Entries in Strength (14)


Annual Planning, Periodisation and its Variations

Author: Tudor Bompa (CAN)
Fisa Level 3: Section 6- Annual Planning, Periodisation and its Variations.

Tudor Bompa

Tudor Bompa is the father of periodisation, a training system developed by the Soviets that aimed for optimal performance by varying the training stress throughout the year rather than maintaining a constant training focus. Bompa's training theory was laid out in his seminal work Theory and Methodology of Training

Bompa's understanding of assisted the Eastern Bloc domination of athletic competitions for three decades. He was on the faculty of the Romanian Institute of Sport.
As a coach, Dr. Bompa trained 11 medalists in various Olympics (2 gold medals) and World championships in 2 sport disciplines: track and field and rowing. He was himself an Olympic rower, and he later revolutionized the training concepts in cross country skiing. It is widely known that Jurgen Grobler uses these concepts when he plans his Olympic preparation. Bompa's book has simply been described as the Holy Grail of Training methodology and periodisation. A 'must have' for your training book collection.

North America: Periodization-5h Edition: Theory and Methodology of Training

United Kingdom and Europe: Periodization-5th Edition: Theory and Methodology of Training

Annual Planning

The annual plan is often viewed as the most important tool for the coach to guide athletes' training over a year. Such a plan is based on the concept of periodisation, which has to be viewed as an important concept to follow if one intends to maximise his athlete's performance.

The main objective of training is to reach the highest level of performance at the time of the main regatta of the year. But in order to achieve such a task one has to carefully plan the main activities of a crew, to create the best training menu, and to periodise the dominant abilities such as endurance and strength in such a way that will result in the highest probability of meeting the annual training goals.
Considering the above goals, and the high level of knowledge of my audience, I will be focusing in this presentation mostly on the concept of periodisation and its variations.


Periodisation is a process of dividing the annual plan into small phases of training in order to allow a program to be set into more manageable segments and to ensure a correct peaking for the main regatta of the year. Such a partition enhances a correct organisation of training, allowing the coach to conduct his program in a systematic manner.

In rowing, the annual training cycle is conventionally divided into three main phases of training: preparatory, competitive and transition. Both the preparatory and the competitive phases are also divided into subphases since their tasks are quite different. The preparatory phase, on the basis of different characteristics of training, has both a general and a specific subphase, while the competitive phase usually is preceded by a short pre-competitive subphase. Furthermore, each phase is composed of macro- and micro-cycles. Each of these smaller cycles has specific objectives, which are derived from the general objectives of the annual plan.

High levels of athletic performance are dependent upon the organism's adaptation, psychological adjustment to the specifics of training and competitions and the development of skills and abilities. On the basis of these realities, the duration of training phases depends heavily on the time needed to increase the degree of training and to reach the highest training peak. The main criterion for calculating the duration of each phase of training is the competition calendar.

The athlete trains for the competition for many months aiming at reaching his highest level of athletic shape on those dates. The accomplishment of such a goal assures very organised and well-planned annual training, which should facilitate psychological alterations. Organisation of an annual plan is enhanced by the periodisation of training and the sequential approach in the development of athletic shape.

The needs for different phases of training were inflicted by physiology because the development and perfection of neuro-muscular and cardio-respiratory functions, to mention just a few, are achieved progressively over a long period of time. One also has to consider the athlete's physiological and psychological potential, and that athletic shape cannot be maintained throughout the year at a high level. This difficulty is further pronounced by the athlete's individual particularities, psycho-physiological abilities, diet, regeneration and the like.

Climatic conditions and the seasons also play a determinant role in the needs of periodising the training process. Often, the duration of a phase of training depends strictly on the climatic conditions. Seasonal sports, like rowing, are very much restricted by the climate of a country.
As the reader may be aware, each competition and, for that matter, the highly challenging training that is specific to the competitive phase, has a strong component of stress. Although most athletes and coaches may cope with stress, a phase of stressful activities should not be very long. There is a high need in training to alternate phases of stressful activities with periods of recovery and regeneration, during which the rowers are exposed to much less pressure.

Periodisation of Biomotor Abilities

The use of the concept of periodisation is not limited to the structure of a training plan or the type of training to be employed in a given training phase. On the contrary, this concept should also have a large application in the methodology of developing the dominant abilities in rowing (endurance and strength).

Figure 1: The Periodisation of Dominant Abilities in Rowing

Periodisation of Strength Training

The objectives, content and methods of a strength training program change throughout the training phases of an annual plan. Such changes occur in order to reflect the type of strength rowing requires muscular endurance (the capacity to perform many repetitions against the water resistance).

The Anatomical Adaptation - Following a transitional phase, when in most cases athletes do not particularly do much strength training, it is scientifically and methodically sound to commence with a strength program. Thus, the main objective of this phase is to involve most muscle groups to prepare the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints, to endure the following long and strenuous phases of training. A general strength program with many exercises (9-12), performed comfortably, without "pushing" the athlete, is desirable. A load of 40-60% of maximum, 8-12 repetitions, in 3-4 sets, performed at a low to medium rate, with a rest interval of 1-1:30 minutes between exercises, over 4-6 weeks will facilitate to achieve the objectives set for this first phase. Certainly, longer anatomical adaptation (8-12 weeks) should be considered for junior athletes and for those without a strong background in strength training.

The Maximum Strength Phase - Ever since it was found that the ergogenesis of rowing is 83% aerobic and 17% anaerobic, the importance of strength has diminished in the mind of many coaches. In addition, the rowing ergometer has captivated the attention of most coaches. Often the rowing ergometer is used at the expense of strength training.

All these changes in training philosophy favoured the development of aerobic endurance to high levels. The results were to be expected: rowing races were never faster than now. However, what coaches should observe in the future is that to spend the same amount of time for the further development of aerobic endurance might not result in proportional increases in performance. One should analyse whether or not his athlete has maximised his endurance potential? Or, is there anything else which could improve the rower's performance?

In our estimation now is the time to add a new ingredient to the traditional training menu: maximum strength (which is defined as the highest load an athlete can lift in one attempt). This shouldn't frighten anybody! Nobody proposes to transform the rowers into weightlifters! As illustrated by the following figures, maximum strength has to be developed only during certain training phases of the annual plan.

Why train maximum strength anyway? A simplified equation of fluid mechanics will demonstrate this point: D ~ V²

That is that drag (D) is proportional to the square of velocity (V²).

Assuming that a coach has concluded that endurance has been developed to very high levels, spending more time on it might not bring superior performance. He might decide that in order to cover the 2,000m in superior speed the rowers have to increase the force of blade drive through the water (say by an average of 2 kg per stroke). But, according to the above equation for any additional force pulled at the oar handle, drag (water resistance) will increase by the square of blade's velocity. If one pulls against the oar handle with an additional 2kg (our example), according to the above equation, drag increases by 8kg! Therefore, the need to increase the level of strength has been demonstrated.

The duration of the maximum strength phase could be between 2-3 months, depending on the rower's level of performance and his needs. The suggested load could be between 70-90% of maximum, performed in 3-6 sets of 3-8 repetitions with a rest interval of 3-4 minutes.

The Conversion Phase - Gains in maximum strength have to be converted into muscular endurance; this type of strength is dominant in rowing. During these 2-4 months, the rower will be exposed to a training program through which progressively he will be able to perform tens, and even hundreds, of repetitions against a standard load (40-50%) in 2-4 sets.

The Maintenance Stage - Strength training must be maintained through some forms of land training, otherwise detraining will occur, and the benefits of maximum strength, and especially muscular endurance, will fade away progressively. And, rather than being used as a training ingredient for superior performance at the time of the main regatta, the reversal of such gains will decrease the probability of having a fast race.

A training program dedicated to the maintenance of strength will address the weakest link in the area of strength. It could be organised 2-3 times per week, following water training and could consist of either elements of maximum strength, muscular endurance or a given ratio between the two. In either case it has to be of short duration and planned in such a way as to avoid to unrealistically tax athlete's energy stores. Certainly, exhaustion is not a desirable athletic state.

The Cessation Phase - Prior (5-7 days) to the main competition of the year, the strength training program is ended, so that all energies are saved for the accomplishment of a good performance.

The Rehabilitation Phase completes the annual plan and coincides with the transition phase from the present to the next annual plan. While the objectives of the transition phase are through active rest, to remove the fatigue and replenish the exhausted energies, the goals of rehabilitation are more complex. For the injured athlete, this phase of relaxation also means to rehabilitate, and restore injured muscles, tendons, muscle attachments, and joints, and should be performed by specialised personnel. Whether parallel with the rehabilitation of injuries, or afterwards, before this phase ends all the athletes should follow a program to strengthen the stabilisers, the muscles which through a static contraction secures a limb against the pull of the contracting muscles. Neglecting the development of stabilisers, whether during the early development of an athlete or during his peak years of activity, means to have an injury prone individual, whose level of maximum strength and muscular endurance could be inhibited by weak stabilisers. Therefore, the time invested on strengthening these important muscles means a higher probability of having injury free athletes for the next season.

Periodisation of Endurance

During an annual plan of training, the development of endurance is achieved in several phases. Considering, as a reference, an annual plan with one main regatta (Olympic Games), endurance training is accomplished in three main phases: 1) aerobic endurance, 2) develop the foundation of specific endurance, and 3) specific endurance.

Each of the suggested phases has its own training objectives:

1. Aerobic endurance is developed throughout the transition and the long preparatory period (4-6 months). The main scope of the development of aerobic endurance is to build the endurance foundation for the regatta season and to increase to the highest level possible the rowers' working capacity (the cardio-respiratory system). The whole program has to be based on a high volume of training (20-28 hours per week).

2. The development of the foundation for specific endurance has an extremely important role in achieving the objectives set for endurance training. Throughout this phase, a representation of the transition from aerobic endurance to an endurance program has to mirror the ergogenesis of rowing (the aerobic-anaerobic ration expressed in percentage). Some elements of anaerobic training are introduced, although the dominant training methods are: uniform, alternative, long, and medium distance interval training (2-5 km).

3. Specific endurance coincides with the regatta season. The selection of appropriate methods should reflect the ergogenesis of rowing, its ratio being calculated per week (3-5% anaerobic alactic, 8-12% anaerobic lactic, and the balance aerobic endurance). The alteration of various types of intensities should facilitate a good recovery between training sessions, thus leading to a good peak for the final competition.

Variations of Periodisation

Figure 2 attempts to illustrate the periodisation of dominant abilities in rowing with the goal of peaking for the Olympic Regatta. This attempt is an adaptation of figure 1, but at this time it considers the time factor.

Figure 2: A Suggested Periodisation of Dominant Abilities for Rowing in 1992

Assuming that the coach may decide that in order to take his athletes to higher levels of performance, additional strength is desirable. In such a case a variation of the standard periodisation (figure 2) is suggested by figure 3.

In order to achieve this goal, two phases of maximum strength of six weeks each are proposed (total 12 weeks), each of them being followed by phases of muscular endurance so necessary in rowing (a total of 14 weeks). Such an approach is more desirable for elite athletes with very high endurance capabilities, whose progress in the past two years did not materialise. It is expected that this novelty in periodisation will bring the additional ingredient for a higher step in athletic proficiency.

Figure 3: A Suggested Variation of Periodisation for Rowing

In many walks of life improvements were often the result of challenging the tradition. It is expected that variations of periodisation signify such a challenge.




Strength Training for Men - Part 2. FISA Coaching Conference Video. 

By: Jurgen Grobler (Men’s Head Coach GBR)
From: FISA Coaches Conference, Budapest Hungary. November 7-11 2007

HighPerformanceRowing.net presented a journal entry on this topic of Strength Training for Men by Jurgen Grobler. Having now confirmed accuracy of articles and sources, we are now able to present the following videos. If you would like to see the slides and notes more clearly, please see Strength Training For Men - Part 1.  

Jurgen Grobler FISA Coaches Conference 2007 - Video









Arterial compliance of rowers: implications for combined aerobic and strength training on arterial elasticity

By: Jill N. Cook, Allison E. DeVan, Jessica L. Schleifer, Maria M. Anton, Miriam Y. Cortez-Cooper and Hirofumi Tanaka.
Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 290:H1596-H1600, 2006. First published 11 November 2005; doi:10.1152/ajpheart.01054.2005


Cook, Jill N., Allison E. DeVan, Jessica L. Schleifer, Maria M. Anton, Miriam Y. Cortez-Cooper, and Hirofumi Tanaka. Arterial compliance of rowers: implications for combined aerobic and strength training on arterial elasticity. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 290: H1596–H1600, 2006. First published November 11, 2005; doi:10.1152/ajpheart.01054.2005.—Regular endurance exercise increases central arterial compliance, whereas resistance training decreases it. It is not known how the vasculature adapts to a combination of endurance and resistance training. Rowing is unique, because its training encompasses endurance- and strength-training components. We used a cross-sectional study design to determine arterial compliance of 15 healthy, habitual rowers [50 é 9 (SD) yr, 11 men and 4 women] and 15 sedentary controls (52 é 8 yr, 10 men and 5 women). Rowers had been training 5.4 é 1.2 days/wk for 5.7 é 4.0 yr. The two groups were matched for age, body composition, blood pressure, and metabolic risk factors. Central arterial compliance (simultaneous ultrasound and applanation tonom-etry on the common carotid artery) was higher (P § 0.001) and carotid -stiffness index was lower (P § 0.001) in rowers than in sedentary controls. There were no group differences for measures of peripheral (femoral) arterial stiffness. The higher central arterial compliance in rowers was associated with a greater cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity, as estimated during a Valsalva maneuver (r 0.54, P § 0.005). In conclusion, regular rowing exercise in middle-aged and older adults is associated with a favorable effect on the elastic properties of the central arteries. Our results suggest that simultaneously performed endurance training may negate the stiffen-ing effects of strength training.   

Arterial compliance of rowers: implications for combined aerobic and strength training on arterial elasticity

THE AORTA AND CENTRAL ARTERIES are not simply tubes or conduits; rather, they are highly complex components of the vascular tree that buffer oscillations in blood pressure and blood flow. Reductions in this cushioning function result in increased left ventricular afterload, increased myocardial oxy-gen demand, and decreased coronary blood flow and eventu-ally lead to coronary ischemia (19, 22). Furthermore, because the vascular structure of the carotid sinus determines the deformation of and strain on the arterial baroreceptor endings during changes in arterial blood pressure, decreased arterial compliance is associated with impaired arterial baroreflex reg-ulation of heart rate (17). Thus, through these mechanisms, stiffening of the central arteries exerts a combined effect on the heart, the arteries, and the autonomic nervous system in older humans.

Regular aerobic exercise and strength training are recom-mended for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease and frailty associated with aging. Regular aerobic exercise is beneficial for reversing arterial stiffening in middle-aged and older adults (18, 26) and attenuates the age-related decline in cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) (16). In contrast to the beneficial effects of aerobic exercise, resistance training in middle-aged adults is associated with lower, rather than higher, central arterial compliance (14). Therefore, regular aerobic exercise and resistance exercise seem to exert opposite effects on the elastic properties of the arterial wall. It is not known how the elastic properties of the arterial wall will behave when one performs endurance training and strength training simultaneously.

In this regard, rowing exercise is unique, as it includes components of aerobic endurance and muscular strength (23). Rowers require large muscle strength to accelerate the boat at the start of the race and high endurance capacity to maintain this speed during the race (24). Similarly, rowers perform a combination of endurance and strength training during their usual training regimen, as demonstrated by their large maximal aerobic capacity and muscle strength (13, 23, 28, 29). Because more time may be required for development of vascular wall adaptations, a cross-sectional study analyzing arterial compli-ance in rowers may shed light on this clinically important question.

Accordingly, the primary aim of this study was to determine whether central and peripheral arterial compliance is higher in middle-aged and older rowers than in age-matched sedentary controls. We hypothesized that habitual rowers would demon-strate greater central arterial compliance than sedentary con-trols. Moreover, we hypothesized that compliance of peripheral (more muscular) arteries would be similar between the two groups, because exercise training has been shown to have no impact on these vascular beds (14, 25, 26). Because a reduction in arterial BRS is one of the important sequela of arterial stiffening (17), we also determined whether the hypothesized higher arterial compliance in rowers would be accompanied by greater BRS.


Subjects. A total of 30 healthy middle-aged and older adults (37–71 yr) were studied. They were either rowers (11 men and 4 women) or age-matched sedentary controls (10 men and 5 women). All of the subjects were healthy, nonobese, nonsmoking, normotensive (§140/90 mmHg), normolipidemic, and free of overt cardiovascular and other chronic diseases as assessed by medical history question- naire. None of the subjects were taking cardiovascular-acting medi-cations, including hormone replacement therapy. Physical activity was documented by a modified Godin physical activity questionnaire

(4). Rowers had been training 5.4 é 1.2 (SD) times/wk, 73 é 14 min/session for 5.7 é 4.0 yr, and rowing was their primary form of regular exercise. Approximately 65% of their training sessions were devoted to high-intensity workouts, and 87 é 8% of rowing was performed on water. Sedentary participants had not exercised for Ž12 mo. All procedures were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Texas at Austin, and written informed consent was obtained from each individual before participation.

Procedures. All laboratory procedures were performed at rest under comfortable laboratory conditions. Subjects abstained from food, alcohol, and caffeine for Ž4 h before laboratory procedures. An overnight 12-h fast was required before the measurements of meta-bolic risk factors. Premenopausal women were tested during the early follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.

Body composition. Body composition was measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (Lunar DPX, GE Medical Systems, Fairfield, CT).

Dietary intake analysis. A 3-day diet record was obtained and analyzed by a registered dietitian. Carbohydrate, fat, protein, and alcohol intakes were presented as percentage of the total caloric intake.

Handgrip strength. Handgrip strength was measured using an electrical handgrip dynamometer (model HDM-915, Lode Instru-ments, Groningen, The Netherlands).

Arterial blood pressure and heart rate at rest. Brachial and ankle blood pressure and heart rate were measured by an automated oscil-lometric device (model VP-2000, Colin Medical Instruments, San Antonio, TX) after Ž15 min of rest in the supine position (4). Ankle-brachial pressure index was calculated as ankle systolic blood pressure divided by brachial systolic blood pressure and was used to screen for peripheral artery disease.

Blood samples. A blood sample was collected from the antecubital vein after an overnight fast. Plasma concentrations of glucose, lipids, and lipoproteins were determined enzymatically using a Vitros DT60 analyzer (Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Raritan, NJ). Plasma norepi-nephrine concentrations were analyzed by enzyme immunoassay (Labor Diagnostika Nord, Nordhorn, Germany). Hematocrit was measured using a microcapillary reader (Damon/IEC Division, Need-ham, MA).

Arterial compliance. A combination of ultrasound imaging with simultaneous applanation of tonometrically obtained arterial pressures from the contralateral artery permitted noninvasive determinations of arterial compliance and -stiffness index (14, 26). The common carotid artery was imaged using B-mode ultrasound (model HDI 5000CV, Philips, Bothel, WA) equipped with a high-resolution linear-array transducer. Ultrasound images were transferred to digital view-ing software (Access Point 2000, Freeland, Westfield, IN). Diameters were measured from the intima of the far wall to the media-adventitia of the near wall. Pulsatile changes in the common carotid artery and common femoral artery diameters were analyzed 1–2 cm proximal to the bifurcation. Blood pressure waveforms were obtained from the contralateral artery using arterial applanation tonometry (model TCB-500, Millar Instruments, Houston, TX) (14, 26) and analyzed by waveform browsing software (WinDaq 2000, Dataq Instruments, Akron, OH). To eliminate interinvestigator variability, one investiga-tor analyzed all ultrasound images and blood pressure waveforms.

Cardiovagal BRS. Cardiovagal BRS was determined using the Valsalva maneuver (16, 17, 20). Briefly, subjects were seated in an upright position and familiarized with the procedure. Subjects per-formed a Valsalva maneuver and maintained an expiratory mouth pressure of 40 mmHg for 10 s. R-R interval (ECG) and blood pressure (Pilot 9200, Colin Medical, San Antonio, TX) were measured contin-uously. Subjects performed three Valsalva maneuvers Ž5 min apart to allow heart rate and blood pressure to return to baseline.

Data for cardiovagal BRS were recorded and analyzed by wave-form browsing software (WinDaq 2000) during the phase IV over-shoot. Systolic blood pressure values were linearly regressed against corresponding (lag 1) R-R intervals from the point where the R-R intervals began to lengthen to the point of maximal systolic blood pressure elevation (16, 17).

Carotid artery intima-media thickness. Carotid artery intima-media thickness was measured from images derived from an ultrasound machine equipped with a high-resolution linear-array transducer (model HDI-5000, Philips) (27). Images were analyzed by use of computerized software (QLab, Philips).

Statistics. One-way ANOVA and analysis of covariance were used for statistical analysis to determine significant group differences. Statistical significance was set a priori at P § 0.05 for all compari-sons. Values are means é SD, except in Figs. 1 and 2, where means é SE are reported. Initially, univariate correlation and regression anal-ysis were used to assess the strength of the relation between carotid arterial compliance and cardiovagal BRS. Partial correlation analysis and forward stepwise multiple regression analysis were then used to determine an independent association between cardiovagal BRS and arterial compliance.


Table 1: Selected subject characteristics, dietry intake, and metabolic risk factors.  

There were no group differences in age, height, body mass, body mass index, body composition, or waist circumference (Table 1).

As expected, physical activity scores assessed by the modified Godin questionnaire and handgrip strength were higher (both P § 0.02) in rowers than in sedentary controls. There were no group differences for total caloric intakes, percent carbohydrate, percent fat, percent alcohol, or sodium intakes. Daily protein intake was higher (P § 0.05) in rowers than in sedentary controls. Fasting plasma glucose, lipid, and lipoprotein concentrations were not different between groups.

Plasma norepinephrine concentrations were higher (P § 0.05) in rowers than in sedentary controls. Heart rate at rest was lower (P § 0.05) in rowers than in sedentary controls (Table 2). Brachial blood pressure, carotid blood pressure, carotid artery intima-media thickness, and ankle-brachial pressure in-dex were not different between the groups.

Table 2: Selected physiological variables at rest.  

Carotid arterial compliance was higher (P § 0.001) and -stiffness index was lower (P § 0.001) in rowers than in sedentary controls (Fig. 1).

Because of the significant group difference in heart rate at rest, analysis of covariance was performed with heart rate as the covariate. The group differ-ence in carotid arterial compliance remained statistically sig-nificant (P 0.01). Femoral arterial compliance and -stiff-ness index were not different between rowers and sedentary controls. Cardiovagal BRS was greater (P § 0.01) in rowers than in sedentary controls (Fig. 2) and was positively associ-ated with carotid arterial compliance (r 0.54, P § 0.005).

Stepwise regression analysis revealed that, among the variables correlated with cardiovagal BRS (arterial compliance, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate), carotid arterial compliance was the strongest independent physiological correlate of cardiova-gal BRS, inasmuch as it explained 36% of the variance (P § 0.01).

Additionally, when the influence of other variables (e.g., diastolic blood pressure and heart rate) was accounted for using a partial correlation analysis, the relation between cardiovagal BRS and carotid arterial compliance remained significant (r 0.45, P § 0.05).


The primary findings of the study are as follows:
1) Central arterial compliance was higher and -stiffness index was lower in habitual rowers than in age-matched sedentary controls who were matched for age, body mass, metabolic risk factors, blood pressure, and sodium intake.
2) Measures of peripheral arterial stiffness were not different between the groups.
3) Cardiovagal BRS was higher in rowers than in sedentary controls and was positively related to carotid arterial compliance. These results indicate that regular rowing exercise in middle-aged and older adults is associated with favorable effects on the elastic prop-erties of the central arteries. 
Because vascular adaptations may be a long-term process requiring a prolonged follow-up or intervention periods to induce appreciable changes, we used a cross-sectional study design. To minimize the weaknesses of this study design and to isolate the influence of rowing as much as possible, both groups were carefully matched for age, body composition, blood lipids, plasma glucose, blood pressure, and dietary so-dium intake. Additionally, to isolate the effect of rowing, we excluded individuals for whom rowing was not their primary form of exercise. Rowers were also excluded if more than two training days per week were exclusively nonrowing exercise, such as running, cycling, or weightlifting. Many rowers were competitive and followed similar training schedules. The ma-jority ( 65%) of their training sessions were devoted to high-intensity workouts. We found that central arterial com-pliance was higher and -stiffness index was lower in habitual rowers. Therefore, the results of the present study suggest that chronic rowing exercise is associated with a greater central arterial compliance.
Because of the contrasting effects of endurance and resis-tance training on the elastic properties of arteries, it is of particular interest to determine how the arteries adapt to a combination of these training modes. To gain insight into this issue, we studied a group of highly trained rowers. Rowing is unique for examination of training adaptations, because it includes the components of endurance training and resistance training (13, 23). Rowers exhibit markedly enlarged left ven-tricular dimensions as well as left ventricular wall thickness (13, 21). This is thought to be due to a combination of extreme volume load (as seen in endurance training) and extreme pressure overload (as seen in resistance training) during rowing (21). Rowing uses the upper and lower body and utilizes both limbs simultaneously to generate powerful force, causing large fluctuations in blood pressure and pulse pressure (2, 23). As shown in the present study, in regard to the impact of the overall rowing training on the vasculature, the endurance-training component appears to outweigh the resistance-training component, producing a higher arterial compliance in rowers. These results suggest that stiffening of the large arteries may be avoided if endurance training is incorporated into an exercise program that has a strength-training component. Intervention studies are necessary to draw more definite conclusions on this issue.
Endurance training does not influence the compliance of peripheral arteries (25, 26). Similarly, peripheral arterial com-pliance is not different between sedentary and resistance-trained individuals (14). Consistent with these observations, we found that femoral arterial compliance was not different be-tween groups. A lack of association between exercise training and peripheral arterial compliance is attributed to the fact that the arterial wall components of the femoral artery, which, in contrast to the central elastic arteries, do not act to buffer large fluctuations in blood pressure and blood flow.
The sympathetic nervous system exerts a tonic restraint on the compliance of the common carotid artery (11), and the removal of that restraint produces an immediate increase in its compliance (11). We measured plasma concentrations of nor-epinephrine, a rough index of sympathetic nervous system activity, in an attempt to gain insight into the physiological mechanisms underlying the effects of rowing training on arte-rial compliance. Although carotid arterial compliance was greater in rowers than in sedentary controls, plasma norepi-nephrine levels were also higher in rowers. These results are not consistent with the idea that decreased sympathetic vaso-constrictor activity is responsible for the greater arterial com-pliance in rowers. A more likely explanation for the greater arterial compliance in rowers is increased nitric oxide bioavail-ability. Arterial compliance is modulated significantly by en-dothelial function (7), and regular aerobic exercise improves this important function (5). Other possibilities include in-creases in vasa vasorum flow (1), decreases in collagen cross-linking (8), and/or decreases in local endothelin-1 action (12). Given that the influence of exercise training manifests only in the central elastic arteries, where beat-by-beat arterial disten-sion is greater, there may be an interaction between these physiological mechanisms and mechanical factors that are inherent in the central arterial wall.
The vascular structure of the carotid sinus determines the deformation of the arterial baroreceptor endings during changes in arterial pressure. A compliant artery acts to aug-ment stimulus transduction and afferent responsiveness of baroreceptors. Endurance training is associated with enhanced cardiovagal BRS (17). However, it is unclear whether resis-tance training has the same effect (3, 9). Given the lower arterial compliance in strength-trained individuals and the close association between arterial compliance and arterial BRS, it is reasonable to hypothesize that strength training is associated with lower cardiovagal BRS. The higher cardiova-gal BRS in rowers was positively and independently associated with carotid arterial compliance. Thus regular rowing exercise appears to enhance arterial BRS arguably via its effects on arterial compliance. Alternatively, rowing exercise itself causes large blood pressure changes that mimic the Valsalva maneuver at the catch of the stroke (23). Therefore, in contrast to sedentary individuals, rowers may have developed a greater capacity to adjust disturbances in blood pressure because of frequent exposure to this stimulus.
In addition to the use of a cross-sectional study design, the present study has other important limitations. Because of the risks associated with the testing and a lack of specific testing procedure, we did not measure maximal aerobic capacity and muscle strength to confirm that rowers were endurance trained as well as strength trained. As alternatives, we used the Godin physical activity questionnaire and handgrip strength. Even though these are indirect measures, the magnitude of the differences in these results between the sedentary controls and rowers clearly shows that rowers in the present study demon-strated greater aerobic fitness and muscular strength.

In conclusion, habitual rowers demonstrate a greater central arterial compliance and higher cardiovagal BRS than sedentary controls who are matched for many potentially confounding factors. Our findings suggest that concurrently performed en-durance training may negate the stiffening effects of resistance training on arterial compliance.   


We thank Rhea Montemayor, Phil Stanforth, and Jill Tanaka for assistance.


This study was supported by National Institute on Aging Grant AG-20966. M. M. Anton was supported by a fellowship award from the Ministerio de Educacio´n y Ciencia (Spain) and M. Y. Cortez-Cooper and A. E. DeVan by National Institutes of Health Grants HL-072729 and DA-018431, respectively.


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9. Lightfoot TJ, Torok DJ, Journell TW, Turner MJ, and Claytor RP.  Resistance training increases lower body negative pressure tolerance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 26: 1003–1011, 1994.
10. Longhurst JC, Kelly AR, Gonyea NJ, and Mitchell JH. Echocardio-graphic left ventricular masses in distance runners and weight lifters. J Appl Physiol 48: 154 –162, 1980.
11. Mangoni AA, Mircoli L, Giannattasio C, Mancia G, and Ferrari AU. Effect of sympathectomy on mechanical properties of common carotid and femoral arteries. Hypertension 30: 1085–1088, 1997.
12. McEniery CM, Qasem A, Schmitt M, Avolio AP, Cockcroft JR, and Wilkinson IB. Endothelin-1 regulates arterial pulse wave velocity in vivo. J Am Coll Cardiol 42: 1975–1981, 2003. 


Strength Training For Men

By: Jurgen Grobler (Men’s Head Coach GBR)
From: FISA Coaches Conference, Budapest Hungary. November 7-11 2007

HighPerformanceRowing.net now has a journal video entry on this topic of Strength Training for Men which talks through the slides below. Having now attained approval, HPR is now able to present the following videos Strength Training For Men - Part 2.

Strength Training For Men - Part 1











































The Anaerobic Aspects of Resistance Training 

By: Bruce W Craig PhD
Site Link: NSCA



Resistance training has become the common term to describe exercise involving any form of resistance, be it free weights, machines, elastic bands, pulley systems, or body weight as used in some exercise equipment. The lifting of weights comes under this broad umbrella and can be separated into a variety of categories (11) but most weight exercises can be performed for a variety of sets and repetitions and resistances, with somewhat different outcomes. There are some basic differences between training for strength and hypertrophy (muscle size) compared to training for power (explosive strength) which is a major component of most sports. However, all forms of resistance training rely on anaerobic metabolism for their energy needs. The purpose of this brief review is to explain how anaerobic metabolism supplies that energy and how these forms of training differ in their usage.

Muscle Transition

Strength is based on the ability to produce force, and the amount generated is dependent on the motor unit (neuron and muscle fibers it innervates) recruitment pattern that is established. Newton’s second law of physics defines force as F = ma, with m representing mass and a standing for acceleration. Mass is represented by the workload or the amount of weight moved, and acceleration involves the speed at which the weight is moved. These two components of force set the neural recruitment pattern by determining the type and number of motor units to be used, and their rate of activation.

The neurons of motor units stimulate either type I or type II muscle fibers. Type I fibers (slow twitch) contain numerous mitochondria, require oxygen to function, produce low to moderate amounts of force, and are fatigue resistant. These characteristics make them ideal for supplying the bulk of the energy when not much force is required, but must be maintained for long periods of time, such as when standing. Type II fibers (fast twitch) on the other hand, have fewer mitochondria, are more anaerobic in nature, and produce more force than type I fibers. However, they do fatigue more rapidly than type I, and come in two varieties; IIa and IIx (formally termed IIb) (2,15). The IIa form of these fast twitch fibers have the ability to use oxygen to make Adenosine Tri-phosphate (ATP) but have a high dependency on anaerobic forms of metabolism, such as glycogen breakdown which produces lactic acid. Prolonged bouts of high intensity anaerobic training can therefore produce significant amounts of lactic acid (7) in type IIa muscle fibers. The accumulation of lactic acid within the type IIa muscle fibers causes the pH to drop, and leads to fiber fatigue (1). Type IIx fibers are almost purely anaerobic in nature and fatigue even quicker than IIa fibers but become the primary fiber of choice during maximal force production and when IIa fibers become fatigued (2,15). Several studies have shown that repeated bouts of resistance exercise can transform IIx fibers into IIa fibers (10, 13,16,). The transition of IIx fibers into IIa fibers is an important part of the adaptation that resistance training produces and is discussed in more detail in the subsequent sections.

Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations

In training to optimize hypertrophy, sets are typically performed at 60-75% of the 1RM (8-12 repetitions), and have a shorter work to rest ratio (1-1.5 min). Optimizing strength involves training at higher loads (80-90% 1RM) with fewer reps (4 to 6) and a longer work:rest ratio (2-3 min) (14). Although not obvious by the set and rep combinations, there is a lot of overlap between the physiological adaptations to hypertrophy and strength training, such that one still increases strength somewhat with hypertrophy-focused training and one still increases size somewhat with strength-focused training. Te overall effect of these forms of training is that they push the muscles to the point of fatigue. Fatigue is defined as the in- ability to maintain force, and as indicated above can increase type IIa fiber numbers. The work of several investigators (10, 13,16) has shown that muscles of untrained individuals contain hybrid muscle fiber types in addition to the type I, type IIa, and type IIx fibers, the hybrids being muscle fibers that are going through a transition from type IIa to I (9) or from type IIx to IIa (10,13,16). The muscles of highly trained athletes, on the other hand, contain few hybrid fibers (2). Te increase in IIa fiber number induced by strength and hypertrophy training enhances the anaerobic capacity of muscles by forcing them to adapt to repeated bouts of exercise that depend on anaerobic metabolism (6,12).

Although there are no definitive studies that have measured the enzymatic alterations that resistance training induces, the work of MacDougall et al. (8) does indicate the type of change that can occur. The subjects in this investigation under- went 7 weeks of sprint training on a cycle ergometer. Training started with four 30 sec maximal exercise bouts (Wingate protocol) with 2-4 min recovery between them, and the subjects trained three days per week. By the end of the 7 weeks they completed ten 30 sec rides three times per week. They found that the subjects’ peak power, total work and VO2max was significantly increased by training, and attributed it to the significant increases in both aerobic (malate dehydrogenase, succinate dehydrogenase, and citrate synthase) and anaerobic (phosphofructokinase and hexokinase) enzyme activity. It might seem odd that the training improved both forms of metabolism until the accumulation of lactic acid and its ability to induce fatigue is taken into account. The primary effect of the muscle fiber transition is that IIx fibers, that are almost entirely anaerobic in nature, become IIa fibers that can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. Therefore, the stress represented by repeated bouts of high intensity exercise converts the enzymatic composition of the IIx fibers to a IIa form of metabolism, and increases both oxidative and non-oxidative capability of the muscle. This enables the muscle to use a greater amount of glucose and/or glycogen with less build-up of lactic acid. This was demonstrated in a resistance training study conducted by Keeler (6).

Power Adaptations

Power forms of lifting are more explosive in nature than strength and hypertrophy training. Although the sets and repetitions and rest periods are similar to that of strength-focused training, the amount of weight lifted can be as low as only body weight, up to about 40% of the 1RM, except in the case of the Olympic lifts, which are performed at 70-80% 1RM. Te lifter is required to exert maximal power to get the weight moving, and the only way that can be done is by training the nervous system to recruit as many type IIa fibers as possible. However, before an individual can train explosively they have to build a strength base.

Acceleration enables the establishment of movement velocity (speed) but is directly related to the rate of force development (RFD) generated with the initiation of movement. In strength and hypertrophy the lifter concentrates on the movement patterns of concentric and eccentric phase of the lift and tries to maintain a steady rhythm. The lift can even be performed slowly to maximize the fatiguing aspects of the exercise (3). Explosive lifts, on the other hand, are dependent on the neural recruitment of large numbers of type IIa muscle fibers to get the weight moving as quickly as possible. Therefore, any improvement in the RFD is a very important aspect of training.

Hakkinen et al. (4) demonstrated that strength and hypertrophy training can enhance peak strength but it does not affect the RFD, whereas power training does significantly improve the RFD. Although the anaerobic breakdown of glycogen (7) is used to some degree during an explosive lift, the primary energy source is ATP and the regeneration of ATP via the breakdown of creatine phosphate (CP). It is what gives the lifter the ability to explode and is why the rest period between lifts is longer. The extra time is needed to re-establish the ATP and CP stores of the muscle fibers. To date no one has examined the ATP and CP turnover in power forms of lifting but these factors have been examined with sprint training. Harmer et al. (5) sprint trained athletes for 7 weeks using a protocol that was similar to that used by MacDougal et al. (8) and found that the rate of anaerobic ATP usage following training was approximately half of what it was before training, whereas CP turnover was the same. They did not address this issue in their discussion but the data implies that the biomechanical improvements (better neural recruitment) might be responsible for the decline in ATP usage.

Anaerobic metabolism is dependent on the percentage of type IIa muscle fibers within the body. Tat percentage can be altered with training. Untrained individuals have a higher percentage of undifferentiated fibers (hybrids) than highly trained athletes. Resistance training is an effective way to enhance the muscle profile and increases the number of fast twitch fibers (type IIa) it contains. Although type I muscle fibers can increase in diameter with training it is the type IIa fibers that undergo the greatest hypertrophy with resistance training and are the basis for the increase in strength that is achieved from this form of training (2,15). The added benefit is that the anaerobic capacity also increases due to an enzymatic conversion that occurs with muscle fiber transition. Although power training depends more on ATP and CP than glycogen for energy needs it still requires a high percentage of type IIa muscle fibers. Once this fiber type is established with resistance training, power forms of training will enable an athlete to maximize the neural recruitment of type IIa fibers


Craig BW: Does muscle pH affect performance? Strength and Conditioning Journal 26:24 – 25, 2004

Fleck SJ, Kraemer WJ: Designing Resistance Training Programs. Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics, 2004

Greer BK: Superslow Training. NSCA Hot Topics Series, 2006

Hakkinen K, Komi PV, Alen M: Effect of explosive-type strength training on isometric force- and relaxation-time, electromyographic and muscle fiber characteristics on leg extensor muscles. Acta Physiologica Scanainavica 125:587 – 600, 1985

Harmer AR, McKenna MJ, Sutton JR, Snow RJ, Ruell PA, Booth J, Tompson MW, Mackay NA, Stathis CG,

Crameri RM, Carey MF, Eager DM: Skeletal muscle metabolic and ionic adaptations during intense exercise following sprint training in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology 89:1793 – 1803, 2000

Keeler LK, Finkelstein LH, Miller W, Fernhall B: Early-phase adaptations of traditional-speed vs. superslow resistance training on strength and aero- bic capacity in sedentary individuals. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 15:301 – 314, 2001

Kraemer WJ, Noble BJ, Culver BW, Clark MJ: Physiologic responses to heavy-resistance exercise with short rest periods. International Journal of Sports Medicine 8:247 – 252, 1987

MacDougal JD, Hicks AL, MacDonald JR, McKelvie RS, Green HJ, Smith KM: Muscle performance and enzymatic adaptations to sprint interval training. Journal of Applied Physiology 84:2138 – 2142, 1998

Saltin B, Gollnick PD: Skeletal muscle adaptability: Significance for metabolism and preformance. In Handbook of Physiology

Peachy L, Adrian R, Gerzer SR, Eds. Bethesda, MD, American Physiological Society, 1983, p. 555 – 631

Staron B, Malicky ES, Leonardi MJ, Falkel JE, Hagerman FC, Dudley GA: Muscle hypertrophy and fast fiber type conversions in heavy resistance- trained women. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. 60:71 – 79, 1990

Stone MH, Pierce KC, Sands WA, Stone ME: Weightlifting: A brief overview. Strength and Conditioning Journal 28:50 – 66, 2006

Tavino L, Bowers CJ, Archer CB: Effects of basketball on aerobic, anaerobic capacity, and body composition of male college players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 9:75 – 77, 1995

Trappe SW, Williamson D, Godard MP, Porter D, Rowden G, Costill DL: Effect of resistance training on single muscle fiber contractile function in older men. Journal of Applied Physiology 89:143 – 152, 2000

Triplett NT: Specificity for Sport. NSCA Hot Topics Series, 2006

Wilmore JH, Costill DL: Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics, 2004

Williamson DL, Godard MP, Porter D, Costill DL, Trappe SW: Maintenance of whole muscle strength and size following resistance training in older men. Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences. 27A:B138 – B143, 2002


Strength Training and Flexibility: Is There Compatibility?

By: Ryan Overturf, B.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.
From: Strength Training and Flexibility: Is There Compatibility?
Site Link: UBM


Range of motion is a meaningful component of fitness, especially in older individuals where a deficiency of flexibility can restrict participation in some everyday life activities. A lack of flexibility may also contribute to the likelihood of falls, due to loss of balance and stability (Fatouros et al., 2001). Presently, there is limited scientific evidence that describes the independent and combined effects of strength training and aerobic exercise on flexibility development in older populations. Therefore, the purpose of this study (reviewed) was to examine the effects of 16 weeks of strength training alone, cardiorespiratory training alone, or their combination on the range of motion of various joints of inactive older men.

Study Reviewed:

Fatouros, I.G., Taxildaris, K., Tokmakidis, S.P., Kalapotharakos, V., Aggelousis, N.,
Athanasopoulos, S., Zeeris, I., & Katrabasas, I. (2001). The effects of strength training, cardiovascular training and their combination on flexibility of inactive older adults. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 23, 112-119.

The Subjects

Thirty-two sedentary men with an average age of 70 years participated in this 16-week study. Participants were included in the study if their maximal oxygen consumption or VO2max was at or below 25 ml/kg/min. Using ACSM standards, this would place them in the 20th percentile for men 60 years of age and above. All subjects average blood pressure measurement after two readings had to be below 160/90 mmHg. Each of the subjects was screened for any orthopedic and neuromuscular problems by their physician prior to starting the study. Every individual also participated in a graded exercise test using the Bruce protocol, to test for any pulmonary or cardiovascular responses that could pose a risk in their performance for the study.

Strength Assessment

Each subjects peak muscle torque for leg flexion and extension was determined using an isokinetic dynamometer. Leg press and chest press exercises were performed on a Universal machine to determine the subject’s one repetition max (1-RM). This same protocol was used to determine the subjects’ post-training 1-RM.

Flexibility Assessment

Before each flexibility test, the subjects warmed-up for three minutes on a Monark stationary cycle. Flexibility was measured before and after eight and sixteen weeks of training. Low-back and hamstring flexibility was measured using the modified sit-and-reach test. Range of motion for the following movements was measured using a goniometer: hip flexion, hip extension, hip abduction, hip adduction, shoulder adduction, shoulder flexion, shoulder extension, elbow flexion/extension, and knee flexion/extension.

Training Protocols

The 32 subjects were randomly assigned to one of the following four groups: control group (C), cardiovascular training group (CT), strength training group (ST), and combination of strength training and cardiovascular training (STCT). Those in the control group did not train throughout the 16 weeks. The other three groups trained three times a week for sixteen weeks. Each of the training protocols had a warm-up period of three to five minutes which consisted of walking or cycling at 40% of their heart rate maximum. The training sessions were between 45 and 50 minutes and were supervised at all times.
CT Protocol.

The protocol for the CT group consisted of walking or jogging on a treadmill with a starting grade of 0o. Throughout the 16 weeks, the protocol’s intensity and duration were gradually increased. Intensity was set at 50% in weeks 1 and 2, and increased 5% per week until the eleventh week where it was set at 80% and that intensity level was maintained for the rest of the study. Heart rate was measured throughout each session for all clients.

ST Protocol. Those in the ST group performed eight exercises on a Universal machine in the following order: chest press, leg extension, shoulder press, leg curls, latissimus pull down, leg press, arms curls, and triceps extension. Each subject’s 1-RM was measured before the study and once per week during the study for all exercises. Two sets of 8-12 repetitions were performed at an intensity of 55-60% 1-RM in the first four weeks. In the weeks thereafter, the sets were increased to three for each exercise. In weeks five through eight subjects did 10-12 reps at an intensity of 60-70% 1-RM. Weeks nine through 12 consisted of 8-10 reps at 70-80% 1-RM. In the final four weeks the intensity was at 80% 1-RM, and the subjects performed 8 reps in all three sets.

STCT Protocol. In the STCT group, each subject performed the same strength and cardiovascular program described above. The strength training program was done first and after 60 minutes of rest the subject’s performed the cardiovascular program.


The present study demonstrates that resistance exercises alone, and when combined with cardiovascular training, independently improve flexibility in inactive older males. The results (presented in Table 1) clearly show an increase in flexibility in the majority of the joint ranges tested. It is also observed that cardiovascular training had a minimal effect upon joint flexibility, except hip flexion and hip adduction. These results could possibly reflect a movement specific adaptation from the strength training exercises. It was interesting to see that shoulder adduction showed virtually no change in range of motion. This was most likely due to the fact that there were no exercises performed for this specific movement. The flexibility of a joint is maintained or improved when that joint is regularly taken through its range of motion. Thus, participating in physical activities that ensure a client’s optimal joint range of motion appear to ensure flexibility of that joint. Previous investigations (see Table 2) on this topic have had mixed results regarding the benefits achieved in flexibility with strength and/or cardiovascular training.

Bottom Line Application

From this novel and very applied study, it appears that in inactive older males, strength training can substantially increase flexibility in multiple joint motions, independent of flexibility exercises. Although research in this area is needed with older females, due to similar tissue and joint structures, analogous results would surely be hypothesized.

The authors of this study theorize that resistance exercise improves the tensile strength of the tendons and ligaments, as well as increases the contractility of the muscles, which, in time, increases a joint’s range of motion. This finding is not meant to negate the importance of flexibility exercises, nor suggest their omission from an individual’s exercise program. However, this investigation does show an added benefit of strength training for older clients, besides the known improvements in muscular strength and endurance, body composition, glucose metabolism, coronary risk factors, bone mineral density, and psychological well being. As personal trainers and fitness professionals, it is enlightening to empower our elderly clients that properly designed and supervised resistance training programs can also improve their musculoskeletal health and range of motion.


Weight training and endurance training partnership?

By: John Shepherd
From: Does weight training and endurance training make the perfect sports conditioning partnership?
Link: Concept2.co.uk

About The Author

John Shepherd is a specialist sports, health and fitness writer and is Ultra-FIT magazine's contributing editor. He has authored two best selling fitness books: Ultra-FIT: your own personal trainer and The Complete guide to sports training - both published by A&C Black. John was an international athlete.

Does weight training and endurance training make the perfect sports conditioning partnership?

Let's begin with the logical assumption that weight training benefits endurance athletes by focussing on rowing. Rowing requires an anaerobic contribution of about 30% for the 2k race distance (although this can vary between individuals and in regard to age). In consequence rowers train their short term anaerobic systems as they race sharpen. These workouts are of high-intensity short duration, for example, 30 seconds to five-minute intervals, with very short often 1:1 recoveries. These workouts target all muscle fibre types, but specifically hit the fast twitch variety (type IIa and type IIb). These fibres contribute much of the power for these turbocharged efforts. Logic says that weight training these fast twitch fibres will be beneficial as weight training tends to target fast twitch fibres.

Rowing research

Bell1 and associates looked at the effects of three different weight training programmes on 18 varsity rowers during their winter training. One group performed 18-22 high-velocity, low-resistance repetitions (thus targeting slow twitch fibres), while another did 6-8 low-velocity, high-resistance (fast twitch targeting) repetitions. All exercises were rowing-specific and were performed on variable-resistance hydraulic equipment four times a week for five weeks. A third group did no resistance training. All groups carried out their normal endurance rowing training. So what happened? When tested on a rowing ergometer the researchers found no difference between any of the groups in terms of peak power output or peak lactate levels (lactate is produced at all levels of energy production and is part of the energy creation process. The greater its level, the more intense the workout). So weight training served no purpose. Similar finding were made by researchers at the University of Ohio2 whose elite male weight-training rowers displayed no increase in VO2 max, when compared to a rowing only group who improved their VO2 max by up to 16% during pre-season training (VO2 max is a measure of aerobic capacity and references the maximum amount of oxygen the body can process).

Research from other sports

Tanaka and team3 looked at the effects of weight training on swimming. 24 experienced swimmers were surveyed over 14 weeks of their competitive season. The swimmers were divided into two groups of 12 and matched for stroke specialities and performance. One group performed resistance training three days a week, on alternate days for eight weeks, the other group did no weight training. Weights were selected for their swimming specificity - both fixed and free weights were used. The swimmers performed three sets of 8-12 repetitions on: lat pull downs, elbow extensions, bent arm flyes, dips and chin-ups. The weights were progressively increased over the duration of the training period. Two weeks away from their major competition a tapering period took place. So what did the researchers discover? As with the rowing studies it was found that weight training did not improve swim performance, despite the fact that those swimmers who combined resistance and swim training increased their strength by 25-35%.
Paavolainian et al4 considered the effect of weight training (and other power training methods) on the performance of x-country skiers - long considered the epitome of aerobic athletes. Seven skiers performed explosive strength training including plyometrics (jumping type exercises). In terms of weights they performed 80% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM ) squats regularly. Another eight of their peers performed three weeks of endurance based, high repetition strength training for the legs and arms. At the end of the survey Paavolainian cited no difference in VO2max or aerobic or anaerobic threshold.

Why weight training and endurance training might not actually be the perfect couple

Tanaka introduced weight training into the competitive phase of his swimmers - perhaps not the best time to do so. It's possible that the swimmers' performances could have actually been impaired by the added training load, rather than improved by it. Paavolainian got one group of his skiers to perform very dynamic exercises and admitted that their ability to express peak power improved accordingly, but what good is this to a x- country skier who requires one of the most highly developed aerobic systems of any athlete? Additionally the strength endurance group also showed no positive benefit, but perhaps they were doing the wrong weight training - more on this later. Or as the exercise scientist Saziorski5 suggests as theirs was an ultra-endurance sport weight training held little direct relevance to improving their performance in the first place. He believes that maximum strength is of little importance to sports with a maximum strength requirement of less than 30%.
The rowing findings are more difficult to explain but there is a possible answer. It's argued that when an endurance athlete reaches a certain level of performance strength - this can be developed through their everyday CV training or with weight training (or other resistance training methods) that further improvements in weights based strength will not bring about any further improvements in sport performance. As the rowers in the studies were all at a high level of performance it could be argued that they already had more than enough 'performance' strength developed over years and years of correctly executed rowing technique. The author is aware of the comments of top rowers, such as Jonny Searle who have a similar belief in the direct contribution to rowing.
The interference effect - why weights and endurance training can get in each others way
 Shepard6 offers a very succinct explanation as to why weigh training and endurance training can be the wrong bed-fellows:
'Some of the most important and influential factors that result from physical conditioning occur at the cellular level in the muscles, that is the majority of training effects are peripheral. The number and size of mitochondria, the amount ... of ATP and CP (energy producing chemicals) that are stored and the concentrations of key enzymes associated with particular energy systems are increased. Training is specific and selective of the types of muscle fibres used. That selectivity will determine the nature of training effects and the type of performance that is improved.'
Basically he's saying that training different energy systems at the same time can produce a confused physiological affect. How can fast twitch type IIb fibre be expected to gain in its size and power generating capacity through weight training, if it is being relentlessly bombarded in the same training phase, indeed workout, by extensive long slow distance work or intense interval training designed to improve its endurance?

Can weight training be of any use to rowers and endurance athletes?

1. Select the best weight training option for your sport:

Choose a weight training methodology and exercises that develop as close as possible the physiological and neuromuscular responses/patterns produced/required by your sport. As an example circuit resistance training can offer a great deal for the endurance athlete as it targets slow twitch muscle fibre and can develop VO2 max and lactate threshold. Use a weight set at 50-60% of 1RM. It seems less likely to interfere with the development of enhanced endurance capacity. Concept2's weight training plans follow a similar methodology.

2. Carefully consider the training variables of 'order and recovery' when combining endurance and CV training:

Maximise your recovery time between the two methods in your workout schedules and perhaps even consider weight training your legs in separate specific workouts. Sporer et al7 looked at the effects of weight training on aerobic/anaerobic CV performance. Sixteen male collegiate athletes experienced with strength training, submaximal aerobic training and high intensity anaerobic interval training took part in a research study to see if the type and intensity of aerobic training affected concurrent strength training after four, eight and 24 hours of recovery. One group performed steady state work at 70% of heart rate max (HRMax) and another 95-100% intervals, with 40% HRMax recoveries. Both groups then performed 1RM maximum strength testing on bench press and leg press. It was discovered that for both the steady-state and the interval training groups that strength training gains were compromised by the endurance work unless adequate rest was allowed. Specifically the participants' leg muscles were (not surprisingly) negatively effected by their aerobic training as measured by the leg press, although bench press performance was not. In consequence Sporer recommended that at least eight hours be allowed between aerobic training and strength training if the athlete must do both workouts in one day and that lower body strength training should be performed on a different day to any aerobic training.

3. Develop weights' strength in a specific training cycle:

Expanding on point 2 coach/athlete could consider the possible benefits of developing strength in a specific training cycle away from endurance training, particularly at the beginning of the training year to minimise the interference effect. Periodic returns to weight training micro-cycles could then be used to 'top-up' strength levels. Under these conditions a Canadian study of rowers8 ) discovered that a group that strength trained for five weeks before five weeks of endurance training profited from a 16% increase in VO2 max and 27% improvement in lactate tolerance after the 10 week programme, whilst a group that trained in the reverse order only gained a 7% increase in VO2max and displayed no improvements in lactate tolerance. The explanation? The strength before endurance group gained quality rowing muscle, without compromise and were able to use it to row harder and faster with greater fatigue resistance when they endurance trained. Working out for weight training gains alone, may have enabled them to push beyond their 'normal' previously conditioned rowing power levels.

4. Weight train for injury prevention:

Finally, if you are an endurance athlete you should use weight training (and other suitable pre-conditioning exercises) to avoid injury. Doing this will bolster your soft tissue (ligaments, muscles and tendons) against injury.


There are rowing coaches that believe in the value of heavy and lighter weight training routines for their charges. However, the majority of research indicates that weight training will have very little direct effect on improved endurance. Coach/athlete will have to account for the training maturity of the athlete, their strengths and weaknesses, their injury history and the time in the training year when deciding when and what type of weight training to perform. Careful monitoring should also be applied for evaluation. Note: weight training (and other resistance methods) IS very important for injury prevention.


1. Bell, G.J., Petersen, S.R., Quinney, A.H., Wenger, H.A. (1993). The effect of velocity-specific strength training on peak torque and anaerobic rowing power. Journal of Sports Sciences, 7, 205-214, 1989. back
2.Medicine and science in sport and exercise, vol 26 (5) p575 1994.
3. Tanaka, H., Costill, D.L., Thomas, R., Fink, W.J., Widrick, J.J. (1993). Dry-land resistance training for competitive swimming. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 25, 952-959.
4. Paavolainen, L., Hakkinen, K., Rusko, H. (1991). Effects of explosive type strength training on physical performance characteristics in cross-country skiers. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 62, 251-255.
5. In Dick F - Sports Training Principles p238 Theroy and practice of strength development A and C Black 4th edition 2002.
6. Shepard RJ Aerobic vs Anaerobic Training for success in various athletic events.
7. Spoorer - Effects of aerobic exercise on strength performance following various periods of recovery. Journal of strength and conditioning research 2003 nov17 (4) 638-644.
8. Sequencing of endurance and high velocity training - Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Science vol: 13:4 pp214-19 1988.


Resistance Training and Endurance Performance

By: John Hawley, Director of the High Performance Laboratory: Sports Science Institute of South Africa
Site Link: Sports Science.


"Strength or power measured in non-rowing circumstances often seems to have little value when applied to rowing performance."
Fredrick Hagerman, Rowing physiologist

"Many top road riders do not do weight training, particularly the European professionals. However, this does not mean weight training is not useful."
Harvey Newton, Strength training coach to American cyclists

" I firmly believe in resistance training with heavy weights. So long as I taper sufficiently before a race, I feel they improve my performance."
Marianne Kriel, 1996 Olympic swimming medalist

Elite and recreational endurance athletes undertake resistance training believing it will improve performance. But training for endurance and training for maximal strength and power represent completely different and opposite forms of activity. Endurance training consists of many thousands of submaximal muscle contractions performed at low to moderate workloads, while training for strength and power involves relatively few contractions at maximal or near maximal force. From a physiological standpoint, it seems unlikely that muscle would be able to adapt to two seemingly incompatible training stimuli when they are undertaken simultaneously. Surprisingly, few good scientific studies have been conducted using well-trained athletes to determine if the improvements in muscular strength gained from resistance training result in enhanced endurance performance.

Swimming is one sport where the majority of competitors practice some form of resistance training. Although most competitive swimming distances might not be considered true endurance events, elite swimmers perform huge volumes of over-distance training. To determine whether adding resistance training to pool training might improve sprint-swim performance, Tanaka, et al. (1993) studied 24 experienced swimmers during 14 weeks of their competitive season. The swimmers were divided into two groups of 12 swimmers and matched for stroke specialities and performance. The two groups performed all swim training sessions together for the duration of the season, but in addition to the pool training, one group performed resistance training three days a week, on alternate days for eight weeks. The resistance training program was intended to simulate the muscles employed in front crawl swimming and utilized weight lifting machines as well as free weights. Swimmers performed three sets of 8-12 repetitions of the following exercises: lat pull downs, elbow extensions, bent arm flys, dips and chin ups. In order to maximize the resistance training effect, weights were progressively increased over the duration of the training period. Then both groups tapered for approximately two weeks prior to their major competition. The most important finding: resistance training did not improve sprint swim performance, despite the fact that those swimmers who combined resistance and swim training increased their strength by 25-35%. The extra strength gained from the resistance training program did not result in improved stroke mechanics. Their conclusion: "the lack of positive transfer between dry-land strength gains and swimming propulsive force may be due to the specificity of training."

In rowing, supplementary resistance training programs are still advocated by most coaches. In the early 1970's it was common to employ a program of high-resistance, low repetition training during the pre-season period, followed by a gradual transition to lower-resistance, high repetition endurance work nearer the competitive season. But during the past decade emphasis has shifted to a greater volume of local muscle endurance work during the pre-season, with using more exercises that simulate the rowing action as the competitive period approaches. Bell, Petersen, Quinney and Wenger (1993) studied 18 varsity oarsman who undertook three different resistance training programs during their winter training. In addition to their normal rowing, one group performed 18-22 high-velocity, low-resistance repetitions, while another group did low-velocity, high-resistance repetitions (6-8 reps). All exercises were rowing-specific and performed on variable-resistance hydraulic equipment four times a week for five weeks. A third group did no resistance training. After training, the high-velocity, low-resistance repetition group performed better in high-velocity movements, while the low-resistance, high-resistance group did better at low velocity actions. But when tested on a row ergometer, there was no difference between any group for peak power output or peak lactate levels. The conclusion: training effects were specific to the resistance training mode and did not transfer to the more complex action of rowing. Resistance training programs may actually restrict the volume of beneficial, sports specific training that can be achieved because of increased levels of fatigue.

What about resistance training by cross-country skiers? Leena Paavolainen, Hakkinen, and Rusko (1991) studied the effects of dynamic resistance training on maximal isometric strength and aerobic power of 15 national class cross-country skiers during six weeks of their pre-season training period. Seven of the skiers supplemented their normal aerobic workouts with "explosive" strength sessions. These sessions consisted of plyometric jumping exercises and heavy resistance (80% of 1 RM) squats and contributed about a third of the total training load. The other eight skiers performed the same aerobic training, but during the last three weeks of the study added "endurance strength training" which comprised many repetitions of "specific" leg and arm exercises. Jumping height and time to reach maximal isometric force production improved significantly in the explosive strength trained group. There were no differences in these measures before or after the six week training period for the endurance trained group. But neither were there any differences in VO2max or measures of the aerobic and anaerobic "thresholds" between the two groups after the different training regimens. They concluded that "endurance athletes can undertake explosive strength training programs without a concomitant reduction in aerobic capacity." It's difficult to see, though, why an athlete would wish to follow this advice. The only effect of the explosive strength training was to improve jump height and time to reach maximal force production. Both these measures are unrelated to the demands of competitive cross-country skiing. In the first instance, cross-country skiers certainly do not need to be able to jump great heights during their event. Neither are they required to produce low numbers of maximal contractions. Cross-country races typically last from 15 to 120 minutes. The forces involved are quite low and the number of repetitions very high. The most important determinant of success in this sport is a skier's VO2max, and this did not improve with either strength training regimen!

Resistance training for endurance cyclists results in extra muscle bulk and added weight which can reduce their performance levels. James Home and co-workers at the University of Cape Town recently examined the effects of a six week progressive resistance training program on 40 km cycling performance. Seven endurance-trained cyclists who were riding approximately 200 km per week added three resistance training sessions to their normal cycling workouts. These sessions consisted of three sets of 6-8 maximal repetitions of leg press, quadriceps extensions and hamstring curls, all exercises which recruit muscles used in cycling. The resistance training program resulted in maximal substantial strength gains of about 25%. The strength gains, however, did not transfer into superior cycling performances. On the contrary, 40 km times slowed from 58.8 minutes to 61.9 minutes after resistance training. Additionally, cyclists complained of feeling "tired and heavy" while riding and were forced to reduce their weekly training distance by about 20% during the study. Although it's impossible to determine whether resistance training alone or the effect of resistance training resulting in tiredness which forced a reduction in endurance training volume caused the impaired performance, it's clear that there was no positive effect of undertaking the two different training modes concurrently.

We find strong evidence against a training program incorporating resistance training into well-trained endurance athletes' normal workouts to improve their endurance performance. There are, however, several scientific studies that report a beneficial effect of resistance training on both short and long-term endurance capacity. Hickson et al. (1988), a frequently cited investigation supporting the use of strength training to improve endurance, found that a three-times-a-week strength training program undertaken for 10 weeks did not change the VO2max of moderately-trained runners and cyclists. But a short-term (4-8 minutes) endurance test was improved by 12% for both running and cycling, while long-term endurance improved from 70 to 85 minutes for cycling.

Marcinik et al. (1991) showed that strength training had positive effects of endurance cycling capacity. Eighteen males performed 12 weeks of strength training three times a week. The strength training consisted of 8-12 repetitions of upper body exercise (bench press, push-ups, lat pull-downs, arm curls) and 15-20 repetitions on lower body exercises (knee extensions, hip flexion's, parallel squats) with a 30-second rest between exercises. The strength training program had no effect on the subjects VO2max. However, 1 RM for knee extension and hip flexion improved by 30% and 52% respectively. More important, cycle time to exhaustion at 75% of VO2max improved a massive 33% from 26.3 minutes before strength training to 35.1 minutes after training. The conclusion: "strength training improves cycle endurance performance independently of changes in VO2max... and that this improvement appears to be related to increase in leg strength."

Several reasons explain why some individuals improve their endurance capabilities with strength training while others don't. First, it appears that there is a minimal amount of muscle strength required for endurance events. This general principle applies to athletes of all abilities, but is especially important for those individuals who are new to a sport and therefore only moderately-trained in that discipline. These novice athletes will benefit from any increase in general fitness, be it an improvement in strength or endurance. This explains why the greater muscle power seen after short-term strength training programs increases endurance capacity in these individuals. In all likelihood, any training stimulus which overloads the working muscles would have improved their performance. The large improvements in muscle power seen after strength training merely compensate for their poor technique or efficiency of movement. This is especially true in sports such as swimming and rowing, where stroke mechanics and technical proficiency are perfected only after many years of training and hours on the water.

For highly-trained athletes who are already capable of generating high power outputs in their chosen discipline, further improvements in strength are a less important factor in enhanced endurance performance. At the highest level of competition, increases in strength and power are not as critical to successful performance as the development of correct technique. For these athletes, the concept of specificity rules! The bottom line is that modern training studies do not support the use of resistance training programs for improving the performances of highly-trained athletes.


Bell, G.J., Petersen, S.R., Quinney, A.H., Wenger, H.A. (1993). The effect of velocity-specific strength training on peak torque and anaerobic rowing power. Journal of Sports Sciences, 7, 205-214, 1989.

Hagerman, F.C.(1994). Physiology and nutrition for rowing. In: D.R.Lamb, H.G.Knuttgen, and R.Murray. (Eds.) Perspectives in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. Volume 7. Physiology and Nutrition for Competitive Sport (pp.221-302). Carmel, Indiana: Cooper Publishing Group.

Hawley, J.A. and Burke, L.M. (1998). Peak Performance: Training and Nutritional Strategies for Sport. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Hawley, J.A., Myburgh, K.H., Noakes, T.D., Dennis, S.C. (1997).Training techniques to improve fatigue resistance and enhance endurance performance. Journal of Sports Sciences,15, 325-333.

Hickson, R.C., Dvorak, B.A., Gorostiaga, E.M., Kurowski, T.T., Foster, C. (1988). Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance. Journal of Applied Physiolgy,65, 2285-2290.

Marcinik, E.J., Potts, J., Schlabach, G., Will, S., Dawson, P., Hurley, B.F. (1991). Effects of strength training on lactate threshold and endurance performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 23, 739-743.

Paavolainen, L., Hakkinen, K., Rusko, H. (1991). Effects of explosive type strength training on physical performance charactersitics in cross-country skiers. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 62, 251-255.

Tanaka, H., Costill, D.L., Thomas, R., Fink, W.J., Widrick, J.J. (1993). Dry-land resistance training for competitive swimming. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 25, 952-959.



Strength Training for Women: Hormonal Considerations

By: C. Harmon Brown, M.D.
Chair of USATF's Sports Medicine and Sciences Committee.
From: Published in Track Coach: No137
Site Link: Coachr.


Dr. Brown, Chair of USATF's Sports Medicine and Sciences Committee, referred to this in a note to us as a "think piece." He calls for coaches and scientists to continue this kind of study. This is a well-documented article, which may lead the interested coach to investigate further. We welcome response to this important article.

Strength training to enhance sports performance and improve fitness is now a common means of exercise for women. It has progressed to the point that there is now a world championships in weightlifting for women.

For many years resistive exercises for women were shunned for fear of these athletes becoming "masculinized" through the use of heavy weights. However, early studies showed that women were able to exhibit considerable improvements in strength with only minimal degrees of muscle hypertrophy (2). These researchers pointed out that the likelihood of major muscle hypertrophy from resistance training was small in comparison to males, as women have blood levels of the anabolic hormone testosterone which are only 5-10 per cent of those of men.

Many subsequent studies have borne out these early findings. Further, resistance training itself does not appear to increase basal levels of testosterone in women, and strength gains are not correlated with blood testosterone levels (3-5).

The endocrine aspects of exercise science have increased greatly in recent years, especially in the areas associated with resistance training. Assessing the roles of the various hormones as to the cause-and- effect relationships in response to any exercise stimulus can be very complex.
Hormonal levels in blood and tissues are influenced by their production from the parent organ, clearance from the blood by the liver, kidneys, and other peripheral tissues, and their binding to specific receptor sites in target organs.

In addition, steroidal hormones such as androgens, adrenal hormones, and ovarian hormones circulate in the blood bound to specific carrier proteins, with only a tiny fraction in the "free" form which is available to tissues.

Evaluation of the numerous studies which have been carried out concerning the responses of the endocrine system are further complicated by the variety of test protocols which have been utilized. Aerobic vs. resistance loading produces different hormonal responses, and even seemingly similar studies may yield different results. The athlete's state of training and nutrition can also influence the metabolic and hormonal outcomes.

There are at least three anabolic hormones which are responsible for muscle hypertrophy: testosterone (and dihydrotestosterone), pituitary growth hormone (GH), and insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), formerly called somatomedin-C.


Initially, studies focused on the role of testosterone in response to an exercise stimulus, especially resistive loading. It soon became apparent that, in addition to different basal levels between men and women, the response to exercise is quite different. Following a bout of resistive exercise, the male's testosterone level rises considerably, while in women the values change little, if at all.
Further, the disposition of testosterone in the body differs between the sexes. In males, about 50 per cent of the testosterone is bound to receptors in muscle, while only about 10 percent is cleared in this manner in women. However, women do show a greater response of the weaker adrenal androgen, androstenedione.

Concerns that resistive training in women raises basal testosterone levels, or that higher basal testosterone levels are accompanied by greater strength gains, have not been borne out.


Growth hormone responds to both aerobic and resistive exercise. Growth hormone stimulates muscle growth by facilitating the transport of amino acids across cell membranes, activating DNA transcription in the muscle cell nucleus, thus increasing the amounts of RNA and protein synthesis.


Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF- I) is a potent anabolic factor. It is believed that growth hormone's effects are mediated through IGF-I. IGF-I is stored in the liver and peripheral tissues. It is released slowly (16-28 hours) after growth hormone stimulation. In those situations in which it was measured, IGF-I levels have risen little or not at all after exercise bouts which have been sufficient to elevate growth hormone concentrations. Further, increases in IGF-I did not seem to correlate with the rises in GH. The reasons for this are not clear.

It would appear from the foregoing that the growth hormone IGF-I complex plays a significant role in the development of muscle hypertrophy and strength in women. Hence, strength programs for women should focus on maximizing growth hormone production.


In a series of elegant studies, W. Kraemer, et al. (9-12) examined the hormonal responses to a wide variety of resistive training protocols in both men and women. By varying the resistive load (5-RM vs. l0-RM) and the rest interval (1 minute vs. 3 minutes), they were able to demonstrate considerable differences in the response of several hormones.

In summary, the greatest rises in GH occurred with the protocol in which eight different exercises were used, with three sets of each exercise. The resistance was l0-RM, or approximately 70-75 percent of the l-RM, and the rest interval was one minute between each exercise and between each set.


Similar responses were seen in both men and women, with the women having somewhat higher baseline GH levels, and slightly greater exercise responses. However, in all prior studies by these and other authors, women were studied only during the follicular phase (first half) of the menstrual cycle.
Only recently has the effect of the menstrual cycle on various hormonal responses to resistive training been assessed (6). RR Kraemer, et al. (7, 8) studied the changes in hormonal response which occurred during both the follicular and luteal phases of the cycle in the same group of subjects. These women were subjected to a moderate exercise regimen of three sets of 10 repetitions of four different exercises with a 2- minute rest interval. There was a significantly higher GH response during the luteal phase, as well as much higher estradiol levels. Other studies have suggested that the female hormone estradiol facilitates the release of growth hormone.


These studies suggest that strength training programs for women should be tailored to each athlete's menstrual cycle. Although there have been no studies to validate the effect of these cyclic hormonal variations on muscle growth and strength development, the research findings are strongly suggestive that such a study would be of considerable value.

Until such a study is done, however, imaginative strength coaches should consider devising strength development programs which take into account these hormonal fluctuations which occur during the menstrual cycle. Such considerations might be especially valuable during the basic "hypertrophy" mesocycle of a strength development program.

These programs should consider:

  1. During the luteal phase (second half) of the menstrual cycle strength training should consist of "moderate intensity" loading, using 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions at 65- 75% of the 1- RM, done three times a week. These exercises should involve the large muscle groups of the upper and lower extremities and trunk, i.e., bench press, squats, power cleans, leg press, sit-ups, dead lifts, etc.
  2. The rest interval between sets and exercises should be no more than two minutes, and preferably shorter.
  3. A similar routine also may be of value during the follicular phase (first half) of the cycle, although the estradiol and GH responses may be lower.
  4. f the athlete is using oral contraceptives, no phasic change in GH response can be expected (1) unless the oral contraceptive is of the "tri-phasic" variety. Several studies of athletes using oral contraceptives have been done. These have yielded conflicting results as to whether there is a greater-than-expected GH response, probably because of variations in hormonal strength and type, and in exercise protocol.
  5. During the "strength" phase of the training cycle (lower repetitions, higher loading), i.e., four sets of five repetitions at 80% of l-RM, a lesser response of estradiol and GH is to be expected, and the training program need not be adapted to the menstrual cycle.

It is hoped that this paper will stir some thought and even controversy in the strength-training community and will lead to further studies and some empirical trials by innovative coaches and scientists.


The Function of the Mid-Torso In Sports Activities

By: Adrian Faccioni.
Lecturer in Sports Coaching, University of Cabberra, Australia.
From: Published in Track Coach: No133 - Fall 1995.
Site Link: Coachr.

1. Anatomy & Kinesiology.



Most sports encompass relatively large movements of the trunk. Since the trunk segment has a large mass, great demands are exerted on the trunk musculature, particularly if the trunk movements are to be performed with high accelerations. Also the trunk has a critical role in the maintenance of stability and balance when performing movements with the extremities.

Sporting activities requiring running or jumping place pressure on the lumbo-pelvic region (that includes the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebra), the pelvis and the hips as this region becomes the hub of weight bearing. The superior forces (from torso, head and arms) meet the inferior forces transmitted from the ground through the lower extremity.

No part of the body is more vulnerable to tissue strains and sprains. This point is the center of all body movements and efficient body movements (as required in sprinting) can be critical in maintaining the stability of an anatomically correct body position, that of the Abdominal muscle groups, erector spinae (making up the mid-torso region) and the gluteus maximus (Porterfield 1985).

A study by Comerford, et al. (1991) analyzed the mid-torso muscle groups to see which group had the greatest impact on lumbo-pelvic stabilization. Results indicated that oblique muscle groups were the most important for this stabilization (especially from pelvic rotation forces) as found in high-speed sprint movements.

To assist in sprint acceleration, powerful arm drive will allow for a more rapid and powerful leg extension. The limitation with this technique is that large rotational forces can be placed upon the mid-torso musculature. If there is inadequate stability in this region, rotation of the pelvis will occur to counteract shoulder rotation resulting in poor technique and inefficient force application; therefore a slower athlete will be the result.

At an elite level, upper body strength is emphasized in sprint athletes out with a concurrent development of mid-torso strength to allow efficient usage of this additional strength during high-speed sprinting movements.

The naturally occurring wide pelvis of the mature female also leads to the above problem and mid-torso strength is absolutely vital if the coach wishes to maximize efficient technique at maximal speed in his/her female sprint athletes. Hip rotation is required to maximize stride length, but if excessive, then poor technique will result and if combined with a poor pelvic tilt, then major inefficiencies will result, leading to either poor performance, injuries or both.

Apart from resistance to rotational forces, there must be support of the pelvis to minimize excessive anterior pelvic tilt. An excessive anterior tilt indicates poorly toned mid-torso musculature and this can increase the lordotic curve (lower back arch) in the lumbar region. This can increase the strain on the facet joints in the vertebral column and can result in the iliopsoas going into spasm to protect the lower core from injury.

Also increased pressure on the neural plexus from the lumbar region can result in nerve irritation (e.g. sciatic nerve) which can then affect the optimal functioning of lower limb musculature that can have deleterious effects if maximal effort work (e.g., 100% sprinting) is performed (such as hamstring strains).

Excessive anterior tilt of the pelvis can limit hip range of motion leading to excessive hip extension and limited hip flexion. This technical position limits stride length and increases ground contact time (which is undesirable for increases in speed performance) due to the athlete's center of gravity being lower than required for maximal sprinting speed.

The demands of sprinting require the abdominals to function in a way that leads to optimal torsional stabilization during explosive contractile sequences, matching the needs of performing up to 5 strides per second (such as that which occurs in an elite sprint race). During sprinting at this rate, the lower limb velocity can reach 80km/h; therefore the stresses placed upon the pelvic stabilizers are extreme and can only be accommodated for with extremely well-developed abdominal (including oblique) musculature (Francis 1992).


The development of a strong mid-torso should be the goal of all speed/power athletes and the preferred procedures for maximizing strength in this region is by the common sit-up. Kinesiologically, the sit-up and its many variations are the ideal exercises to develop the vertebral flexor and rotational muscles (namely the RA, EO & IO).

The mid-torso musculature consists of postural muscles with a high percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Their function is to be able to hold contractions for long periods to maximize trunk stability (Nordel and Frankel 1989, p. 104).

To best condition this region, variations on the sit-up can be used. To maximize abdominal development and minimize stress placed upon the lower back, exercises should be performed slowly (1-4 seconds per repetition) while working on all muscle groups in the mid-torso region.

These exercises should also be performed through a range of motion that minimizes lower back strain, and maximal control is required. When compared to the stress placed upon the lumbar region when standing (assume this is measured as 100%), the full sit-up (Figure 5), even with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, creates a stress equal to 200%.

This load can be decreased if the sit-up is only partial (first 30' from floor) and lessened even more if a reverse sit-up is performed (pelvis lifted off the floor) (Figure 6).

The reverse curl has been shown to increase the activation on the EO and IO as well as the RA (Nordin & Frankel 1989, p. 202). A modification to maximize load and minimize stress upon the lumbar region is to perform a partial crunch as well as a reverse sit-up concurrently (Figure 7) and hold each maximal contraction for four seconds. This minimizes the use of assistant muscle groups and quickly fatigues the musculature targeted in only 5-15 repetitions.

Sit-ups performed fast and or with the feet supported have:

  1. The relative contribution of the hip flexors increasing while the relative contribution of the abdominal muscles decreasing (Sevier 1969).
  2. Increased stress placed upon the lumbar region of the spine.
  3. Decreased load on the abdominal musculature due to increased momentum from the upper body.

The major limitation of the sit-up is the functional application of mid-torso strength transferable from a sit-up routine to the pelvic stabilization required under the stresses of a sprint or any high-speed movement performance. Personal observation of a variety of athletes has highlighted that even the development of very strong mid-torso regions from situps and squat type activities do not automatically transfer to the pelvic and mid-torso positions required to maximize sprinting performance.

Many athletes are strong enough through their mid-torso region but have not developed correct motor patterns to be able to stabilize the body while having rapid upper and lower limb movements (e.g., arm and leg movements in sprinting). To develop the specific strength qualities or transfer mid-torso strength to the required strength positions can be achieved both in a weight room and the field/court/ track situation.


The best adaptation in the mid-torso musculature results from slow isotonic training in combination with isometric training in a range of nonspecific and sprinting-specific body positions.

Once the athlete can perform acceptable slow isotonic (with movement) mid-torso exercises, more sprint specific positioning can be introduced that requires the athlete to place his hips in the necessary posterior tilt position while placing stress upon the mid-torso musculature. Examples of these exercises are:

  1. Abdominal hollowing (Figure 8)
  2. Isometric prone (Figure 9)
  3. Single leg raise with lumbar support (Figure 10).

Abdominal hollowing

To perform abdominal hollowing the athlete can be either in a supine position or standing. The technique is to contract the abdominals "INWARDS" as hard as possible while maintaining normal rib cage positioning. This can be assisted by placing a finger into the belly button and try to push the abdominal wall inwards while maximally contracting. The athlete should continue to breath as normally as possible throughout the exercise; each contraction can be held for up to 60 seconds.

Isometric prone

To perform an Isometric prone exercise the athlete begins on elbows and knees and then takes the knees off the ground while trying to maximally contract the abdominal musculature upwards. If any stress is felt on the lower back, this is an indication that the abdominal wall is not being totally contracted. This position should be held 15-60 seconds depending upon the condition of the athlete.

Single leg raise with lumbar support

To perform a single leg raise with lumbar support, the athlete places the tips of his fingers under the lower back and maximally contracts the back against the fingers. Then one leg at a time is slowly lowered (up to 10 seconds per leg) while maintaining a constant pressure on the fingers. As soon as the pressure decreases, this indicates that the abdominal musculature is beginning to fail and the hip flexors have been activated. At this point if the pressure cannot be regained, the athlete either finishes that repetition or brings the leg slowly back to the starting position until lower back pressure can be regained and then continues the repetition.

These are still "PASSIVE" isometric exercises (done slowly) that once a high competency is reached can be followed by "ACTIVE" isometric exercises that are highly sprint specific.

Examples of these exercises are:

  • Rapid hip extension/hip flexion (Figure 11)
  • Modified Russian Twist with/ without arm swing. The 'MRT' is accomplished while reclining with the buttocks on a raised, fixed seat and with the toes/feet hooked under a rigid padded bar. In this position, the back, shoulders and head are not supported. Then twist at the waist while swinging an arm in the direction of the rotation. (Figure 12)



The weight room training is purely a precursor to what must be achieved at the "on field" situation. This is where true application of the strength gain can be both assessed and true transfer can be completed.

This goal can be achieved in two parts.

  • The correct body positioning can be further applied by several "running drills" that are aimed at correct running form (which usually means correct body posture through the mid-torso).

The "A", modified single leg "A", "B", heel flick and high knee drills (Figure 13) are all aimed at increasing the tilting and rotational stresses that are placed upon the mid-torso musculature. These drills can be done slowly at first and progressively sped up as the athlete's ability to hold the correct position improves.

 The modified single leg "A" places high levels of stress upon the mid-torso region to hold the pelvis in place while the athletes perform very explosive hip flexion and extension movements in a single leg form.

  • The most specific transfer to sprinting is to have the athlete sprint while concentrating on the positioning drilled previously. Sprints should be less than maximal at first, progressing only as the athlete is able to maintain the correct running position. As soon as pelvic stability decreases, the drill should be stopped.

External resistance to increase learning can be in the form of a towing device that the athletes place around their mid-torso and the pressure on this region through each repetition reinforces the control required and increases the level of control as the athlete is having to work harder to maintain good body position under this increased resistance. (Figure 14)

It is important that the resistive load be small enough so that the athlete is able to maintain proper sprint acceleration posture. Bending forward at the waist should be avoided.

In summary, the mid-torso is the link between the upper and lower body and must allow the transfer of strength movements and allow powerful movements of both the upper and lower body to complement each other. The best way to achieve this is to develop mid-torso strength through traditional ways (situps) but ensure functional strength (by more specific mid-torso training methods) is being attained throughout the athlete's training year.