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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Jul;112(7):2393-402. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-2209-4. Epub 2011 Oct 29.

Cycling exercise-induced myofiber transitions in skeletal muscle depend on basal fiber type distribution.

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  • 1Department for Molecular and Cellular Sports Medicine, Institute of Cardiology and Sports Medicine, German Sport University Cologne, Am Sportpark M├╝ngersdorf 6, 50933, Cologne, Germany.


The link between specific changes in myofiber type proportions and modulation of training in human skeletal muscle has yet to be unraveled. We investigated whether a defined increase in training volume induces a corresponding change of myofiber shifting in human skeletal muscle with distinct basal myofiber distribution. Twenty-one male cyclists (Age 26 ┬▒ 4 years) with different performance levels were exposed to increased cycling training volume with reduced power output for 3 months. Biopsies were taken from vastus lateralis muscle PRE-POST and the proportions of type I, IIa, IIx and IIc myofibers were determined. Total training time did not correlate to the degree of fiber type shifting of any type. In the entire sample of subjects, the proportion of type I myofibers tended to increase (P = 0.14) while IIa fibers decreased significantly (P < 0.05). Subgroups of subjects possessing higher (HPS) and lower proportions (LPS) of type I myofibers at baseline showed a distinct pattern in changing myofiber distribution. Subjects in HPS offered no change in myofiber proportions of any type. In contrast, subjects in LPS showed marked increases in type I (P = 0.06) and a significant reduction in IIa myofibers (P = 0.01). An inverse correlation between baseline proportion of type I and IIa myofibers and its change was observed. We conclude that individual myofiber composition constitutes a modulating factor for exercise-induced changes in its distribution. This might be influenced by altered demands of myofiber recruitment in relation to the intensity of muscle contraction but also by its relative abundance in contracting muscle.

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