If you have trained with a few of your friends or in a group, you’d know that people have very different responses to training. Even if you’re performing identical exercises for identical duration, reps and sets, some people will make far more progress than others. And few unlucky ones won’t respond at all. Studies suggest that imposing longer and more intense workout sessions will make everyone respond to the exercises. However, there can be varied progress among individuals.

Here’s a study published by Journal of Physiology by David Montero and Carsten Lundby of the University of Zurich that there’s nothing like a “non-responder” to exercises. Perhaps, intense workouts become discouraging to people and they give up midway before the results.

This study was conducted on 78 volunteers that were divided into 5 groups. All the groups performed identical 60-minute workout with a mix of continuous moderate and HIIT sessions. Only difference was that groups did either one, two, three, four or five workouts a week.

After six weeks exercisers were assessed for VO2 max and muscle biopsies and following results were observed. Here’s how the peak power (Wmax) achieved before exhaustion by exercisers look like. Any improvement that was below 4 percent was considered to be “non-responsive”.

Zone of non-responders is highlighted in blue. It is visible that number of “non-responders” decreases with increase in frequency of exercise. There were lots of non-responders among those training once or twice a week and no non-responders in the group performing workout four or five days a week.

However, this set of non-responders was again put into workout regime just to check if they have any genetic profile that make them inert towards training and see if they can improve with heavier loads. For second experiment they again underwent 6 week training session where their workout days were increased by two days to which they were doing previously.

It can be seen that every subject moved out of the non-responder zone. Improvement was better for the responders who were previously working out more than 2 times a week.


Yes, you can get fitter, even if your initial results seem to be disappointing. However, you need to put in at least a threshold amount of workout effort to see the results.

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