Haakonssen, E. C., Martin, D. T., Martin, J. C., Burke, L M., & Jenkins, D. G. (2013). Muscle mass - cycling power relationships in female road cyclists. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(5), Supplement abstract number 610.

red line

This study described the relationship between lower body lean mass (LBLM) and maximum cycling power in sub-elite female road cyclists (N = 16) and explored the total body mass reductions required to offset LBLM loss. LBLM was measured distal to the most superior aspect of the pelvis. Peak power output (PPO; 6-second sprint) and 4 minutes maximum mean power (MMP4min) were measured using a wind-braked cycle ergometer. Linear regression analysis was used to explore the relationship between LBLM and cycling power output.

LBLM explained 66% of the variability in peak power output and 74% of the variability in 4 minutes maximum mean power. For each 1 kg reduction of LBLM, PPO decreased by 53.7 W and MMP4min by 11.6 W. On average, a 1kg reduction in LBLM would need to be offset by a further reduction of 2.7 kg reduction of non-functional mass for relative power output (W/kg) to remain unchanged. For a 58 kg cyclist with 16 kg LBLM, loss of 1kg of LBLM would reduce relative PPO (W/kg) by 4.6% and MMP4min by 2.2%. A 1% improvement in relative PPO would require a further loss of 3.2 kg non-functional mass. Similarly, a 1% improvement in relative MMP4min would require a further loss of 1.8 kg of non-functional mass.

A PPO of ?63.3 W/kg LBLM (mean + 2SD) may be near the physiological ceiling for female road cyclists and further increases in power may require additional LBLM. A PPO of <43.8 W/kg LB LM (mean - 2SD) may indicate the need to improve technique or neuromuscular coordination through sprint-specific training. Reductions in LBLM are undesirable and appear only to be beneficial for sprint and 4-minute cycling power when non-functional mass is substantially reduced.

Implication. Weight loss strategies for female cyclists should consider the preservation of LBLM.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.

red line