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Strength Training For Cyclists

The research done to date on the effects of weight training on cyclists has brought mixed results. The study done by Ben Hurley at the University of Maryland had 10 healthy men take up strength training (bench presses, hip flexions, knee extensions, knee flexions, press-ups, leg presses, lat pulldowns, arm curls, parallel squats, and bent-knee sit-ups) for 12 weeks, while eight other healthy men served as controls.

After 12 weeks, the strength-trained men improved their endurance while cycling at an intensity of 75 per cent V02max by 33 per cent and also lifted lactate threshold (the single best predictor of endurance performance) by 12 per cent.

However, these men were untrained prior to the study and did not carry out regular cycling workouts during the research, so the applicability of these findings to serious athletes is questionable

The study carried out by R. C. Hickson and his colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago was considerably more practical. In that investigation, eight experienced cyclists added three days per week of strength training to their regular endurance routines over a 10-week period.

The strength training was incredibly simple, focusing on parallel squats (five sets of five reps per workout), knee extensions (three sets of five reps), knee flexions (3 x 5), and toe raises (3 x 25), all with fairly heavy resistance. The only progression utilized in the program involved the amount of resistance, which increased steadily as strength improved.

Nonetheless, the strength training had a profoundly positive impact on cycling performance. After 10 weeks, the cyclists improved their 'short-term endurance' (their ability to continue working at a very high intensity) by about 11 per cent, and they also expanded the amount of time they could pedal at an intensity of 80% V02max from 71 to 85 minutes, about a 20-per cent upgrade.

On the negative side, we have research, carried out by James Home and his colleagues at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, seven endurance cyclists who averaged about 200 kilometers of cycling per week incorporated three strength training sessions into their normal routine. The strength program was relatively unsophisticated, consisting of three sets of up to eight repetitions of hamstring curls, leg presses, and quadriceps extensions using fairly heavy resistance.

After six weeks, the strength training had produced rather impressive gains in strength (the gains averaged a bit more than 20 per cent). However, actual cycling performances were not improved; in fact, they were worse than before the strength training was undertaken! 40-K race times slowed from 59 to 62 minutes, and the strength-trained cyclists complained of feeling 'heavy' and tired during their workouts.

Why did Hickson's study uncover clear advantages associated with strength training for cyclists, while Home's work revealed the reverse?

No one knows for certain, which means it's time for a personal observation. It seems quite likely that the strength training carried out by Hickson's charges improved fatigue resistance in their muscles, permitting them to persist longer both during high-intensity tests of endurance and prolonged efforts at a submaximal (80% V02max) intensity.

Meanwhile, it's likely that Home's added strength training sent his athletes into the overtrained - or at least 'stale' - state. The feelings of fatigue which originated shortly after the beginning of strength training suggests that the athletes were simply doing too much work.

Home's cyclists were averaging 124 miles of weekly riding when they started their strength training, while Hickson's athletes were logging considerably fewer miles, so one might be tempted to suggest that strength training can produce major benefits for low-mileage cyclists but does much less for experienced, higher mileage competitors who have already built up considerable strength merely by riding.

That certainly wouldn't be an unreasonable thought, but it doesn't explain why strength training per se would actually slow down endurance performances, as it seemed to do for Home's performers (no other study has shown this). It seems very likely that Home's added strength training was simply the straw that broke the camel's back; it wasn't the strength training which slowed the cyclists but the total amount of work they had to complete.

Another issue that was not kept controlled in the studies was nutrition and supplementation which also would have a major impact. It is my personal feeling after three decades in the physical training world that weight training is advantageous in almost all sports when done properly and paired with the correct nutrition.


Effectively Using Sport Supplements Like Creatine

As most people know the majority of a person's body is water. In fact, your body is about 60% water. We need to drink lots of water every day to keep our bodies healthy. When people work out in the gym, we sweat a lot of the water we have been drinking up to that point and that is why we also need to drink as we work out. Also, our muscles need water to properly perform the functions necessary to increase mass and strength when working out and recovering. This is where the sports supplement creatine comes in.

Creatine is a natural occurring, amino acid primarily produced in the kidney and liver. Our blood transfers this amino acid to our muscles. Besides our natural ability to produce creatine, we can get it from the foods that we eat, mainly meat products. Another way we can gain more creatine into our bodies is by ingesting it like any of the other muscle building supplements. Athletes and bodybuilders ingest it in a powdered, micronized form either in that form or mixed in with a post workout drink.

Why would people take a creatine supplement? The answer is it allows blood and necessary nutrients to be transported to your muscles via the bloodstream. This helps in muscle recovery and growth. The main reason for this effect is that creatine helps in retaining fluids in your muscles. This allows for greater recovery speeds and increased strength from your workout. While working out, creatine also decreases muscle fatigue which will allow you to work out longer and lift heavier weights.

When taking any sports supplement you cannot just load up as much as you want and expect to become bigger and stronger overnight. You have to properly assess how much creatine to take and how often to use it. Using too little will not give you the desired effect of increased strength and recovery. Along the same vein, using too much is wasteful and you will only excrete the extra creatine through your urine or sweat without making any use of it. Balancing creatine use and your training regimen is the only way to get the results you want.

Creatine is not meant to be a wonder drug that will suddenly make you big and strong in the same way spinach is supposed to work for Popeye. It works best in short duration, high-intensity workouts. For proper usage, do research and consult with a trained professional on its use.


Useful Ideas For Removing The Obstacles To Better Fitness

Fitness is a worthy objective that many people have, but often obstacles get in the way. You probably know the value of exercise and a healthy diet, but find it difficult to be consistent in these areas. If you're trying to overcome any obstacles in regard to fitness, we'll be looking at some methods and ideas to help you accomplish this.

One problem people who haven't exercised for a while face is that they don't feel sufficiently fit to begin a fitness program! If you've been inactive for a long time, you may be reluctant to begin an exercise program. Or maybe you've tried to run, lift weights, ride a bicycle or joined a class at a gym and found it too strenuous. The key is to start at whatever level you're at right now. You should seek medical advice about a good exercise program if you suffer from any chronic health issues. If you feel out of shape, you might want to start walking regularly, as this is something you can begin as slowly as you want, and increase as you get fitter.

It's common for people to feel that fitness is no longer an option past a certain age. While this was the conventional wisdom at one time, recent research, however, has shown that people of all ages can improve their condition with exercise. There have been studies where people over seventy began a weight lifting program and were able to dramatically improve their strength and muscle mass. Some fitness exercises that are good for older people include exercises in water, walking and lifting light weights. No matter how old you are, or how long it's been since you've exercised it's never too late to begin.

One of the main problems people have when it comes to fitness programs is being consistent. That's why it's a good idea to set definite times to exercise and adhere to this schedule. If you only go to the gym, jog or take an exercise class when you feel like it, or when you have extra time, it's not likely you will be consistent about it. You should make these definite, rather than optional activities that you plan into your week. Many people are more consistent about watching their favorite TV program than exercising, and if this describes you, you need to examine your priorities and place fitness higher on the list.

People can have difficulty maintaining a fitness program for any number of reasons. Rather than let these issues stop you, resolve to find a way around them, as this is almost always possible to do. Whatever obstacles to fitness that you might have, the above guidelines can help you find a way around them. It's your health, and by taking responsibility for it, you can begin to improve it.


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