Effect of Swim Exercise Training on Human Muscle Fiber Function

Document Type




Format of Original

11 p.

Publication Date



American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

Source ISSN



This study examined the effect of a typical collegiate swim-training program and an intensified 10-day training period on the peak tension (Po), negative log molar Ca2+ concentration (pCa)-force, and maximal shortening speed (Vmax) of the slow-twitch type I and fast-twitch type II fibers of the deltoid muscle. Over a 10-wk period, the swimmers averaged 4,266 ± 264 m/day swimming intermittent bouts of front crawl, kicking, or pulling. The training program induced an almost twofold increase in the mitochondrial marker enzyme citrate synthase. Po of the single fibers was not altered by either the training or 10-day intensive training programs, and no significant differences were observed in the Po (kg/cm2) of type I compared with the type II fibers. The type II fiber diameters were significantly larger than the type I fibers (94 ± 4 vs. 80 ± 2 µm), and although fiber diameters were unaffected by the training, the 10-day intensive training significantly reduced the type II fiber diameter. The type I fibers from the trained swimmers showed pCa-force curves shifted to the right such that higher free Ca2+ levels were required to elicit a given percent of Po (for values < 0.5 Po). The activation threshold (pCa) for the onset of tension and the pCa required to elicit one-half maximal tension were not altered by the training in either fiber type. Fiber Vmax (measured by the slack test) was fivefold higher in type II compared with type I fibers (4.85 ± 0.50 vs. 0.86 ± 0.04 fiber lengths/s). The exercise-training program significantly increased and decreased the Vmax of the slow and fast fibers, respectively. The 10 days of intensified training produced a further significant decrease in the Vmax of the type II fibers. After a period of detraining, the Vmax of both fiber types returned to the control level. The force-velocity relation was not significantly altered in either fiber type by the swim training; however, the intensified training significantly depressed the velocity of the type II fiber at all loads studied. The Vmax changes with exercise training are likely explained by an exercise-induced expression of fast myosin in slow fibers and slow myosin in fast fibers.


Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 66, No. 1 (January 1989): 465-475. Permalink.