Strength training reduces oxygen consumption during moderately intensive exertion and thus helps endurance athletes' muscles to work more economically and efficiently. Sports scientists at the University School of Physical Education in Krakow, Poland discovered this.
The researchers will soon publish in the European Journal of Physiology the results of a study involving seven healthy, fit male students. The researchers had the students do weight training for 7 weeks.
The students trained four times a week. Each session consisted of 10 maximal isometric contractions for the leg muscles. 'Isometric' means that the students' muscles were not shortened or lengthened; the students had to press as hard as they could without moving the muscles.
Each contraction lasted five seconds. Between contractions the subjects rested for 30 seconds, and halfway through the session they rested for three minutes.
After one week the maximal strength the men were capable of developing had increased by 15 percent. After seven weeks this had gone up to 19 percent.
When the researchers then got the students to cycle at moderate intensity, they discovered that the students' oxygen consumption had gone down. According to the figure below, the effect was visible after just one week.
The muscles' oxygen consumption had also gone down for high-intensity exercise, but, as the figure above shows, this was not statistically significant.
"This observation appears compatible with the increased running economy and cycling efficiency observed after strength training in endurance athletes, and confirms that strength training can have beneficial effects on performance during endurance events", the researchers conclude.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Apr 24. [Epub ahead of print].