Friday, March 11, 2011

Strength and Sprint training for Masters Cyclists

Combined Sprint with Strength Training for Masters
Prevent power output decline in master cyclists
By Luisa Sullivan

Power output is the product of force time velocity (p = f*v). Thus, aging-related decline in power output can be due to a decline in force or in velocity or in both. Well, some latest studies conducted on master elite marathon runners [5] have showed that the decline in performance is not due to a decline in the velocity of the muscle contraction, rather in the ability to produce force.

It is of interest and cause of controversy among coaches and athletes to examine whether strength training can result in increased sports performance in master cyclists.

In earlier studies (1990s) was not clear how the gain in strength could be transferred to force production in the cycling movement. However these latest studies [4,5] measured the force production and they found association between increase in muscular strength and rate of force development.

These studies on elite master athletes showed that deterioration in muscle function and associated neuromuscular properties (activation of fast motor units) is affected by the lack of proper strength training needed for the effective stimulation of the fast motor units. Results of one of these studies [2,4] indicate that the rapid neural activation of muscle was improved if sprint training was supplemented with maximal and explosive strength exercises in elite master sprinters. These studies, therefore, concluded that short-duration, high-velocity intervals are not sufficient for maintaining fast muscle mass and force production and thus optimal training should also include intensive strength exercises.

The group of male athletes over 50 years old, who combined sprint training with strength training showed a greater increase in dynamic strength than the control group who kept their usual training regimen. However this greater increase in strength was associated to an increase in the activity of the neuromuscular system but primarily related to the hypertrophic muscular adaptation. I am aware that many cyclists, especially climbers, fear about hypertrophy and gain muscle mass. However we all need to know that quantitative loss in muscle cross-sectional-area (CSA) with aging is a major contributor to the decrease in muscle strength [Frontera et al. 2000]. The aging-related decrease in CSA affects especially the fast twitch fiber with a consequent decrease in the area ratio type II-type I fibers that can become comparable to young sedentary individuals.

Combination of heavy resistance exercises with explosive type's overload of weight training and plyometric exercises is the strategy to improve strength performance.

However, the selection of the protocol of strength training is fundamental for achieving the above results. First of all a weight protocol specific for cycling performance needs to address specificity manipulating the following factors:

* Muscles actions
* Feet distance
* Range of motion
* Speed of the movement
* Volume and intensity that will make quicker and possible the transfer of the strength gained in the weight room to the bike.

* This suggested protocol is divided into two 9-11 weeks periods that are further divided into 3-4 weeks phases.
* Each phase has variation in training volume, intensity, speed of the movement and type of exercises
* Each phase allocates different training volumes (in terms of percentages of the total training volume) to sprint training, hypertrophy, maximum strength and explosive strength (Table 1).
* Each phase has a different weight protocol, in terms of ratio between resistance loads, number of sets, and number of reps and speed of the movement, in order to use a different energy system and to induce the specific physiological adaptation for each specific phase.
* Maximal Strength, Explosive weight lifting and plyometric exercises are alternated within a week to allow recovery
* In the 2nd half of the protocol (2nd period) the three phases are repeated with a slight increase in intensity and overload stimulus.
* The sprint training is performed two times per week on non-consecutive days and each session lasts 60-90 min.
* The sprint training increased in intensity and decreases in volume in the 2nd half of the protocol
* The plyometric exercises are part of the explosive strength training; they are performed at the beginning of the sprint training sessions and they progressively increase in intensity over the training period

The above protocol is in sync with one the latest ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) position stands on RT (Resistance Training) [1] that states the advantage of undulating periodization. In undulating periodization the different strength endurance, maximal strength and explosive strength protocols are systematically rotated over a training sequence. This model has been shown to produce superior strength increases over 12 weeks of RT training, compared with the classical linear periodization characterized by initial high volume training and low intensity, and as the training progresses volume decreases and intensity increases...... more

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