Cannot you see any progress? Work out more!

RoweryA typical recommendation to persons who wish to improve their functions is commitment to resistance training with a volume of at least 150 minutes per week. It is a common belief that on average about 20% of persons who took up such physical activity fail to improve their cardiorespiratory functions for unknown reasons, most frequently explained by genes. They can be categorized as the so-called non-responders – persons who fail to respond to training load.

Scientists from two universities in Zurich, Switzerland, intended to learn if such persons actually existed and if lack of response to training load depended on the size of these loads.

For this purpose a simple and clever research report was created. 78 healthy adults were divided into 5 groups by their own preferences, and every group performed 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 1-hour diversified (of a regular intensity, and high intensity intervals) resistance trainings on a cycling simulator per week, for subsequent 6 weeks.

Lack of response was defined as a lack of change to cardiorespiratory function specified by a maximum power in the graded-load test, including a typical measuring error (±4%). The subjects who failed to react to the training performed another 6-week session in which additional two training sessions a week were added (regardless of the number of workouts per week in the first session). Before and after every training session a maximum oxygen consumption was recorded among subjects (VO2max), the same applied to hematological parameters and muscle biopsy was taken in order to specify the mitochondria density in thigh vastus lateralis cells.

After the first training session the number of persons who failed to respond to the training was as follows: 1 training per week – 69%, 2 – 40%, 3 – 29%, while in groups who trained 4 and 5 times a week – there were no such persons. After the second session lack of response to the training was eliminated among all subjects.


Fig. 1. Percent individual changes to the maximum power (Wmax) after the first training session in particular groups. A typical measuring error has been marked with a shaded field (values in this field must be considered lack of response to the training).


Fig. 2. Percent individual changes to maximum power (Wmax) after the second training session for persons who were deemed not responsive to the training in each group after the first session. A typical measuring error has been marked with a shaded field (values in this field must be considered lack of response to the training). No lack of response to the training after the second session among any subject has been identified.

The conclusion states that there is no such phenomenon as lack of response to the resistance training; thing is that certain persons require increased training stimuli to achieve the same training effects.

Another conclusion was that the growth of cardiorespiratory function is primarily a reason of hematological changes related to increased ability to transport oxygen (mainly increase of total hemoglobin weight), which in turn has an influence on the maximum capability of consuming oxygen and in effect growth of maximum power in resistance workouts.

„Refuting the myth of non-response to exercise training: ‚non-responders’ do respond to higher dose of training.”
Montero D, et al.
J Physiol. 2017 Jan 30. doi: 10.1113/JP273480

Developed by Mariusz Goliński
Rehasport Clinic Motor Skills Trainer