Numerous reports suggest there are low and high skeletal muscle hypertrophic responders following weeks to months of structured resistance exercise training (referred to as low and high responders herein). Specifically, divergent alterations in muscle fiber cross sectional area (fCSA), vastus lateralis thickness, and whole body lean tissue mass have been shown to occur in high versus low responders. Differential responses in ribosome biogenesis and subsequent protein synthetic rates during training seemingly explain some of this individual variation in humans, and mechanistic in vitro and rodent studies provide further evidence that ribosome biogenesis is critical for muscle hypertrophy. High responders may experience a greater increase in satellite cell proliferation during training versus low responders. This phenomenon could serve to maintain an adequate myonuclear domain size or assist in extracellular remodeling to support myofiber growth. High responders may also express a muscle microRNA profile during training that enhances insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) mRNA expression, although more studies are needed to better validate this mechanism. Higher intramuscular androgen receptor protein content has been reported in high versus low responders following training, and this mechanism may enhance the hypertrophic effects of testosterone during training. While high responders likely possess “good genetics,” such evidence has been confined to single gene candidates which typically share marginal variance with hypertrophic outcomes following training (e.g., different myostatin and IGF-1 alleles). Limited evidence also suggests pre-training muscle fiber type composition and self-reported dietary habits (e.g., calorie and protein intake) do not differ between high versus low responders. Only a handful of studies have examined muscle biomarkers that are differentially expressed between low versus high responders. Thus, other molecular and physiological variables which could potentially affect the skeletal muscle hypertrophic response to resistance exercise training are also discussed including rDNA copy number, extracellular matrix and connective tissue properties, the inflammatory response to training, and mitochondrial as well as vascular characteristics.

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Published in Frontiers in Physiology, v. 9, 834. p. 1-17.

© 2018 Roberts, Haun, Mobley, Mumford, Romero, Roberson, Vann and McCarthy.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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The response paper from MR’s laboratory cited throughout was supported through gift funds provided by Hilmar Ingredients (Hilmar, CA, United States), Bionutritional Research Group (Irvine, CA, United States), and Lockwood LLC (Draper, UT, United States).