Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Weekly strength training during the racing season makes cyclists faster

Cyclists who train seriously can improve their times by doing modest strength training alongside their regular training. According to sports scientists at Lillehammer University in Norway, cyclists benefit from continuing their weight training during the competition season.

The Norwegians did an experiment with 12 cyclists who compete at national level. Half of the cyclists did no strength training and were the control group [E]. The other group visited a gym twice a week where they trained their legs [SE].

The training sessions consisted of 4 exercises: squats, the one-legged leg-press, the standing one-legged hip-flexion and calf-raises. The cyclists did 2-3 sets of each exercise.

Weeks 1 to 12 were devoted to preparing for the competition season. During this period the SE cyclists increased the weight with which they trained. Weeks 13 to 25 were the competition season. During this period the SE cyclists reduced the volume of their strength training they only trained once a week, and did fewer sets each session.

The SE cyclists built up more muscle mass in their legs and their 1RM for squats increased. The progress was most noticeable during the first 12 weeks. During the competition season their muscle mass and strength hardly increased, but did not decline either.

The SE cyclists were in better condition during the competition season than the control group cyclists, according to the measurements taken: the VO2max was higher in the SE group, and they were also capable of generating more Watts during peak exertion.

The SE group's mean power output rose during this period, whereas it remained constant in the E group.

That elite endurance athletes perform better if they do modest power training was already known. What's new is that doing strength training during the competition season has a positive effect.

"The in-season maintenance of the strength training adaptations resulted in larger improvements in cycling performance and factors relevant for performance, for both sprint and prolonged cycling as compared with cyclists performing only usual endurance training", the Norwegians conclude.

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 Dec; 110(6): 1269-82.

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