CSCS Chapter 5: Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs
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Chapter Goals

  • Learn the differences between the aerobic and anaerobic training adaptations relating anatomically, physiologically, and based on performance.
  • Talk about peripheral and central adaptations to anaerobic training.
  • Have an understanding of manipulating the acute variables of training in a periodized program and how that alters muscles, bones, and connective tissues.
  • Learn chronic and acute effects of training anaerobically and what happens to the endocrine system.
  • Learn the chronic and acute effects of anaerobic training on the cardiovascular system.
  • See the signs, causes, effects, and symptoms of overtraining and detraining about the anaerobic system.
  • Please discuss the training programs and their potential to positively change the strength, endurance, power, motor performance, and flexibility.

Physiological Adaptations to Resistance Training

  • Increased strength
  • Endurance increases for a higher power output
  • There is little to no increase in aerobic power
  • There is an increase in the force production maximal rate
  • The ability to jump increases vertically
  • Anaerobic power has an increase
  • Improvement of our sprinting speed
  • Increases are shown in fiber size
  • There is a decrease or no change in our capillary density
  • There is a decrease in the density of mitochondria
  • ATP stores have an increase
  • The body increases its stores of Creatine Phosphate
  • The body increases its stores of glycogen
  • Our body fat percentage decreases
  • Our percent of fat free mass increases

Neural Adaptations

Anaerobic training is known to bring changes to the neuromuscular chain. This starts in the higher brain centers and continues to the muscle fibers individually.

Central adaptations

The motor cortex activity will increase when force levels increase and also when we learn new movements.

Many neural changes with anaerobic training happen along the descending corticospinal tract.

Motor Unit adaptations

Max power and strength will increase in the agonist’s muscles due to increased recruitment, synchronization, and firing rate, or a combination of these.

During Resistance training, the muscle fibers become larger because they are recruited based on their size. They are recruited consecutively in order. Advanced athletes may recruit in different orders due to adaptations.

The Size Principle

Lower threshold units are first recruited and have a lower capability to produce force than the higher threshold ones.

The body needs to recruit lower threshold units first before it can get to higher thresholds.

One exception would be with explosive ballistic based contractions in which we must simultaneously produce a lot of force and power.

The Neuromuscular Junction

Some potential changes from anaerobic training

The increased neuromuscular junction area

Synapses are dispersed more and shaped more irregularly. They can have a greater length of terminal nerve branching.

End plate perimeter length and area increase. Acetylcholine receptors within the end plate region are dispersed greater.

Neuromuscular Reflex Potentiation

Anaerobic training enhances this reflex. The magnitude and the rate of force development go up.

Anaerobic Training and Electromyography Studies

Increasing EMGs show greater neural activation.

Some studies have strength and power increases showing as much as 73%.

Training advancements give further gains in power and strength.

A big dramatic increase happens early in the training programs.

Some additional findings are things like:

  • Cross-education: this is where a muscle undergoes resistance training solely on one side and the resting muscle on the other side sees some similar benefits.
  • Bilateral deficits in people who are not trained: Force production is lessened when working together than the sum they would produce if they contract unilaterally.
  • An increase in the voluntary activation of the agonistic muscles occurs in Bilateral facilitation in trained or stronger people.
  • Muscle activity changes occur in the antagonist’s muscles during agonist movements.

Muscular Adaptations

The main adaptations that occur in skeletal muscle are Increased size, fiber type transitions, and enhanced biochemical components. These changes give us more strength, power, and endurance.

Muscular Growth

Muscular hypertrophy refers to the enlargement of muscles due to increases in the cross-sectional areas.

Hyperplasia is an increase in muscle fiber numbers due to the longitudinal splitting of the fibers.

Hypertrophy results from increases in myosin and actin in the myofibrils and increases in the myofibrils contained in muscle fibers.

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Fiber Size Changes

Resistance training shows an increase occurs in both muscle fiber types.

Type I and II fiber area increases.

There are always greater increases with the Type II fibers.

Fiber Type Transitions

The continuum of fiber types is I, Ic, IIc, IIac, IIa, IIax, and IIx.

These fiber transitions happen during training.

Structural and Architectural Changes

Myofibrillar volume, sarcoplasmic reticulum density, sodium potassium ATPase activity, T-tubule density, and Cytoplasmic density all increase with resistance training. 

Calcium release is enhanced with sprint training.

The angle of pennation increases with resistance training.

Other Muscular Adaptations

Mitochondrial density decreases.

Muscle substrate content and enzyme activities change.

Capillary density decreases.

The buffering capacity increases.

Bone Modeling

Weight bearing forces cause the bones to bend. This creates a stimulus for the bone to form new bone where it is experiencing this deformation.

Osteoblasts lay down additional collagen.

The osteoblasts that were dormant move to this area that is being strained.

The bone diameter increases as the collagen fibers become mineralized.

Connective Tissue Adaptations

General Bone Physiology

Trabecular bones respond much more quickly to stimuli than cortical bones.

The minimal essential strain is the threshold stimulus used to initiate the formation of new bone.

MES is about one tenth of the force needed to fracture a bone.

If a force reaches this one tenth, or passes it, it will initiate new bone formation.

Anaerobic Training and Bone Growth

The gains from strength and hypertrophy increase how much force is exerted on our bones, possibly increasing bone mineral density.

Principle of Training to Increase Bone Strength

The magnitude of the load

The volume of loading

The direction of the force on the bone

The speed of the loading

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How Can Athletes Stimulate the Formation of Bone?

They can use exercises that will directly load regions of the skeleton.

Structural exercises can direct force vectors through the spine and hip, allowing greater loads while training.

You can overload the musculoskeletal system and then increase the load as you become accustomed to it.

Varying exercise selection to distribute force vectors which will present a continually unique stimulus.

The Adaptations of Tendons, Ligaments, and Fascia to Anaerobic Training

Mechanical forces created while exercising is the main stimulus for growth.

Tissue adaptation is related to the intensity of exercise.

Connective tissue changes are simulated by consistently exercising and exceeding the strain threshold.

Collagen fibers are the main structural component.

Specific tendinous changes contributing to strength and size increases:

  • Collagen fiber diameter increases.
  • More covalent cross links in a hypertrophied fiber.
  • The number of collagen fibrils increases.
  • The packing density of collagen fibrils increases.

How can athletes stimulate adaptations to tendons, ligaments, and fascia?

Long term adaptations come from progressive high intensity loading patterns with external resistance.

High intensity loads are needed because moderate intensities do not change connective tissues.

Forces need to be exerted through a full range of motion.

Cartilage Adaptations to Anaerobic Training

Cartilages’ main function is:

  • Providing a smooth joint articulating surface
  • Acting as an absorber of shock for forces through a joint.
  • Aiding in attaching connective tissues to the skeleton.

Cartilage has no blood supply, so it must get nutrients from diffusion.

Joint mobility is linked with joint health.

How Can An Athlete Stimulate Adaptations to Connective Tissues?

Moderate intensity anaerobic exercise is good enough to improve the thickness of cartilage. Strenuous exercise is not proven to hurt it as long as it is done properly.

Endocrine Responses and Adaptations to Anaerobic Training

Acute Hormonal Responses

The acute anabolic hormonal responses to anaerobic exercise are important for performance and adaptation in training.

The upregulation of hormone receptors is vital for mediating the effects of hormones.

Chronic Changes in Acute Hormonal Response

Doing resistance training consistently improves the acute hormone Responses to aerobic workouts.

Chronic Changes in Resting Hormonal Contractions

Chronic changes are not likely.

Hormone Receptor Changes

Resistance training upregulates androgen receptor content 48-72 hours following workouts.

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Responses to Acute Exercise

Anaerobic Exercise and the Acute Cardiovascular Responses

Acute bouts of exercise will increase cardiovascular responses significantly. 

This increases stroke volume, oxygen uptake, cardiac output, heart rate, systolic BP, and blood flow to working muscles.

Chronic Cardiovascular Adaptations when at Rest

Anaerobic training decreases or doesn’t change the resting BP and HR.

Cardiac dimensions are altered by resistance training.

Chronic Adaptations of the Acute Cardiovascular Responses to Anaerobic exercise

Resistance training chronically will reduce the cardiovascular responses to acute bouts of resistance exercise.

Anaerobic exercise and the Ventilatory response.

Ventilation doesn’t limit resistance exercise typically and is often unaffected.

Improvements in Performance from Anaerobic Exercise

Muscular Strength

Muscular strength improves quicker in untrained people based on percentage than with trained people because they are close to their max.

Heavier loads are the most effective for recruiting fibers.

Training effects are related to types of exercise, volume, and intensity.

Higher intensities and volumes are needed for more trained people.

Power

Power training increases force output at a higher velocity and rate of force development.

Local Muscular Endurance

The cross sectional data in athletes training anaerobically have shown that enhanced muscular endurance and the muscular adaptations that occur are consistent with improved buffering and oxidative capacity.

The skeletal muscle adaptations that happen during anaerobic muscular endurance training include increases in the following:

  • Number of mitochondria
  • Number of capillaries
  • Fiber type transitions
  • Buffering capacity
  • Resistance to fatigue
  • Metabolic enzyme activity

Body Composition

Resistance training may increase the amount of fat free mass and reduce the amount of body fat.

Resistance training also increases lean tissue mass, daily metabolic rate, and energy expenditure.

Flexibility

If individuals have poor flexibility, they may see it improved with anaerobic training.

Combining stretching and resistance training appears to work best.

Aerobic Capacity

There is very little done aerobically when you are lifting heavy resistance.

Untrained people may see an improvement in VO2 max with resistance training.

Circuit training has been shown to improve VO2 max.

Motor Performance

Training Anaerobically will enhance motor performance. How much it changes is based on the exercises performed.

Resistance training improves running economy, sprint speed, swinging and throwing velocity, vertical jump, tennis serve velocity, and kicking performance.

Overtraining

This is defined as the excessive frequency, volume, and/or intensity in training. It results in fatigue, illness, and even injury.

Excessively training short term is actually called overreaching.

Markers for Overtraining Anaerobically

  • Decreased desire for training, less joy found in training.
  • Epinephrine and norepinephrine increase acutely beyond normal.
  • Performance dips.

Mistakes that lead to Overtraining

  • Chronically working out at high intensity or high volume, or both.

Hormonal Markers for Anaerobic Overtraining

  • Epinephrine and norepinephrine increase acutely beyond normal.

Psychological Factor is Overtraining

  • Psychological changes are observed before performance dips.

Detraining

This is a loss of performance ability and a loss of accumulated physiological adaptations. It is following the stopping of anaerobic training or when there is a significant reduction in the volume, intensity, frequency, or any combo of them.

The magnitude of the losses depends on how long the detraining period is and the initial levels of the individual.

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CSCS Chapter 5: Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs 1
CSCS Chapter 5: Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs 2
CSCS Chapter 5: Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs 3

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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