Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weight Training for Cyclists- Part II

Many studies conducted on (trained & untrained) cycling groups that have combined aerobic endurance training and strength training appears to evoke a continuum of opposing adaptational responses. Why is that? It's because strength training alone is known to elicit an increase in muscle fiber size. That may sound like a good thing but for cyclists it's not, for two reasons: a) an increase in muscle fiber size reduces mitochondrial density and possibly capillary density (remember, high mitochondrial and capillary densities helps resist fatigue in the muscle) and b) increase muscle fiber size adds unwanted muscle mass/weight. The good thing is that increase fiber size (aka hypertrophy) is attributable to higher forces resulting in higher strength/power. High intensity endurance training alone, on the other hand, is known to elicit a decrease in muscle fiber size compromising the resistance training-induced increase in strength and muscle size. See the opposing adaptational responses?

So, what's this all mean? Does it mean that a cyclist should NOT engage in a combined aerobic endurance training and resistance training program? NO..not at all. But, it does mean that if you do enroll in such a program..that you do it under the supervision of a cycling coach that understands Exercise Physiology. Because if done right, I believe that an "explosive" resistance training program (vice a heavy resistance program) can evoke a marked increase in muscular strength/power, without compromising a combined aerobic endurance performance. An increase in a cyclists muscular strength/power will increase a cyclists ability to sprint at the end of a race..and isn't that a good thing to know when you're 200 meters from the finish line (after a 25 lap, one-hour criterium)..and it's only you and another guy duking it out for the top podium spot? I think so.

Here's a summary table of what was discussed- a comparison of physiological adaptations to resistance training and aerobic endurance training (click for larger view):

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