Adaptations to Training: Part 2


Adaptations to Training or "How will our people pass this new fitness test?" (Part 2)


The ability to generate force is perhaps more intuitively related to the job of the public safety officer than other fitness parameters. Dragging a charged hose, affecting a forceful arrest, or maintaining an effective presence in uniform are examples of tasks requiring some degree of muscular fitness. The attributes associated with muscular fitness, i.e. strength, power, and endurance, are consistently demonstrated to be job-related.

Tests of muscular endurance, that is the ability to sustain a sub-maximal force, include the timed one-minute sit up test and the push up test. Muscular strength is the ability to generate high amounts or maximal force, typically one time. The bench press test measures the amount of force the upper body can generate in the bench press position.

Again, it is important to note that public safety officers generally will not perform these tasks in the line of duty; these test events represent valid field measures of the attributes of muscular strength and endurance. Training these events to pass a test or to improve health or fitness will result in predictable changes.

Adaptations to Resistance Training

Perhaps the result most commonly associated with resistance training is an increase in strength. This is true for the sedentary and or untrained person; virtually any training approach involving overcoming an external resistance will result in an increase in strength. The “blank slate” offered by the untrained individual can result in diverse responses to resistance training. In fact, resistance training performed by previously untrained people can produce increases on aerobic capacity of 5-8%. Eventually however, once a certain amount of training experience is accumulated, the approach to resistance training must be specific to the goal. Depending on the training plan some or all of the following adaptations are likely:

Central and peripheral neural adaptations – Increased brain activity, motor unit performance and reflex response enhancements produce improvements in force production, rate of force production, power, and exercise technique to name a few of the adaptations.

Architectural changes in the muscle – Muscles increase in size, protein and fiber changes occur, and the factors associated with growth all respond to produce improvements in muscle size, strength, power, endurance, and recovery.

Metabolic changes in the muscle – Increase in fuel production, storage and use as well as associated changes with the structures responsible for them. As a result of this increased energy production and recovery, force and power production is improved.

Endocrine adaptations – The hormonal responses elicited by resistance training result in muscular hypertrophy (bigger muscles), as well as increased strength, power, and endurance.

Connective tissue adaptations – The tissue that connects muscle to bone as well as the bones themselves all adapt. Bone density is increased, tendons and ligaments are strengthened and thickened, and tendon stiffness increases as a result. This increased skeletal strength results in improved force transmission.

Cardiovascular adaptations – As noted above, aerobic capacity can be improved by 5-8% as a result of resistance training. In addition, cardiovascular disease risk factors and health are improved and cardiovascular demand is reduced during stressful situations or sub-maximal activity.

General health and performance adaptations – The decreased body fat, decreased back pain, increase insulin sensitivity, and increased basal metabolic rate are some of the general health benefits. As a result of the concomitant changes listed above, resistance training improves strength, power, and endurance, lean tissue mass, improved balance, coordination, and general motor performance.

The adaptations above make it apparent that current strength status is by no means immutable. This has been borne out by the hundreds of training studies on the effects of resistance training on men, women, children, and elders published to date. The duration of training and the magnitude of the adaptations are frequently the focus of this research. A review of more than 100 studies demonstrated the following improvements in strength:

40% in untrained

20% in moderately trained

16% in trained

10% in advanced

2% in elite

Weekly improvements range from 1-3% up to 4-5%

Much of the initial gain in muscular fitness is due to neural adaptations. Officers can improve their push up, bench press, or sit up performance simply by doing the same events and actually becoming more “skilled” at them; this is similar to the improved mechanical efficiency derived from running and practicing form running. Eventually, muscular hypertrophy and other adaptations explain gains from continued resistance training.


Strength may be the most significant fitness parameter contributing to quality of work performance and to quality of life in retirement. The muscular fitness tests are easy to administer, safe, and very conducive to an enjoyable and relevant fitness program. In our next installment, we'll look at the motor performance tests common to standards testing.

Stay Safe, Stay Strong