For those who don’t know yet, track cyclists do a lot of heavy strength training. Whether this has beneficial effects on cyclist performance, a new study aims to find out. This study published last March 2010 in the European Journal of Applied Physiology by Ronnestad BR was entitled ‘Effect of heavy strength training on thigh muscle cross-sectional area, performance determinants, and performance in well-trained cyclists.’
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of heavy strength training on thigh muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), determinants of cycling performance, and cycling performance in well-trained cyclists.
Twenty well-trained cyclists were assigned to either usual endurance training combined with heavy strength training [E + S; n = 11 (male symbol = 11)] or to usual endurance training only [E; n = 9 (male symbol = 7, female symbol = 2)]. The strength training performed by E + S consisted of four lower body exercises [3 x 4-10 repetition maximum (RM)], which were performed twice a week for 12 weeks.
Thigh muscle CSA, maximal force in isometric half squat, power output in 30 s Wingate test, maximal oxygen consumption (VO(2max)), power output at 2 mmol l(-1) blood lactate concentration ([la(-)]), and performance, as mean power production, in a 40-min all-out trial were measured before and after the intervention.
The results revealed:
1) E + S increased thigh muscle CSA, maximal isometric force, and peak power in the Wingate test more than E.
2) Power output at 2 mmol l(-1) [la(-)] and mean power output in the 40-min all-out trial were improved in E + S (P < 0.05).
3) For E, only performance in the 40-min all-out trial tended to improve (P = 0.057). The two groups showed similar increases in VO(2max) (P < 0.05).
In conclusion, adding strength training to usual endurance training improved determinants of cycling performance as well as performance in well-trained cyclists. Of particular note is that the added strength training increased thigh muscle CSA without causing an increase in body mass.
With this study, it is imperative for the younger track cyclists to start on heavy strength training, although nearly every track cycling program I have encountered already incorporated heavy strength training.