Han, A., Sung, E., Hinrichs, T., & Platen, P. (2009). Strength training and the menstrual cycle: Effects of follicular and luteal phase-based training on muscular strength and muscle diameter in subjects with oral contraception. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27.

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"Modern monophasic oral contraceptives contain fixed doses of estrogen and progestogen which are taken for 21 consecutive days, followed by 7 days without any hormone intake. There wouldn’t be any differences in blood concentrations of estradiol and progesterone during the first 21 days of the menstrual cycle. The regulation of other interacting hormones like hGH, IGF-1, testosterone, and DHEAs, all of them possible anabolic hormones on the level of the muscular cell and important regulating factors during strength training, is not clear so far in oral contraceptive users." This study investigated possible effects of "quasi-follicular phase-based" versus "quasi-luteal phase-based" strength training on strength parameters and muscle volume in oral contraceptive users.

Healthy untrained or moderately trained women (N = 16) using oral contraceptives completed a strength training program of the quadriceps femoris for each leg on the Leg Press for three menstrual cycles (~12 weeks). Ss were divided into two groups. Group A performed quasi-follicular phase-based strength training with the right leg and quasi-luteal phase-based strength training with the left leg and vice versa for Group B. Quasi-follicular phase-based strength training was organized four times a week in the follicular phase and once in luteal phase, and quasi-luteal phase-based strength training was organized four times a week in the luteal phase and once a week in the follicular phase. Blood samples were taken on day 11 in the follicular phase and on day 25 in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle to analyze values of estradiol, progesterone, FSH, LH, total testosterone, free testosterone, IGF-1, DHEA-S, and hGH. Maximum isometric force was measured for each right and left leg prior to, during (two times per cycle), and after training. Muscle diameters were measured by means of ultrasound for the quadriceps prior to and after training. The sum of the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, and vastus lateralis was calculated.

Estradiol, LH, FSH, total testosterone, and DHEAs were significantly higher in the follicular phase when compared to the luteal phase, and progesterone, hGH, IGF-1, and free testosterone were similar between the two phases. Isometric force increased significantly by +29.0 % after quasi-follicular phase-based strength training and by +31.9 % after quasi-luteal phase-based strength training without any significant difference between the two treatments. Average muscle diameters increased significantly by similar amounts for the two interventions.

Implication. Strength training emphasized in the follicular or luteal phases showed significant effects on muscle strength and muscle diameter after three months of intervention without any differences between the emphases. This is in contrast to findings in women who do not use oral contraception. For them, there is a higher increase in muscle strength and diameter after follicular training compared to luteal training.

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