Adaptation to Training | Fit Futures

In this educational article I would like to discuss what Adaptation to Training means. Supporting material can be found in module 5.6.

As a future trainer, it’s crucial to know what is going to happen to your client’s body when they start to train with you.

The first thing to happen in your client’s body, after a couple of sessions with you, will be that your client’s body will adapt to your training sessions.


What is adaptation?

The unique characteristics that enable humans to be successful in an environment are called adaptations.

In the context of physical activity, an adaptation is the process of change the human body experiences after being exposed to a stimulus. This change occurs because the body’s baseline is challenged. The body will adapt so that it can better tolerate the stimulus being supplied.

Chronic Adaptations to Cardiovascular and Resistance Training

When we design training programmes, it’s because our clients want to change. This change can range from weight loss to strength gain, and everything in between. There are numerous ways we can train, and many different programme variables and exercises we can incorporate. The recipe may differ depending on the adaptation being sought. It is imperative, as a personal trainer, to understand not only how to improve specific components of fitness but also what the body undergoes chronically on a physiological level.

Let’s break it down:

What is meant by chronic adaptation?

The term chronic means the change is long-term. It’s the consequence of consistent training, and is essentially the reward the client gets for adopting proper exercise and nutritional habits.

Cardiovascular adaptations

Cardiovascular training is generally endurance training such as running, cycling or rowing for any periods of time over 2 minutes. The aerobic system is dominant during these activities. The adaptations that occur are:

Hormonal Responses

  • Increased glycogen (glucose which is stored in the liver and muscles). This stored form of glucose is made up of many connected glucose molecules, and during glycogen breakdown it is utilized as energy.

Skeletal Muscle Response

  • The size and number of mitochondria increase.
  • Muscles adapt to utilize fat stores for energy.
  • An increase in slow-twitch fibres as they are fatigue-resistant.
  • The levels of myoglobin content in the muscle can also undergo adaptation (although this is variable).
  • An increase in the number of capillaries and blood supply allows for the removal of lactic acid.
  • Improved capacity to oxidize fat.


Cardiac and Respiratory Responses

  • An increase in V02 max output, as the increase of capillaries and stroke volume has a direct impact on our V02 max.
  • An increase in cardiac and respiratory adaptations during rest periods.
  • An increase in stroke volume due to increased size and capacity of the left ventricle. This results in more blood ejected per heartbeat, improving oxygenated blood transport.
  • Heart hypertrophy. The heart is a muscle and becomes more substantial and more efficient at pumping blood through the body.


Resistance Training Adaptations

Resistance training – also referred to as weight training or strength training – is exercise that is weight-bearing. The muscles contract (shorten) and stretch (lengthen) under the tension of external resistance.

Hormonal Responses

  • Stimulation of anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone which initiates muscle size growth.
  • The ATP-PC system is used first, and then the glycolytic system is used.


Skeletal Muscle Responses

  • If the training is done correctly, it can trigger hypertrophy due to an increase of anabolic hormones in the body. This results in an increase in the cross-sectional muscle area.
  • An increase in fast-twitch muscle fibres cross-sectional area.
  • Resistance training can help increase the number of type 2 fibres in relation to type 1 fibre within a muscle group, but it is important to note that practice cannot change one fibre type into another.
  • An increase in muscular strength within muscle tissue. Muscle tissue increases in size and thickness over a period while undergoing strength training. This can also influence body composition.
  • Improved ligament and tendon strength. These adaptations take longer to take place due to a lower level of blood supply.
  • An increase in bone remodelling and strengthening. Weight-bearing exercise causes micro-damage to the skeletal system, which initiates osteoclasts to repair and increase bone strength and density.

Cardiac and Respiratory Responses

There is a degree of cardiac adaption to resistance training which can be due to the increase in heart rate and blood pressure during lifting, and a rapid decrease during rest periods between sets.

Neurological Responses

There are several neurological adaptations that the body experiences with exercise. These are:

  • Improved motor patterns. As we perform movements, our motor patterning is enhanced in those movements. The body requires repetition to learn a new movement competently.
  • Improved coordination. With advanced motor patterning we improve our coordination. Specific sports training can significantly improve coordination.
  • Strength training can allow for improvements in the recruitment and firing rates of motor units. A motor unit consists of a motor neuron and all the muscle fibres that are innervated by that.

The body is a complex machine, and what the mind does the body will follow. However, sometimes we need to accept that adaptations need to take place without the mind disrupting. We need to understand that, and we need to be able to explain it to our client too.

The body needs rest and nurturing. We are all individuals and respond differently to training and the effects of exercise; we need to have a clear picture of what happens to our body, or our client’s body, during training.

I invite you to experience this change in yourself! If you are training already or you haven’t started yet, choose the type of training that best suits you, and experience the changes for yourself.




LonyTutor Bibliography
Lony Stewart is one of the Tutors at Fit Futures Academy.  Lony was born and raised in Santiago, Chile, and still has family there (an older sister and her extended family). Lony’s education was based in Santiago, Chile, University of the Americas. She holds a B.P.Ed. (Hons) Bachelor of Physical Education, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Sport & Deep Tissue Massage. While studying, Lony worked at her local gym before becoming the Physical Education Teacher in charge of the Sports Department of a local school. She has more than eight years of experience in the fitness industry. Outside of work Lony has a beautiful baby boy and is married to her best friend. Her educational areas of interest include health and exercise.

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