Ronnestad, B., Hansen, E. A., & Raastad, T. (2009). Effect of heavy strength training on classical indicators of endurance cycling performance. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27.

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This study tested the hypothesis that heavy strength training improves classical indicators of endurance cycling performance. Well-trained cyclists (N = 20) were assigned to either usual endurance training combined with heavy strength training (N = 11) or to usual endurance training only (N = 9). The strength training consisted of four lower-body exercises (half-squat, leg press with one foot at a time, one-legged hip flexion, and toe raise, 3 x 4 – 10 RM), performed twice a week for 12 weeks. Pre- and post-tests determined the cyclists’ thigh muscle cross-sectional area, maximal voluntary contraction force in an isometric half-squat, peak power output during a 30-second Wingate test, power output at 2 mmol blood lactate concentration during an incremental cycling test, VO2max, and mean power output during a 40-minute all-out cycling trial.

At baseline, the groups were similar. After the intervention period, the endurance plus strength training group increased the cross sectional area of the thigh muscles, maximal voluntary contraction, peak power output in the 30-second Wingate test, and power output at 2 mmol blood lactate concentration. Those variables did not change in the endurance-only training group. There was a significant difference between groups in relative improvement in maximal voluntary contraction half-squat, cross-sectional area of the thigh muscles, and peak power output. Both groups increased in VO2max with no statistical difference between groups.

Implication. Adding heavy strength training to usual endurance cycling training results in favorable adaptations in classical performance indicators without compromising the development of VO2max. [While "indicators" were altered in this study, the true test of benefit is whether performance in at least a simulated cycling effort is changed. Until that is provided, one should be hesitant to assume that changing indicators is tantamount to changing real-world performances.]

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