The Effect of Resistance Training

When you lift weights or perform other kinds of resistance training, you are increasing the size of your muscle fibers, a process known as hypertrophy. This helps you increase your strength. Interestingly, some studies have shown that fast-twitch muscle fibers show greater increases in size than slow-twitch fibers; this means that athletes with a higher percentage of fast-twitch fibers may have an advantage when it comes to resistance training. It also may explain why different athletes will increase muscle size in different proportions even if they are using the same training program.

Muscle-fiber increase from resistance training has been shown to be comparable in women and men, although it is often not as noticeable in women because they have a higher percentage of body fat than men, along with fewer hormones that help increase muscle size.

When you begin a weight training program like one of those described later in this book, your body generally requires about four to six weeks to make the overall adaptations to the new stresses it is undergoing. You may feel stronger within the first two weeks because your neurological system is making the adaptation more quickly, but your actual strength will take a little longer to increase. You also may not notice any significant difference in muscle size for the first month or two, even though you may feel yourself getting stronger.

As with aerobic exercise, you need to start slowly and build gradually when you are following a weight training program. You may not be lifting as much as the person next to you in the early stages, but you probably won't hit a plateau as early, either. And over the long term, your results will be the same or better.

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