Determining the Sites of Neural Adaptations to Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Ummatul Siddique, Simin Rahman, Ashlyn K Frazer, Glyn Howatson, Dawson J Kidgell
Sports Medicine 2019 July 29

BACKGROUND: Resistance training causes changes in the central nervous system; however, the sites of these adaptations remain unclear.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this article was to determine sites of neural adaptation to resistance training by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis on the cortical and subcortical responses to resistance training.

METHODS: Evidence from randomised controlled trials that focussed on neural adaptations to resistance training were pooled to assess effect estimates for changes in strength, cortical and subcortical adaptations.

RESULTS: The magnitude of strength gain in 34 randomised controlled trials (n = 330) reported a standardised mean difference (SMD) of 1.34 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.99, 1.68; p < 0.001] that measured at least one cortical and/subcortical neural adaptation that included: motor evoked potentials (26 studies); cortical silent period (nine studies); short-interval intracortical inhibition (nine studies); cervicomedullary evoked potentials (five studies); cervicomedullary evoked potential twitch force (four studies); transcranial magnetic stimulation voluntary activation (two studies); H-reflex (ten studies) and V-wave amplitudes (nine studies). Motor evoked potential amplitude was enhanced following resistance training (SMD 0.67, 95% CI 0.22-1.12; p = 0.004); cortical silent period (SMD -1.20, 95% CI - 1.87 to - 0.53; p < 0.001) and short-interval intracortical inhibition (SMD 1.12, 95% CI 0.22-2.02; p = 0.01) decreased. Cervicomedullary evoked potential amplitude (SMD - 0.72, 95% CI - 1.55 to 0.12; p = 0.09) and cervicomedullary evoked potential twitch force (SMD 0.13, 95% CI - 0.83 to 1.09; p = 0.79) remained unchanged. Resistance training improved transcranial magnetic stimulation voluntary activation (SMD 0.69, 95% CI 0.07-1.30; p = 0.03) and V-wave amplitude (SMD 1.04, 95% CI 0.41 - 1.67; p = 0.001), but H-reflex remained unchanged (SMD 0.21, 95% CI - 0.19 to 0.61; p = 0.31).

CONCLUSIONS: There are subtle neural adaptations following resistance training that involve both cortical and subcortical adaptations that act to increase motoneuron activation, which could underpin the training-related increase in muscle strength.


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