Quantifying the Generality of Strength Adaptation: A Meta-Analysis

Robert W. Spitz, Ryo Kataoka, Scott J. Dankel, Zachary W. Bell, Jun Seob Song, Vickie Wong, Yujiro Yamada, Jeremy P. Loenneke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Isotonic exercise is the most common mode of strength training. Isotonic strength is often measured in the movement that was exercised, but isometric and isokinetic movements are also commonly used to quantify changes in muscular strength. Previous research suggests that increasing strength in one movement may not lead to an increase in strength in a different movement. Quantifying the increase in strength in a movement not trained may be important for understanding strength training adaptations and making recommendations for resistance exercise and rehabilitation programs. Objective: To quantify changes in non-specific strength relative to a control. Design: A systematic review and random effects meta-analysis was conducted investigating the effects of isotonic strength training on isotonic and isokinetic/isometric strength. Search and Inclusion: This systematic review was conducted in Google scholar, PubMed, Academic Search Premier, and MENDELEY. To be included in this review paper the article needed to meet the following criteria: (1) report sufficient data for our variables of interest (i.e., changes in isotonic strength and changes in isokinetic or isometric strength); (2) include a time-matched non-exercise control; (3) be written in English; (4) include healthy human participants over the age of 18 years; (5) the participants had to train and test isotonically; (6) the participants had to be tested isokinetically or isometrically on a device different from that they trained on; (7) the non-specific strength task had to test a muscle involved in the training (i.e., could not have trained chest press and test handgrip strength); and (8) the control group and the experimental group had to perform the same number of strength tests. Results: We completed two separate searches. In the original search a total of 880 papers were screened and nine papers met the inclusion criteria. In the secondary search a total of 2594 papers were screened and three additional papers were added (total of 12 studies). The overall effect of resistance training on changes in strength within a movement that was not directly trained was 0.8 (Cohen’s d) with a standard error of 0.286. This overall effect was significant (t = 2.821, p = 0.01) and the 95% confidence interval (CI) is 0.22–1.4. The overall effect of resistance training on strength changes within a movement that was directly trained was 1.84 (Cohen’s d) with a standard error of 0.296. This overall effect was significant (t = 6.221, p < 0.001) and the 95% CI is 1.23–2.4. Conclusion: The results of our meta-analysis suggest that strength increases in both the specific and non-specific strength tests. However, the smaller effect size associated with non-specific strength suggests that it will be difficult for a single study to meaningfully investigate the transfer of strength training adaptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-648
Number of pages12
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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