CSCS Study Guide Chapter 5: Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs

Chapter 5 of the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning covers the body's physiological response to resistance training and overtraining. Understanding the demands of the training program can greatly impact the long term adaptations allow the strength coach to predict outcomes.

In chapter 5 of Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning is about the bodies short and long term physiological response to resistance training. There is also a pretty important discussion on the training and recovery relationship that can result in over

Key Items:

  • Know table 5.2
  • Two ways to increase output are to recruit more muscle fibers or increase firing rate.
  • Intensity, speed of loading, direction of force, and volume affect are the program design variables that affect bone growth.
  • Respecting the balance between training and recovery is important to avoid over training and nonfunctional overreaching.

Adaptations to Anaerobic Training Programs

  • Anaerobic Training - High-intensity short bouts of exercise. Needs ATP faster than the aerobic energy system can make it.
  • Anaerobic Alactic System - another term for phosphagen or creatine phosphate system. Doesn't require oxygen.
  • Anaerobic Lactic System - another term for the glycolytic system.
  • Long term adaptations to training programs are specific to the demands of the training program. For anaerobic training these demands are often things like resistance training, plyometric drills and interval training.
  • Different energy systems play varying roles in sport and it is important that programs reflect these demands.

Neural Adaptations

  • Neural adaptations are really important for the expression of speed, strength and power.
  • Improved neural drive is often thought to be related to changes in the relationship between agonist (major muscles involved in that movement) muscle recruitment, firing rate, and timing of discharge of firing signal.
  • Most neural changes usually happen before structural changes in muscle.
  • Trained athletes are more able to recruit more of their muscle fibers than untrained athletes.
  • Motor unit - a motor unit and the muscle fibers it supplies.
  • Increase firing rate or recruit more fibers when more force is desired.
  • Size Principle - this principle states that less taxing, lower motor unit muscle fibers are recruited first and depending on the desired threshold, higher threshold units are recruited later. Since heavy resistance training requires higher levels of force then all fibers are recruited to some extent and grow larger.
  • Selective Recruitment - the idea that you can skip some of the lower threshold motor units and recruit some others first depending on the needs of the activity.
  • As people adapt to a program and muscle size increases then less muscle fibers are needed to be recruited to lift a set load. This reflects the importance of progressive overload.
  • Smaller muscles rely more on firing rate adaptations to increase force production. Larger muscle rely more on recruitment adaptations to increase force production.
  • Neuromuscular Junction (NMJ) - where nerve and muscle fibers meet. Hard to investigate so animals are often used to show examples for adaptation to exercise.
  • Myotatic Reflex - also called a stretch reflex, the involuntary contraction in response to a muscle being stretched. Requires no additional energy. The text states that resistance training increases reflex impulse by between 19% and 55%.
  • Electromyography (EMG) - a tool used to record the electric activity of a muscle. Can be used to record the surface signal or more invasively, intramuscular signal.
  • Cross-Education - the suggestion that when one side of the body is trained the opposite resting side also experiences gains.
  • Bilateral Deficit - the force of two limbs together being less than the total force of each limb contracted individually.
  • Bilateral Facilitation - increase in voluntary activation of major muscle groups.

Muscular Adaptations

  • Muscle changes in how it's made up and how it functions following anaerobic training. These changes result in enhanced performance.
  • Hypertrophy - when muscle increases in size following training. This increase is in muscle cross section area or CSA. This is done by increasing protein synthesis, reducing protein breakdown or a combination of both, and increasing the number of myofibrils.
  • There's a positive relationship with the amount of muscle you have and expressing strength.
  • Actin - A protein that with myosin makes up the contractile filament of muscle. Smaller filament relative to myosin.
  • Myosin - A protein that with actin makes up the contractile filament of muscle. Larger relative to actin.
  • Titin-structural protein. Made in proportion to the amount of other myofilaments created.
  • Nebulin - structural protein. Made in proportion to the amount of other myofilaments created.
  • Myogensis - forming muscle tissue.
  • According to the text it takes greater than 16 workouts for noticeable changes in muscle CSA become obvious.
  • Appropriate periodization and manipulation of training variables produces the most hypertrophy.
  • Hyperplasia - an increase in the number of muscle fibers via fiber splitting. Shown in animals but difficult to prove in humans. It is unknown if trained people genetically have more muscle fibers than untrained. The techniques used to show this in animals cannot be repeated in humans.
  • Type II fibers usually have the capacity to grow more in size than type I fibers. Its been said that the ratio of type I to type II fibers in individuals determines the capacity they have to grow.
  • Fiber type ratios are genetic but sub types can be changed after anaerobic training.
  • From least oxidative to most: IIx>IIax>IIa>IIac>IIc>?>Ic>I
  • Pennation Angle - the angle at which muscle attaches to tendon. Larger angles allow for more hypertrophy. This angle also affects the range of motion, strength and velocity of a muscle.
  • The number of mitochondria and capillaries that supply muscle remain constant for the most part but, can increase slightly. An increase in CSA results in reduced density of these things relative to the amount of muscle someone has.

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Connective Tissue Adaptations

  • Fascia, tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage are all examples of connective tissue.
  • Mechanical Loading - external resistance applied to the body.
  • Osteoblasts - cells that secrete proteins to begin the bone remodeling process.
  • Bone Matrix - the structural framework of bone.
  • Hydroxyapatite - calcium phosphate crystals. A mineral that is the primary storage form of calcium and phosphorus in bone.
  • Periosteum - membrane that covers the surface of bone. Additions in this area increase the diameter and strength of bone.
  • Trabecular Bone - spongy bone, red bone marrow where blood cells are made.
  • Cortical Bone - compact bone, outer shell. Provides support.
  • Minimal Effective Strain (MES) - the lowest stimulus needed to initiate new bone formation. The body works to raise this level as greater resistance is applied over time to prevent fracture.
  • Bone Mineral Density (BMD) - the amount of minerals stored in an area of bone.
  • Bone adaptation takes 6 months or longer but, begins within the first few workout.
  • Specificity of Loading - using exercises that load the body in a way that is similar to the desired changes. Must be applied to specific areas where change is desired.
  • Osteoporosis - critically low levels of bone mass and bone mineral density.
  • Osteogenic Stimuli - a stimulus to begin new bone formation.
  • Structural Exercises - exercises that load the hip and spine.
  • Progressive Overload - progressively placing a more demanding load on the exercising muscles.
  • Stress Fractures - microfractures in bone caused by structural fatigue.
  • Peak Bone Mass - the maximum amount of bone a person has in their lifetime.
  • Intensity, speed of loading, direction of force, and volume affect are the program design variables that affect bone growth.
  • Collagen - main structural protein of connective tissue. Type I-bone, tendon, and ligaments. Type II-cartilage.
  • Procollagen - the precursor to collagen.
  • Microfibril - the parallel arrangement of filaments.
  • Cross-linking - a strong covalent chemical bond formed between adjacent molecules.
  • Elastin - protein that forms the main part of elastic connective tissue.
  • Tendons take much longer to heal following injury relative to muscle due to poorer vascularity and circulation.
  • Tendon Stiffness - in this context, the ability of tendons to transmit forces.
  • Cartilage does not have it's own blood supply and relies on diffusion of nutrients and oxygen from synovial fluid. This is why moving through a full ROM about a joint is important.
  • Hyaline Cartilage - articular cartilage found on the surface of bones.
  • Fibrous Cartilage - found where tendon attaches to bone and in the intervertebral disks.

Endocrine Responses and Adaptations to Anaerobic Training

  • The body uses hormones to respond to anaerobic training in a variety of ways that include short-term changes during and after exercise, chronic changes in the short-term response to a workout, chronic changes in resting hormonal concentrations (unlikely) and change in hormone receptor content.

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Responses to Anaerobic Exercise

  • Both short and long term anaerobic training have a significant impact on cardiovascular and respiratory function. Acute exercise results in increased cardiac output and blood flow to active muscles.
  • Heart rate is higher in the first 5 seconds after a set than during.
  • Reactive Hyperemia - when blood flow increases during rest after a set.
  • Rate-pressure Product - a way to measure how hard the heart is working. Heart rate x systolic blood pressure = rate-pressure product.
  • Chronic resistance training does not do a lot to improve resting heart rate.
  • Ventilatory Equivalent - the ratio of air ventilated to oxygen used by the body.

Compatibility of Aerobic and Anaerobic Modes of Training

Strength/power training and work capacity-endurance have physiologies that develop in different directions and pose a challenge in programming to optimize results in both.

Resistance training has not been shown to negatively affect aerobic power.

Combining resistance training and aerobic endurance training may interfere with strength/power gains particularly if the aerobic training is high in volume, intensity or frequency.


  • Over-training - when workload exceeds recovery. Long term reductions in performance with or without a physiological or psychological sign.
  • Overreaching - short term reduction in performance. Normally resolved within a few days or weeks. Can actually be planned into training, the rationale is to overwork, recover and get a "supercompensation" effect. Has been shown to be beneficial for power and strength when handled appropriately.
  • Functional Overreaching (FOR) - another word for overreaching, the short term reduction in performance.
  • Nonfunctional Overreaching (NFOR) - when training continues to be difficult past the point where short term performance decreases are shown it can lead to a more long term state of extreme overreaching. Decrease can last weeks or months.
  • Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) - more than just a performance decrease. At this point there is a "prolonged maladaptation". Performance decreases, biological, neurochemical, and hormonal regulatory mechanisms are all negatively impacted. Can last as long as 6 months or longer.
  • Sympathetic Overtraining Syndrome - increased sympathetic activity at rest.
  • Parasympathetic Overtraining Syndrome - increased parasympathetic activity at rest and while exercising.
  • Some respond well to overreaching while it can lead to OTS for others.
  • The time course for reaching an overreached or NFOR state is individual and based on individual response, training status and genetics.
  • Monitoring mood is very important to gain insight into whether or not that person has reached a state of overtraining.


  • Detraining - decrease in performance after training is ceased or there is a substantial decrease in volume, intensity, frequency or a combination of these.
  • The amount of loss from detraining depends on the length of the detraining and the initial training status of the individual. It's not immediate, there is a delay in the length of time before performance starts to decrease.

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Steven Mack is founder and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the private training studio, Simple Solutions Fitness. He consults for Stronger by Science, a leader in fitness research dissemination, and is a former Mizzou football walk-on. Steven dedicates his professional life to helping people through his writing, speaking, and role as a personal trainer.