To compare the relative changes in muscle-tendon complex (MTC) properties following high load resistance training (RT) in young males and females, and determine any link with circulating TGFβ-1 and IGF-I levels.
Twenty-eight participants were assigned to a training group and subdivided by sex (T males [TM] aged 20±1 year, n = 8, T females [TF] aged 19±3 year, n = 8), whilst age-matched 6 males and 6 females were assigned to control groups (ConM/F). The training groups completed 8 weeks of resistance training (RT). MTC properties (Vastus Lateralis, VL) physiological cross-sectional area (pCSA), quadriceps torque, patella tendon stiffness [K], Young’s modulus, volume, cross-sectional area, and length, circulating levels of TGFβ-1 and IGF-I were assessed at baseline and post RT.
Post RT, there was a significant increase in the mechanical and morphological properties of the MTC in both training groups, compared to ConM/F (p<0.001). However, there were no significant sex-specific changes in most MTC variables. There were however significant sex differences in changes in K, with females exhibiting greater changes than males at lower MVC (Maximal Voluntary Contraction) force levels (10% p = 0.030 & 20% MVC p = 0.032) and the opposite effect seen at higher force levels (90% p = 0.040 & 100% MVC p = 0.044). There were significant increases (p<0.05) in IGF-I in both TF and TM following training, with no change in TGFβ-1. There were no gender differences (p>0.05) in IGF-I or TGFβ-1. Interestingly, pooled population data showed that TGFβ-1 correlated with K at baseline, with no correlations identified between IGF-I and MTC properties.
Greater resting TGFβ-1 levels are associated with superior tendon mechanical properties. RT can impact opposite ends of the patella tendon force-elongation relationship in each sex. Thus, different loading patterns may be needed to maximize resistance training adaptations in each sex.