Research Article: Muscle fiber hypertrophy in response to 6 weeks of high-volume resistance training in trained young men is largely attributed to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

Date Published: June 5, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Cody T. Haun, Christopher G. Vann, Shelby C. Osburn, Petey W. Mumford, Paul A. Roberson, Matthew A. Romero, Carlton D. Fox, Christopher A. Johnson, Hailey A. Parry, Andreas N. Kavazis, Jordan R. Moon, Veera L. D. Badisa, Benjamin M. Mwashote, Victor Ibeanusi, Kaelin C. Young, Michael D. Roberts, Atsushi Asakura.


Cellular adaptations that occur during skeletal muscle hypertrophy in response to high-volume resistance training are not well-characterized. Therefore, we sought to explore how actin, myosin, sarcoplasmic protein, mitochondrial, and glycogen concentrations were altered in individuals that exhibited mean skeletal muscle fiber cross-sectional area (fCSA) hypertrophy following 6 weeks of high-volume resistance training. Thirty previously resistance-trained, college-aged males (mean ± standard deviation: 21±2 years, 5±3 training years) had vastus lateralis (VL) muscle biopsies obtained prior to training (PRE), at week 3 (W3), and at week 6 (W6). Muscle tissue from 15 subjects exhibiting PRE to W6 VL mean fCSA increases ranging from 320–1600 μm2 was further interrogated using various biochemical and histological assays as well as proteomic analysis. Seven of these individuals donated a VL biopsy after refraining from training 8 days following the last training session (W7) to determine how deloading affected biomarkers. The 15 fCSA hypertrophic responders experienced a +23% increase in mean fCSA from PRE to W6 (p<0.001) and, while muscle glycogen concentrations remained unaltered, citrate synthase activity levels decreased by 24% (p<0.001) suggesting mitochondrial volume decreased. Interestingly, repeated measures ANOVAs indicated that p-values approached statistical significance for both myosin and actin (p = 0.052 and p = 0.055, respectively), and forced post hoc tests indicated concentrations for both proteins decreased ~30% from PRE to W6 (p<0.05 for each target). Phalloidin-actin staining similarly revealed actin concentrations per fiber decreased from PRE to W6. Proteomic analysis of the sarcoplasmic fraction from PRE to W6 indicated 40 proteins were up-regulated (p<0.05), KEGG analysis indicated that the glycolysis/gluconeogenesis pathway was upregulated (FDR sig. <0.001), and DAVID indicated that the following functionally-annotated pathways were upregulated (FDR value <0.05): a) glycolysis (8 proteins), b) acetylation (23 proteins), c) gluconeogenesis (5 proteins) and d) cytoplasm (20 proteins). At W7, sarcoplasmic protein concentrations remained higher than PRE (+66%, p<0.05), and both actin and myosin concentrations remained lower than PRE (~-50%, p<0.05). These data suggest that short-term high-volume resistance training may: a) reduce muscle fiber actin and myosin protein concentrations in spite of increasing fCSA, and b) promote sarcoplasmic expansion coincident with a coordinated up-regulation of sarcoplasmic proteins involved in glycolysis and other metabolic processes related to ATP generation. Interestingly, these effects seem to persist up to 8 days following training.

Partial Text

Weeks to months of resistance training increases skeletal muscle mean fiber cross-sectional area (fCSA) [1–10]. Tracer studies have also demonstrated that a single bout of resistance exercise increases muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and myofibrillar protein synthesis (MyoPS) rates up to 72 hours post-exercise (reviewed in [11–13]). The ingestible deuterium oxide tracer has enabled scientists to measure integrated MPS and MyoPS for prolonged periods [14, 15], and results have suggested that rates are also elevated weeks into training. Such findings have led to a general consensus that resistance training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy occurs via: a) increased myofibrillar protein accretion at the cellular level, and b) an increase in muscle fiber size and diameter due to said protein accretion.

There is a widespread consensus that resistance training-induced skeletal muscle hypertrophy involves mean fCSA increases due to proportional increases in contractile proteins. In this regard, several reports have implied that the addition of sarcomeres in parallel and/or the addition of new myofibrils are largely responsible for muscle fiber hypertrophy [33–35]. This hypothesis seems logical given that elegant tracer studies have consistently demonstrated that high-volume resistance exercise increases MyoPS days following or weeks during the training stimulus. Notwithstanding, and as discussed earlier, several studies suggest skeletal muscle myofibril protein density may actually decrease following weeks to years of higher volume resistance training in humans [16–18]. Furthermore, a recent study suggests that lower specific tensions are evident in single fibers isolated from bodybuilders with significantly larger fCSAs relative to control and power athlete fibers [36]. These authors explicitly stated “hypertrophy has a detrimental effect on specific tension”, and noted that myofibril dilution through higher volume body building-style training may have been a driving factor for their observations.

These data challenge current dogma suggesting fCSA increases during high-volume resistance training are primarily driven through increases contractile protein content. Instead, we interpret these data to suggest sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is largely responsible for short-term fCSA increases, and this effect can persist up to 8 days following the cessation of training. Our proteomic data suggest that sarcoplasmic proteins upregulated during higher volume training are involved with glycolysis as well as other processes that generate ATP. Future research is needed to determine the significance of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy during high-volume resistance training, or whether different training paradigms affect this process.




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