The single and combined influences of exercise training, chemical sympathectomy (SYMX), and surgical adrenal demedullation (D) were examined in four separate spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) groups. SYMX was accomplished by subcutaneous injections of antinerve growth factor (ANGF) over a 5-day period after birth followed by 20 separate injections of guanethidine sulfate during a 27-day period. Measurements of urine, plasma, or tissue levels of catecholamines indicated that these experimental procedures were effective. The animals were exercise trained (T) for 10 wk or longer at 40-60% of their VO2max capacity, and all T groups exhibited longer run times or higher muscle cytochrome oxidase activity; however, only the SHR + T subgroup had a significantly higher VO2max value than its control (NT). Training lowered resting systolic blood pressure (SBP) in the SHR subgroup but normalization of SBP occurred only with SYMX. Interestingly, only the SYMX + T subgroup with intact adrenal glands also had lower SBP values than the NT. The SHR + T and SYMX + T subgroups but not the SYMX + D + T had less cardiac acceleration after ip injections of atropine than their controls. Heavier heart weights were observed only in the SHR + T subgroup; SYMX was associated with lighter heart weights regardless of whether the rats had been T or D. These collective findings demonstrated again the importance of the sympathetic nervous system to an exercise response, suggesting that an intact adrenal medulla was essential for SHR groups to achieve many of the adaptations associated with training.