercise and chronic stimulation differ only in degree: the properties which change in response to exercise are also those which change at an early stage of stimulation; the properties which are resistant to change under exercise conditions change only after prolonged stimulation. There is therefore a hierarchy of stability in the properties of skeletal muscle which is revealed in its response to changing functional demands. The adaptive potential of muscle provides a logical framework for understanding neural influences on the emergence of fiber types during muscle development. It is also relevant to the study of pathological conditions which may involve a sustained departure from normal postural and locomotor patterns of activity.