Neural Adaptation to Strength Training

Neural Adaptation to Strength Training

The process by which the nervous system adapts to a new strength training program or motor activity.  Increase in muscle strength is result of two variables, increases muscle size and increased neural function.  Increase in muscle size is the result of proper exercise and more importantly, proper nutrition.  Increase in neural function is the result of experience; novice weight lifters have poor form due to their lack of neural function within the muscle. 


People new to weightlifting will experience a dramatic increase in strength with little change in muscle size, this is due to the increase of neural activity in the muscle. As you can see in the chart, with the initiation of a strength building program, a spike in neural activity occurs. The initial increase in muscle strength is almost entirely due to the increase of neural activity. After 20 weeks, you will notice that increased muscle size becomes the primary cause of increases in strength.

Neural adaptation to strength training occurs during the first few months of starting an exercise regiment. As your nervous system builds stronger links to your muscles cells, you will see increases in muscle memory and a dramatic increase in muscle strength in the beginning. This adaptation smooths out and the increase in muscle size becomes more responsible for increased muscle strength.

For more experienced weight lifters: although this adaptation is a response of a new training regiment, it is not only useful to know for beginners. As your muscles adapt to your current training program, you will see less and less benefits from it. To get the best results, it is prudent to alter your program from time to time to keep this adaptation from leveling or plateauing.

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