Effects of Combined Strength and Sprint Training on Lean Mass, Strength, Power, and Sprint Performance in Masters Road Cyclists : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research

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Original Research

Effects of Combined Strength and Sprint Training on Lean Mass, Strength, Power, and Sprint Performance in Masters Road Cyclists

Del Vecchio, Luke1; Stanton, Robert1; Reaburn, Peter1; Macgregor, Campbell1; Meerkin, Jarrod2; Villegas, Jerome3; Korhonen, Marko T.4

Author Information
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 66-79
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001960
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Abstract

Introduction

Masters athletes are typically older than 35 years of age and systematically train for, and compete in, organized forms of sport (32). Over the recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of masters athletes continuing to train and compete at high performance levels within individual and multisport (duathlon, triathlon) endurance events designed for masters athletes (22,38). Of the individual events, particularly road cycling is becoming increasingly popular among masters athletes. For example, the number of competitive masters road cyclists in Australia has grown from about 4,000 in 2013 to 10,000 in 2015 (10).

In younger cyclists, maximal strength and hypertrophy exercises (4–10 RM) has been shown to increase cycling efficiency and power output at max (34,41). There is also evidence that various explosive strength-training exercises are used in high-level road cyclists to improve sprinting ability that is decisive factor in the finish and breaks in road cycling (30). Although training-induced muscular hypertrophy and strength gains may slightly decrease with age, because of factors such hormonal changes, the adaptive capacity could be maintained up to very old age (20). Only few studies have addressed the effects of strength training on cycling performance in masters endurance cyclists and older individuals (11,24,35). For instance, Louis (24) reported an improvement in cycling efficiency, after 3 weeks of hypertrophy training (70% of 1RM) in a group of masters road cyclists. In older nonathletes, strength training (∼80% of 1RM) has been shown to improve cycling peak power output (11).

Previous research has shown that an age-related decline in lean mass contributes to the age-related declines in aerobic and anaerobic performance in both untrained older adults (12) and masters athletes (32). Importantly, high-volume endurance training has been shown to lead reduced muscle fiber size, muscle mass, and reduced absolute power and force production in both single fiber and whole-muscle level in masters long-distance runners (5,20,40). In contrast, strength training has proved to be an effective countermeasure to maintain or increase muscle mass and functional characteristics of masters endurance runners (31) and masters sprint runners (9,33). However, the effectiveness of strength training to increase lean mass in endurance-trained masters cyclists is currently unknown.

Recently, there has been growing interest in the effects of sprint training and its specific form, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as an alternative modality for increasing physical performance and muscle mass in older adults (4,28). High-intensity interval training regimes are characterized by brief repeated intense bursts of activity (e.g., 4–6 × 30 seconds), at maximal intensities. In healthy older men, HIIT has been shown to increase lean muscle mass (28). In younger cyclists, HIIT improves cycling performance including sprint performance (8). However, to the best of our knowledge, limited studies to date have investigated the effect of HIIT on cycling performance and lean mass in masters endurance cyclists.

Based on the available studies, it might be suggested that replacing a portion of endurance training with a combination of strength and sprint training, may be beneficial to limit the age-related decline in lean mass, strength, power, and sprint performance. In terms of overall cycling performance, sprint or strength training is important for a number of reasons. First, increase in muscle strength can improve cycling efficiency. Second, leg power is needed to accelerate rapidly during a breakaway attack and the sprint to the finish typical in road racing. Third, leg strength and power are needed during hill climbing. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of a 12 weeks concurrent strength and sprint-training program on muscle and performance characteristics in male masters road cyclists. We hypothesized that 12 weeks of concurrent strength and sprint cycling training would significantly increase lean mass, strength, power, and sprint performance in already endurance-trained cyclists.

Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

It was hypothesized that concurrent strength and sprint cycling training added to regular endurance cycling training would lead to a significant increase in lean body mass, muscular strength and power, and sprint performance in master road cyclists. A parallel, 3-group intervention (pre–post-test) experimental design was used. To investigate the possible effects of CT on strength, power, and sprint performance in master endurance cyclists, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) measures of whole body lean mass (WBLM), total lower limb lean mass (LLLM), countermovement jump (CMJ), torque of quadriceps (QPT), and hamstring (HPT) were examined. For evaluation of sport-specific performance, peak power 10 (PP10), TW, PPO (PP output), and time trial (TT) performance were measured before and after a 12 weeks intervention period. All subjects performed familiarization trials before the testing days. We used as the independent variable, the group, whereas the dependent variables were WBLM, LLLM, CMJ, QPT, HPT, PP10, TW, PPO, and TT.

Subjects

The study was approved by the Central Queensland University Human Research Ethics Committee. Twenty-five healthy male masters cyclists aged between 41 and 76 years with no background of strength training were recruited and provided written informed consent. The subjects were required to be involved in regular cycling training or road cycling competition for a minimum of 2 years and to be achieving a minimum of 8 hours of endurance cycling training per week. All subjects underwent pre-exercise screening to ensure they had no established cardiovascular, metabolic, or respiratory disease nor signs or symptoms of disease (29).

Random allocation of participants into training groups was not possible as most participants had both work and family commitments that limited their availability to participate in the ST or CT programs. As a result, subjects were allocated to either a control group (CG, n = 10), sprint cycling group (ST, n = 7), or concurrent strength and sprint cycling training group (CT, n = 10). For personal reasons, one participant from the CT group and one subject from the CG group withdrew from the study, subsequently reducing the CT group to 9 participants (CT, n = 9) and the control group to 9 participants (CG, n = 9). Subjects were instructed not to change their diet or lifestyle over the experimental period. The physical characteristics of each group are shown in Table 1.

T1
Table 1.:
Physical and training characteristics of participants.*†

Procedures

Subjects attended the laboratory (22° C, 60% RH) after an overnight fast and did not consume caffeine the morning of the test. All tests were performed between 07:00 and 09:00 hours. Preintervention and postintervention testing included measures of anthropometry, DXA, jumping performance on force plate, peak isometric QPT and hamstring muscle groups, 10-second sprint cycling PP, total 30 seconds work, and maximal aerobic power on a cycle ergometer. The flying 200-m TT performance test was performed at a local, outdoor cycling velodrome. Twenty-five masters road cyclists, engaged in the same endurance training program were assigned to one of the following 3 groups: concurrent strength and sprint cycling training group (CT), sprint cycling training group (ST), and a control group (CG). The CT group replaced 4 (50%) of their usual endurance cycling sessions (Table 3) with 2 strength-training sessions and 2 sprint-training sessions, the ST group replaced 2 of their usual endurance cycling sessions with 2 sprint-training sessions; and the CG group maintained their normal endurance training.

T2
Table 2.:
Flying 200-m track cycling program.*
table2-a
Table 2-A.:
Flying 200-m track cycling program.*

Body Composition

Stature (m) and body mass (kg) were measured with a stadiometer and medical scales (Seca, Birmingham, United Kingdom) with participant's unshod and wearing cycling apparel. Dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) (Hologic Discovery-W, Bedford, MA, USA) was used to measure WBLM and LLLM. A Certified Clinical Densitometrist (CM) performed all DXA data collection and analysis procedures. Before each measurement session, an automatic calibration procedure was performed to assess and maintain the measurement precision and accuracy of the DXA. During the procedure, subjects lay motionless in a supine position on a table for 8 minutes while an X-ray fan array passed above the table. Whole body lean mass and LLLM were determined using manufacturer-supplied software (APEX version 4.0; Hologic Discovery).

Warm-Up

After the DXA scan, and before all performance measures, a 15-minute warm-up consisting of 5 minutes of cycling at 50 W on a cycle ergometer (Velotron Dynafit Pro, RaceMate, Seattle, WA, USA). Followed by 10 body weight squats, 10 heel raises, and 10 CMJs. All were undertaken at moderate intensity. Participants then completed each of the following performance measures.

Muscular Power

Muscular power was assessed using a CMJ test. Countermovement jump trials were performed 3 times on an AMTI force plate (Advanced Medical Technology Inc., Watertown, NY, USA). The analog signal sampled at 1000 Hz was converted to a digital signal using a Powerlab 30 series data acquisition system (AD Instruments, Sydney, Australia), and data were collected using custom-written LabView software Version 2011 (National Instruments, TX, USA). The vertical force-time data were filtered using a fourth-order Butterworth low-pass filter with a cut-off frequency of 17 Hz. Participants were instructed to perform a fast downward movement (to 90° knee flexion) immediately followed by a fast upward movement, and to jump as high as possible. Hands were kept on the hips to minimize any influence of the arm swing. Each trial was followed by 2 minutes of passive rest, and the mean of 3 jumps (cm) was used for further analysis.

Muscular Strength

Quadriceps and hamstring peak isometric torque (QPT and HPT) of the dominant leg was measured using a Biodex System 3 isokinetic dynamometer (Biodex Medical Systems, Shirley, NY, USA). Subjects performed 3 × 10-second maximal isometric knee extensions (QPT) and three 10-second maximal isometric knee flexions with strong verbal encouragement. The effort with the highest peak torque (Nm·kg−1) was used for subsequent data analysis (23).

Anaerobic Performance

Sprint cycling performance was measured using 10 and 30 seconds sprint tests on a Velotron ergocycle (Racermate, Seattle, WA, USA) with a 5-minute passive rest period between tests. After familiarization of the protocol and a warm-up consisting of pedaling at a self-selected cadence at a set resistance of 50 W for 5 minutes interspersed with 3 practice maximal accelerations over 2–3 seconds, the resistance of the ergocycle was adjusted at 75 g·kg−1 of body mass (39). Peak power (W·kg−1) in the 10-second test and total 30 seconds work (kJ·kg−1) was used for subsequent data analysis.

Peak Power Output

A graded maximal exercise test to measure PPO was completed on an electrically-braked, computer-controlled cycle ergometer (Velotron Dynafit Pro, RaceMate, Seattle, WA, USA). Gas analysis was undertaken using a Fitmate Pro (Cosmed, Rome, Italy) after a 5-minute warm-up at 30 W cycling and a pedaling cadence of 90 rpm throughout the test. The work increments for each 1-minute stage were 15 W. The test ceased when 2 or more criteria for attainment of peak were achieved. These criteria included no significant increase in O2 uptake with an increase in work rate, attainment of the age-predicted maximum heart rate, and/or volitional exhaustion (36). Peak power output was calculated from the last completed work rate, plus the fraction of time spent in the final noncompleted work rate multiplied by 25 W (16).

Flying 200-m Time Sprint Time

Forty-eight hours after the laboratory tests, flying 200-m sprint time was assessed at a local concrete and banked (31°), 333-m cycling velodrome with participants using their own road bikes to perform a total of 3 flying 200-m attempts. After a 10 lap warm up, participants then performed 2 familiarization attempts of the flying 200-m TT before 10 minutes of passive seated rest. The flying 200-m TT commenced by each participant cycling around the velodrome 2 times in attempt to build up speed, and on the third lap, participants were instructed to come down the bank of the velodrome at maximal speed when crossing the starting line. Flying 200-m sprint time was recorded by 3, experienced observers using hand-held stopwatches (Hart sports timer 898; Hart Sport, Aspley, Australia). Observers were instructed to start the stopwatches when the participant crossed the start line with the front end of the front wheel and stop the stopwatches when the participant crossed the finish line with the front wheel. The mean of 3 trails was recorded for subsequent analysis.

Sprint Cycling Training Program

The sprint cycling–training program was designed in consultation with an accredited track cycling coach and supervised by the same coach for each of the twice weekly sessions. Both CT and ST groups performed two 60–90 minutes sprint cycling training sessions per week, separated by 48 hours. Sprint cycling sessions consisted of a 5 to 10 minutes warm-up (10–15 × 333 m laps at a self-selected pace), after which subjects performed 1–3 sets × 1–3 repetitions of maximal effort sprints ranging in distance from 65 to 333 m with 2–3 minutes of active then passive recovery between repetitions and 10 minutes passive rest between sets. At the completion of the track-training session, subjects performed a 5 to 10 minute cool down (10–15 laps of the velodrome at a self-selected pace). Using an undulating periodization program; participants commenced the track program using a 92-inch gear and throughout the 12-week period, progressed to a 104-inch gear (Table 2). As a result, the ST group reduced their usual weekly endurance cycling training by 3 hours per week. The overall training adherence rate calculated as a percentage of the total sprint cycling training sessions successfully completed was 82 ± 5.1% for ST group across the 12-week study period.

T3
Table 3.:
Endurance training program.*

Control Group

The CON group was asked to maintain 8-hours per week, of their current endurance cycling training program (Table 3). In comparison with the CON group, the CT undertook 2 hours per week of endurance training for 12 weeks, whereas the ST group undertook 5 hours per week of endurance training for 12 weeks (Table 5).

T4
Table 4.:
Strength training program.
table4-a
Table 4-A.:
Strength training program.
table4-b
Table 4-B.:
Strength training program.
table4-c
Table 4-C.:
Strength training program.
T5
Table 5.:
Training volume over the 12-week intervention.

Strength Training Program

The CT group replaced 4 of their usual weekly endurance cycling training sessions with 2 evening group track sprint-cycling training sessions as described above, and 2 morning group gym-based strength-training sessions per week. As a result, the CT group reduced their usual weekly endurance cycling training by 6 hours per week. Participants were advised to perform two 60 minutes recovery rides (50–70% MHR, 90–110 rpm) and not undertake other cycling training sessions throughout the training week to avoid overtraining and excessive fatigue. All 4 training sessions were supervised by an accredited strength and conditioning coach. Strength-training sessions were conducted on alternate days to the track sprint-training days. The strength training program and relative volumes of the different modes of strength during the course of the study are summarized in Table 4. During each training session, subjects performed the following exercises in order (a) plyometric and explosive strength exercises: double leg vertical and horizontal hops or jumps, single leg alternating box jumps, and leg press throws. (b) Strength-training exercises: single-leg leg presses and seated hip flexions. (c) Hypertrophy exercises: leg curls, leg extensions, seated calf-raises, supine hip extensions, chest press, bench rows, abdominal curl ups, and lower back extensions. Recovery time of 2 minutes between sets and exercises was strictly controlled, and each strength-training session lasted approximately 90 minutes. The strength training program incorporated an undulating periodization approach, to reduce the potential for overtraining and to optimize adaptation. Subjects completed electronic-training logs (Acceleware; Sports Performance Systems, Brisbane, Australia) describing all their training parameters (number of repetitions, sets, loads, distances, and track sprint cycling times) to monitor progress and to provide motivation for maximal effort during the training program. The overall strength-training adherence rate, calculated as a percentage of training sessions successfully completed, was 85 ± 3.8% for CT group across the 12-week study period.

Statistical Analyses

The training related effects were measured using a 3 (group) × 2 (time) repeated-measures analysis of variance. If a main effect was observed, a Tukey post hoc test was undertaken to identify the source of the differences. A p value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant. Twenty-three of the 24 dependant variables were normally distributed, as assessed by Shapiro-Wilk's test (p ≤ 0.05), although one variable did not meet the assumption of normality (Post PP10; p = 0.033). For this variable, data were log transformed and the equivalent nonparametric statistic used. This did not change the outcome for this variable, and thus for ease of interpretation, we report findings from parametric statistics only. Cohen's conventions for effect size (ES) were used for interpretation for no effect (ES < 0.2), small effect (0.2–0.49), moderate effect (0.5–0.79), and large effect (>0.8) (7). SPSS Version 20 (IBM Corp., New York, NY, USA) software was used for all statistical analyses.

Results

Pretest and posttest values for each dependant variable for each of the intervention groups are shown in Table 6. No pretraining differences were observed between CT group, ST group, and the CG group for any of the dependant variables.

T6
Table 6.:
Changes in lean mass, laboratory measures, and 200-m sprint cycle performance after 12 weeks of CT or ST.*

Lean Mass

No changes in WBLM occurred during the intervention in all groups (F2, 22 = 2.4, p = 0.11) (Table 6). There were no significant between group effects for LLLM (F2,22 = 2.7, p = 0.89). However, there was a significant effect of time (F1, 22 = 10.61, p = 0.04). Total lower limb lean mass increased in CT group (p = 0.01, 4.5%, ES = 0.35), and in the ST group (p = 0.03, 3.5%, ES = 0.45).

Muscular Power

No changes in CMJ occurred during the intervention in all groups (F1, 24 = 0.48, p = 0.69) (Table 6).

Muscular Strength

No changes in either QPT or HPT occurred during the intervention in all groups. (F2, 22 = 2.61, p = 0.96); (F2, 22 = 2.32, p = 0.14) (Table 6).

Sprint Cycling Performance

A significant group × time interaction was observed for PP10 (F2, 22 = 3.50, p = 0.48), however, subsequent post hoc analysis revealed no differences between groups (Table 6). A significant group × time interaction was also observed for TW (F2, 22 = 5.59, p = 0.01, 6.9%, ES = −0.59), subsequent a Tukey post hoc analysis revealed a difference in TW between ST and CG groups (p = 0.02).

Peak Power Output

No changes in PPO occurred during the intervention in all groups (F2, 22 = 1.61, p = 0.22) (Table 6).

Flying 200-m Sprint Time Trial

A significant group × time interaction was observed for TT (F2, 22 = 11.70, p = 0.00), however, subsequent post hoc analysis revealed no differences between groups. There was also a significant effect of time (F1, 22 = 7.21, p = 0.01). Time trial performance decreased in the CT group (p < 0.01, −7.7%, ES = 0.85). In the CON group, TT increased (p = 0.07, −8.8%, ES = 0.85).

Discussion

The success in many endurance events such as road cycling and running could be dependent not only good aerobic capabilities, but also muscle characteristics and related sprint performance. The purpose of this study was to examine whether lean mass, strength, power, and sprint performance could be in improved by short-term concurrent training in a group of masters road cyclists who had no previous experience in strength and sprint training. The major finding was that 12 weeks of concurrent strength and sprint training increased LLLM and improved TT performance in masters road cyclists.

There are very few training studies on aging athletes, and we are not aware of any previous interventions on road cyclists. Our findings of training-induced change in LLLM are in agreement with previous research, which has reported increases in muscle mass or fiber area in response to concurrent strength training in masters sprint and endurance runners (9,31,33). For example, Piacentini et al. (31) reported a nonsignificant 2% increase in lean mass in a group (n = 6, 44.2 ± 3.9 years) of male and female masters endurance runners after 6 weeks of concurrent endurance running and strength training. However, the duration of the latter study (6 weeks), may not have been long enough to observe significant changes in lean mass, as it is generally understood that muscle hypertrophy requires greater than 8 weeks of strength training (37). The ST group in the current study demonstrated a 3.5% increase in LLLM, which is surprisingly higher than the increases in lean mass reported in younger cohorts who have undergone sprint interval training programs lasting between 8 weeks to 8 months (18,27). These differences may be explained by the use of heavy gearing in this study with the ST gearing progressively increased over the 12-week training program, thus providing a form of progressive overload that may have stimulated an increase LLLM. Taken together, the results of the current study suggest ST positively affects lean mass in masters cyclists. These findings support the use of ST as an alternative exercise intervention to increase lower limb lean mass in masters road cyclists.

In this study, CMJ did not significantly increase after 12 weeks of CT. These results are in contrast to the findings of Cristea et al. (9), who reported a significant improvement in squat jump height in a group of male masters sprint runners (n = 7, 71.0 ± 5.0 years) who completed a 20-week progressive strength training program. However, the previous researchers used a squat jump test which does not use the stretch-shortening cycle, making a true comparison of the present results difficult. In contrast, the lack of a significant increase in CMJ after 12 weeks of concurrent resistance and sprint training observed in the current study are in agreement with the findings of Piacentini et al. (29), who reported 6 weeks of concurrent endurance running and strength training did not significantly improve CMJ in a group (n = 6, 44.2 ± 3.9 years) of male and female masters endurance runners. Despite not reaching significance, the participants in the Piacentini et al. (29) study improved CMJ height by 3.2%, which is similar to the 2.7% increase in CMJ observed in the CT group. A lack of a significant improvement in CMJ in the current study may also be attributed to a possible interference effect known to affect explosive strength when strength training is combined with endurance training (14). Despite reducing their endurance training volume, the CT group still performed more than 2 scheduled endurance sessions a week throughout the whole study period. Taken together, these results suggest 12 weeks of CT or ST may not significantly improve muscular power in masters road cyclists.

In this study, 12 weeks of CT did not significantly improve QPT or HPT in the CT group. Age-related declines in muscular strength is commonly associated with the age-related loss of lean mass observed in masters runners, swimmers, and cyclists (1). These age-related declines in muscular strength and muscle mass may contribute to the observed reduction in cycling performance with age. It has been shown that strength improvements are lower when endurance training is combined with a strength training program (17), as a result of conflicting cellular stimuli (26). In the current study, participants in the CT group performed more than the prescribed limit of endurance cycling training sessions throughout the 12-week CT program, which could explain why no changes were observed in QPT and HPT observed in the CT group. Similarly, 12 weeks of ST did not significantly improve QPT or HPT. To the best of our knowledge, no studies to date have investigated the effects of ST on muscle strength in masters cyclists. However, in younger cohorts, repeat sprint training has been shown to increase lower limb strength (6,15). For example, Harridge et al. (15) reported a significant increase in maximal isometric knee extensor torque (7%) after 6 weeks of sprint cycling training, performed 4 times per week, in a group of recreationally active, younger men (n = 7, 22 ± 2 years). Taken as a whole, the results of this study showed that 12 weeks of CT or ST does not significantly increase knee flexion or knee extension strength in masters road cyclists.

The ability to generate brief, high-powered outputs is an important component of competitive cycling performance (2). In this study, 12 weeks of CT did not significantly increase PP10 or TW in the CT group. No research to date has investigated the effects of CT on PP10 or TW in healthy older adults or masters cyclists. However, in a cross-sectional analysis of highly trained masters cyclists (n = 173, 35–64 years). Gent and Norton (13) reported PP10 and TW declined by 8.1% and 8.0% per decade. In contrast, 12 weeks of ST did not significantly improve PP10 or TW in the ST group. These results are in contrast to similar studies in younger cohorts (8), which have reported significant improvements in TW. For example Creer et al. (8) reported 4 weeks of sprint cycling training, performed 2 times per week, significantly increased total 30 seconds work (6.0%) as measured by cycle ergometry, in a group of younger, trained cyclists (n = 10, 25.1 ± 2.3 years). The lack of improvement in PP10 & TW in the CT group may be a consequence of insufficient recovery between exercise training and testing. In particular, subjects in all groups continued their endurance training at the completion of the 12-week program up until the date of testing. Future research is warranted to better understand the effect of CT and ST on anaerobic performance in masters road cyclists.

In the current study, PPO was unaffected by 12 weeks of either CT or ST. To date, the effects of CT or ST on PPO in masters cyclists is unknown. However, the use of strength training to improve endurance cycling performance in healthy, younger and older adults is well supported (3,19,25,34,41). For example, Loveless et al. (25) reported 8 weeks of maximal leg strength training significantly improved cycling peak aerobic power, in a group of healthy, younger men (n = 7, 25.0 ± 2.0 years). In addition, Izquierdo et al. (19) reported 16 weeks of progressive strength training significantly increased cycling peak aerobic power in a group of healthy, older men (n = 11, 64–74 years). In this study, the ST group did not significantly improve PPO. These results are in contrast to the findings from studies in younger cyclists, which have reported significant increases in PPO after sprint cycling training (21,39). For example, Laursen et al. (21) reported a significant improvement in peak aerobic power after 2 weeks of sprint cycling training in a group of trained, younger cyclists (n = 14, 23.5 ± 3.5 years). Unsurprisingly, the current study observed no significant change in PPO after the 12-week training period. These results suggest reducing cycling endurance training volume and replacing it with either CT or ST, does not negatively affect a primary marker of endurance performance in masters road cyclists.

In this study, 12 weeks of CT significantly improved TT (8.1%) in the CT group. Typical for road cycling competition is that a large group of riders are often together until the end of the race and the ability to sprint to the finish line determines the place in the race. Thus, sprinting speed is of particular importance to cycling performance. To date, no studies have investigated the effects of CT on sprint cycling TT performance in masters cyclists. However, studies investigating the effects of concurrent strength and sprint running training have reported favorable effects on sprint running performance (9,33). For example, Cristea et al. (9) reported a significant improvement in 60-m sprint running time (2%) after 20 weeks of progressive strength training program performed 4 times per week in a group of male masters sprint runners. In addition, Reaburn et al. (33) reported a significant improvement in 100-m (4%) and 300-m (2%) sprint running time after 8 weeks of concurrent strength and sprint running training performed 4 times per week. Surprisingly, 12 weeks of ST did not significantly improve TT performance in the ST group. The lack of improvement in TT performance in the ST group, could be attributed to a small sample size or inadequate recovery. Training logs show several participants in the ST group did not reduce their endurance training volume on the days leading into the final TT. Finally, in this study, there was no between group differences in TT performance amid the CT group and ST groups, suggesting that the addition of strength training to a ST program may not provide additional benefits to sprint cycling performance. Taken together, these results suggest 12 weeks of CT significantly improves TT performance, which can benefit the masters road cyclists by improving sprint speed to the finish line.

We acknowledge several limitations to the current study. First, improvements observed in sprint cycling performance in the CT may have resulted from a placebo effect. For example, the ST group undertook 2 modified ST sessions per week in comparison with the CT that undertook 4 modified CT sessions per week, which may have doubled the placebo effect. Second, the CT had greater adherence to the sprint-training sessions when compared with the ST group, which may further explain the larger improvements in sprint performance observed in the CT group and ST groups. Future studies should match total sprint and strength training volumes. Third, the specialized population of this group limited the statistical power of this study. Finally, it should also be acknowledged that sprints performed during a competitive road cycling event often occur in a fatigued state, whereas in this study, sprinting TTs were performed in nonfatigued state, further limiting the applications of these findings.

Practical Applications

Previous research suggests masters cyclists face an age-related decline in lean mass, muscular strength and power, and sprinting performance. These declines may contribute to the age-related decline in competitive cycling performance, particularly the ability to accelerate rapidly or sprint to the finish line during a race. The results of this study suggest that 12 weeks of CT significantly improves lower body lean mass and sprint cycling TT performance. In the ST group, 12 weeks of ST significantly improved lower body lean mass only. Based on these findings, improvements in sprint-cycling performance in masters endurance cyclists can be made by undertaking 12 weeks of CT during the general-preparation phase of training. Thereafter, the effects of CT could be maintained by performing one strength session and one sprint-training session per week throughout the late preparation and competitive periods. Moreover, performing sprint training at a cycling velodrome, including the use of banking, can be used to develop speed, acceleration, and maximum velocity. Finally, the use of progressively heavier gearing ratios can enhance cycling specific strength development. However, a more definitive study over several months should be undertaken to clarify the optimal timing and amount of CT, particularly how the replacement of a portion of endurance training impacts road cycling performance. Finally, it should also be emphasized that this study provides only initial findings about the good adaptive capacity and training specificity in masters cyclists. In future, it is essential to obtain knowledge of potential negative effects of combined training with decreased aerobic training on overall competitive cycling performance as a base for planning optimal training for masters cyclists.

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Keywords:

masters cyclists; muscle mass; combined; strength training; sprint training

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