J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Aug 18;:jap.00330.2016
Dynamic resistance training increases the force and speed of muscle contraction, but little is known about modifications to the contractile properties of the main physiological types of motor units (MUs) which contribute to these muscle adaptations. Although the contractile profile of MU muscle fibers is tightly coupled to myosin heavy chain (MyHC) protein expression, it is not well understood if MyHC transition is a prerequisite for modifications to the contractile characteristics of MUs. In this study, we examined MU contractile properties, the mRNA expression of MyHC, parvalbumin, and sarcoendoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ pump isoforms, as well as the MyHC protein content after 5 weeks of volitional progressive weight lifting training in the medial gastrocnemius muscle in rats. The training had no effect on MyHC profiling or Ca(2+) handling protein gene expression. Maximum force increased in slow (by 49%) and fast MUs (by 21%). Within fast MUs, the maximum force increased in most fatigue-resistant and intermediate but not most fatigable MUs. Twitch contraction time was shortened in slow and fast fatigue-resistant MUs. Twitch half-relaxation was shortened in fast most fatigue-resistant and intermediate MUs. The force-frequency curve shifted rightward in fast fatigue-resistant MUs. Fast fatigable MUs fatigued less within the initial 15 seconds while fast fatigue-resistant units increased the ability to potentiate the force within the first minute of the standard fatigue test. In conclusion, at the early stage of resistance training, modifications to the contractile characteristics of MUs appear in the absence of MyHC transition and the upregulation of Ca(2+) handling genes.