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Effects of Resistance Exercise Intensity on Extracellular Signal-Regulated Kinase 1/2 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Activation in Men

Taylor, Lem W1; Wilborn, Colin D1; Kreider, Richard B2; Willoughby, Darryn S3,4

Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318242f92d

Taylor, LW, Wilborn, CD, Kreider, RB, and Willoughby, DS. Effects of resistance exercise intensity on extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 mitogen-activated protein kinase activation in men. J Strength Cond Res 26(3): 599–607, 2012—Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2 signaling has been shown to be increased after heavy resistance exercise and suggested to play a role in the hypertrophic adaptations that are known to occur with training. However, the role that ERK1/2 may play in response to lower intensities of resistance exercise is unknown. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the effects of resistance exercise intensity on ERK1/2 activity in human skeletal muscle. Twelve recreationally active men completed separate bouts of single-legged resistance exercise with 8–10 repetitions (reps) at 80–85% 1 repetition maximum (1RM) (85%) and 18–20 reps at 60–65% 1RM (65%) in a randomized crossover fashion. For both resistance exercise sessions, vastus lateralis biopsies and blood draws were taken immediately before exercise (PRE) and at 30 minutes (30MPST), 2 hours (2HRPST), and 6 hours (6HRPST) post exercise, with an additional blood draw occurring immediately after exercise (POST). The phosphorylated levels of pIGF-1R, pMEK1, pERK1/2, and activated Elk-1 were assessed by phosphoELISA, and serum insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) was assessed via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Statistical analyses used a 2 × 4 (muscle responses) and 2 × 5 (serum responses) multivariate analysis of variance on delta values from baseline (p < 0.05). Both exercise intensities significantly increased the activity of insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R), mitogen-activated protein kinase 1, ERK1/2, and Elk-1, with peak activity occurring at 2HRPST (p < 0.001). However, 65% resulted in a preferential increase in IGF-1R and Elk-1 activation when compared with 85% (p < 0.05). No differences were observed for serum IGF-1 levels regardless of intensity and time. These findings demonstrate that resistance exercise upregulates ERK1/2 signaling in a manner that does not appear to be preferentially dependent on exercise intensity.

Author Information

1Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Human Performance Lab, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas; 2Department of Health and Kinesiology, Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; 3Department of Health, Human Performance & Recreation, Exercise and Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory; and 4Institute for Biomedical Studies, Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Address correspondence to Darryn S. Willoughby,

© 2012 National Strength and Conditioning Association