Molecular Signals and Skeletal Muscle Adaptation to Exercise

  • Mark Wilson Monash University


The phenotypic plasticity of skeletal muscle affords a considerable degree of adaptability not seen in other bodily tissues. The mechanical properties of skeletal muscle are highly dependent on loading conditions. The extent of skeletal muscle plasticity is distinctly highlighted by a loss of muscle mass, or atrophy, after a period of reduced weight-bearing activity, for example during periods of extended bed rest, space flight and in spinal cord injury. On the other hand, increased mechanical loading, or resistance training, induces muscle growth, or hypertrophy. Endurance exercise performance is also dependent on the adaptability of skeletal muscle, especially muscles that contribute to posture, locomotion and the mechanics of breathing.  However, the molecular pathways governing skeletal muscle adaptations are yet to be satisfactorily delineated and require further investigation. Researchers in the areas of exercise physiology, physiotherapy and sports medicine are endeavoring to translate experimental knowledge into effective, innovative treatments and regimens in order to improve physical performance and health in both elite athletes and the general community. The efficacy of the translation of molecular biological paradigms in experimental exercise physiology has long been underappreciated. Indeed, molecular biology tools can now be used to answer questions regarding skeletal muscle adaptation in response to exercise and provide new frameworks to improve physical performance. Furthermore, transgenic animal models, knockout animal models and in vivo studies provide tools to test questions concerned with how exercise initiates adaptive changes in gene expression. In light of these perceived deficiencies, an attempt is made here to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise. An examination will be made of the functional capacity of skeletal muscle to respond to a variety of exercise conditions, namely endurance and resistance exercise training. Through the critical evaluation of relevant scientific literature, it is hoped that an overview of the current status of this important area of exercise physiology is achieved.


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How to Cite
Wilson, M. (2013). Molecular Signals and Skeletal Muscle Adaptation to Exercise. International Journal of Applied Exercise Physiology, 2(1), 1-10. Retrieved from
Applied Exercise Physiology