Leg presses before cycling: 6 percent faster over 20k
Cyclists can make better time over 20 km if, before getting on their bike, they do a few sets of heavy leg presses. Sports scientists at the Catholic University of Brasilia have published their findings in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Post-activation potentiation is the phenomenon where, for instance, bodybuilders can squeeze more reps out of their sets by doing a short set with a heavy weight beforehand. Short but intensive exertion activates the muscles after which they work at a higher level. Athletes can give their body a serious training stimulus in this way.
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In the experiment that the Brazilians published in the September edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the researchers got 11 experienced male cyclists to do a timed ride of 20 km on two different occasions. One of the timed rides started 15 minutes after the cyclists had done 4 sets of leg presses with a weight at which they could manage 5 reps. The athletes rested for 5 minutes between sets.
The cyclists finished the timed ride in a noticeably shorter time after doing the leg-press sets [Potentiation]: they needed 6.1 percent less time to do the 20 km if they’d done leg presses first.
Post-activation potentiation boosted the VO2 max a little, but this effect was not statistically significant. Post-Activation Potentiation also slightly reduced the increase in lactic acid concentration and fatigue, but these effects weren't significant either. So the researchers are not sure about how post-activation potentiation enhances cyclists' performance.
"These results have practical implications as they suggest that acute interventions with heavy-intensity strength exercises could potentiate the performance of a subsequent cycling time trial", conclude the Brazilians.
"Therefore, heavy-intensity strength exercise bouts may be strategically planned to be included within warm-up routines for specific cycling training sessions and competitions."
"For example, a 'complex warm-up strategy' involving heavy-intensity strength exercises may be incorporated into a warm-up routine for individual or team speed cyclists, competing short pursuit trials, individual time trials, or short stages of long-term competitions such as the Tour de France."
J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Sep;28(9):2513-20.
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