Department of Exercise Sciences

Exercise and Muscle Physiology Laboratory

Our Exercise and Muscle Physiology Laboratory offers numerous research options for participation by both our students and staff at the Department of Exercise Sciences.

Our research

Biochemical and molecular assays

Our research explains the physiological processes and regulation of the adaptation of skeletal muscle to physical exercise or inactivity.

Exercise can enhance muscle growth, maintenance and self-repair. We seek to determine, describe and explain the mechanisms through which exercise exerts these effects. We are also interested in how different exercise interventions can enhance these capabilities to ensure sufficient muscle mass and function for health and performance in children and adults.

We use animal models to mimic human situations of increased or decreased muscle use, including hind-limb unloading, chemoparalysis as used for therapeutic treatment of muscle spasticity, voluntary physical endurance-type exercise (oxidative metabolism-enhancing) and high-load (muscle-building and power enhancing) resistance-type exercise.

In humans, we apply endurance and high intensity resistance exercise, as well as evaluating and explaining the physiological and performance changes in athletes following their own sport-specific training programmes.

The Exercise and Muscle Physiology Laboratory comprises human exercise testing, physiological assessment and biological sampling, processing and storage facilities. We also access shared facilities in the School of Biological Sciences and the Faculty of Medical and Health Science.

Human exercise training programmes are conducted in conjunction with The University of Auckland Clinics in the Health and Performance Training Centre.


Research opportunities


PhD Exercise and Muscle Physiology (3-4 years research)

  • Physiology of high performance skeletal muscle

BScHons (Dissertation research) or MSc (1 year research)

Exercise Physiology

  • Adaptations in skeletal muscle architecture and function with strength and power training
  • Physical activity and skeletal muscle mass and function in older New Zealanders

Muscle Biology

  • Stress- and strain-sensing proteins in human skeletal muscle fibers
  • Lifelong exercise training and anti-aging proteins in mouse skeletal muscle
Sarcomere-linked protein (green) in a human muscle fiber. Myonuclei are blue.


We welcome enquiries from potential new postgraduate students, visitors and collaborators from Exercise Sciences, Biological Sciences, Physiology and/or Health Sciences background.  Please contact Associate Professor Heather Smith.