What do cable cars, Rice-A-Roni, and muscle physiology have in common? Today, nothing. But last month, the American College of Sports Medicine held their annual meeting in San Francisco. During the five-day science fair, training met the trolley, research met Rice-A-Roni, and muscle met the Moscone center. This is the true story of what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real – real about cutting edge physique and performance research!
Last week, Cassandra Forsythe covered Part 1 of the big ACSM conference. This week David Barr will cover the interesting abstracts related to endurance training, strength training, athletic performance and recovery.
Part 1 – Hot and Cold Therapy For Recovery
COLD WATER IMMERSION FOLLOWING INTENSE INTERVAL RUNNING IMPROVES SUBSEQUENT RUNNING PERFORMANCE
Can we improve recovery time by using cold water to “ice” the muscles after they’ve been worked? The following study sought to answer that very question.
Following an intense 6 km interval run, subjects either immersed their lower bodies in cold water for ten minutes or performed light stretching for the same duration. Measures of muscular power (vertical jump) and treadmill time to fatigue were measured before and three days after the exercise and subsequent treatments.
Results: There was no effect of cold “tubbing” on muscular power, but treadmill time to fatigue was increased by the cryotherapy, even though it was decreased in the stretching group.
Muscle damage that happens after difficult exercise may contribute to the performance deficits seen after such activities. Cold tubbing following strenuous exercise may minimize this muscle damage and therefore have a beneficial effect on submaximal athletic performance. On another positive note, cold water on “the boys” will preserve your sperm for future generations! (1)
EFFECTS OF CRYOTHERAPY ON MUSCULAR POWER
Much like the previous study, this one investigated the effect of cold tubbing on muscular performance, the major difference being what was measured (in this case it was anaerobic power output) and when.
Subjects performed multiple Wingate anaerobic cycling tests. This is where you basically peddle as hard as you can for 30 seconds. Sure, this type of physical test is fun for the first five seconds, but then it becomes the hardest work of your life, believe me! There were a total of four different sessions for the subjects, each having two bouts of Wingate trials separated by a short period of time.
More specifically, two of the sessions each had two Wingates separated by only two minutes with or without immersing the legs in a cold whirlpool for a minute between trials. The remaining two sessions performed the same protocol with ten minutes between trials, again with or without the cryotherapy.
On a positive note, the exposure to cold resulted in greater peak and relative anaerobic power. On a negative note, the cryotherapy decreased anaerobic capacity.
In this situation cryotherapy was useful for maintaining power output for short periods of time only. When anaerobic capacity is needed (e.g. hockey or basketball), this type of short-term cold exposure is a bad idea, but it could be applicable for strength training or pure power sports like football. (2)
EFFECTS OF POST-EXERCISE SAUNA BATHING ON 2000-M ROWING PERFORMANCE AND BLOOD VOLUMES
In contrast to the previous studies, this one used a hot sauna following rowing sessions in competitive rowers. They used ~30 minutes of sauna therapy and compared subsequent mean power outputs to sessions without sauna.
Power outputs didn’t significantly change at any time point, although there was a trend for reduction in power output two days following the exercise only when sauna therapy was used. The authors concluded that sauna therapy following exercise may actually decrease performance two days following the training session.
Taking into consideration the information from the previous study, we can summarize by saying that after a workout: cold good, hot bad. (3)
Part 2 – Stretching and Warming Up
THE EFFECT OF WARM-UP ON MIDDLE DISTANCE RUNNING
Different warm-ups were examined for their effect on time to exhaustion and energy metabolism during treadmill-simulated middle distance running. The different conditions included: 1) no warm up at all, 2) running ten minutes at 60% max aerobic capacity (VO2 max) followed by five minutes recovery, and 3) running seven and a half minutes at 60% max aerobic capacity followed by 6 x 15 second bouts of hard running (105% VO2 max) with one minute in between each and five minutes of rest at the very end.
Essentially, the warm-ups made no difference in time to exhaustion, although condition one had a much greater metabolic contribution from the anaerobic energy system compared to group three. This is due to the fact that warming-up reduces the time necessary to reach steady-state oxygen consumption; therefore, if you don’t warm-up, you’ll take longer to reach your steady-state VO2 (full aerobic contribution) and the energy system required to produce the work will be the anaerobic system.
At first glance, there appears to be no benefit to adding an anaerobic component to a warm-up. A closer look however, reveals that the differing metabolic activation could be exploited in order to improve performance. Just as with training, ensure task specificity in your warm-up. For example, you wouldn’t just warm-up with 135 for ten reps on the bench when going for a 355-pound max. In other words, be sure to warm up in a similar manner to which you’ll be performing, using a shorter duration. In another task, I’m sure the benefits of this warm-up would’ve been seen. (4)
THE EFFECTS OF THE WARM UP AND STRETCHING EXERCISES ON THE PROPRIOCEPTION
While nearly everyone warms up before working out, we may not all do so using the best methods available. In order to determine the best type of warm-up for balance and proprioception, four different protocols were used: 1) no warm-up, 2) stretching, 3) general body warm-up, and 4) a combination of groups two and three.
Following their warm-ups (or lack thereof), the subjects were then tested for their ability to balance and stabilize their bodies. As we may have expected, the group that performed stretching and the general warm-up had the best results. (5)
Okay cool, another reason to warm-up. I wonder what the results would’ve been if a dynamic stretching/warm-up plan had been implemented. Probably better results than any of the groups currently tested. Need another reason to warm-up dynamically? Read on…
THE EFFECTS OF STATIC STRETCHING ON POWER AND VELOCITY DURING THE BENCH PRESS EXERCISE
Static stretching has taken a beating lately in favor of dynamic movements. This study was conducted in order to determine the effect of static stretching on velocity and power during a single rep bench press. Following either a general warm-up with or without static stretching, bench press was performed at 85% of 1RM.
Results: The static stretching prior to benching decreased both power and velocity by nearly 25%! I know many of you out there have been living in a cave and are still doing static stretching before and during your workouts (you know who you are!) despite the recent proliferation of data showing that static stretching impairs muscle strength. This study just adds to the evidence that it’s a bad idea to stretch statically before training. Stick to dynamic warm-ups if you want the best performance and injury prevention. Or better yet, stretch the antagonist instead! (6)
Part 3 – Strength Training
EFFECT OF RESISTANCE TRAINING ON CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE RISK FACTORS AND MUSCLE STRENGTH IN MALES
Although resistance training is much maligned for its lack of effect on the cardiovascular system, there isn’t much evidence that disease risk factors aren’t affected by this type of exercise. In an attempt to evaluate the effect of weight training on the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, 30 males were placed into a resistance training or sedentary control group for six weeks. Total cholesterol, fasting triglycerides, resting blood pressure, body fat, and one rep max were evaluated before and after the six-week protocol.
Ultimately, resting blood pressure was slightly reduced, as were triglyceride levels (by nearly 17%!). There was no effect of resistance training on body fat percentage or total cholesterol levels.
Here’s evidence that resistance training may actually be beneficial at reducing some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, only the reduction in triglyceride levels was really significant, thus ensuring that cardio is still the number one type of exercise for preventing heart disease. Weight training alone just won’t do it. This backs up what Cassandra shared in Part I. (7)
EFFECTS OF RESISTANCE EXERCISE VOLUME ON INSULIN SENSITIVITY DURING ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST
We all know resistance training temporarily improves insulin sensitivity, though we don’t know what factors modify the extent of this response. In order to test volume of training on insulin sensitivity, subjects performed a low volume (three sets, eight exercises, ten reps) or high volume (six sets, eight exercises, ten reps) program and had an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) performed the following day.
Without going into the details, low volume training slightly improved insulin sensitivity, while high volume training greatly improved it.
While the improvements in insulin sensitivity were related to volume of work performed, don’t take this to mean that you should do countless reps and sets in order to improve insulin sensitivity. There’s a limit to how much you can benefit from your volume of training and there’s also a limit to the benefit that improving insulin sensitivity can offer. So don’t go crazy with the volume thinking you’ll get a huge anabolic or fat burning effect!
This effect has greater implications for health than anything else. Also, remember Dr. Lowery’s data has shown that heavy negatives can actually impair insulin sensitivity. So perhaps more traditional bodybuilding workouts may improve insulin sensitivity while strength and power workouts may impair it. (8)
EFFECTS OF SINGLE AND MULTIPLE SETS RESISTANCE TRAINING ON STRENGTH GAINS OF PREVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED ADULTS
Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of evidence suggesting that three sets of an exercise are not superior to a single set for strength gains. In order to investigate this phenomenon in trained people, the subjects performed whole body workouts three times per week for 14 weeks (nine exercises a day, 8-10 reps per set). One group used only one set per exercise, while the other used three. Both 1RM and 8-10RM strength were tested in both groups, before and after the 14-week training period.
Of the strength tests conducted, not one showed that multiple set training was superior to single set training. This study should have been called, “One vs. Three Sets: The debate that will never die!”
Once again, the volume of weight training is put under the microscope (or barbell), and this time actual trained people were used. Usually such experiments are done on untrained people–my best explanation for the previous results–which showed no adaptive differences when training with one or three sets. Now we have a study showing that even trained people fare no better with multiple sets!
While this training style won’t apply to many people interested in optimal athletic performance or muscle hypertrophy, one set per exercise probably isn’t a bad idea for people adopting this kind of frequency and set scheme (i.e. whole body workouts). In other words, it’s mostly for the “health crowd.” (9)
STRENGTH GAINS FOLLOWING EIGHT WEEKS OF ECCENTRIC OVERLOAD TRAINING
It’s been previously demonstrated that increasing eccentric (negative) load can actually benefit concentric strength during the same workout. The authors wanted to see whether similar results would last over a longer period of time, so they used an eight week training protocol.
Athletes trained with four sets of eight reps at 80% of 1RM. One group used an additional 10% load during their eccentric phase of their bench press, while the other group didn’t. Max strength measures were taken before and after this eight week training scheme.
It was found that although strength increased following the eight weeks of training, there were no differences between groups. It’s a cool theory, but adding weight to the eccentric phase of a bench press didn’t seem to make any differences for strength in the long run.
I’m curious as to why only 10% of the concentric load was added for the eccentric phase, since we’re up to 50% stronger during the latter. It’s likely that a greater eccentric load could have made a difference, but this was probably impractical for this study.
Legal Disclaimer: I strongly discourage all of you crazy bastards who’re thinking about throwing 200% of your 1RM on your bench press in an attempt to get a maximal strength increase! (10)
EFFECTS OF TRAINING REGIMEN WITH COMBINED HIGH- AND LOW- INTENSITY RESISTANCE EXERCISES ON HORMONE SECRETION
Can performing low intensity exercise following high intensity exercise increase GH output? It’s been shown before, but we don’t know what amount of weight should be used in the low intensity set to optimize GH output.
All groups trained knee extension at 90% of 1RM for five sets with three minute rest periods in between. One group had no further exercise, while three other groups performed more reps 30 seconds after the last set at either 20, 30, or 50% 1RM and continued until failure.
The groups performing the extra set with 30 and 50% 1RM had higher GH levels than the other two groups. Wow, extra GH following a strength workout! I can just see everyone doing this now! Keep in mind that although the subjects in this study were performing between 20-50 extra reps, I haven’t been able to get past ten using 50% of 1RM (though I am in a strength training phase, so my muscular endurance currently sucks ass).
While most of us don’t shy away at the thought of a serious burn, you should be aware you’re in for one if you do this. It’s probably the lactate production that affects GH, so don’t bother doing this with small body parts that’ll only result in small lactate increases. Admittedly, I don’t imagine a little extra endogenous GH will make much of a difference for muscle growth, but it can’t hurt to try… unless you count the lactic acid burn, then it’ll hurt like hell! (11)
RESISTANCE TRAINING-INDUCED CHANGES IN TOTAL BODY SKELETAL MUSCLE MASS AND DISTRIBUTION
There’s been a lot of talk online about the ability for people to put muscle on their upper but not lower bodies, despite similar training protocols. It’s never really been looked at before, so a research group thought they’d check it out.
Three men trained with total body workouts (three sets to failure, 8-12 reps) three times per week for 16 weeks and had their whole body muscle mass changes tracked throughout. By the end of the trial, the subjects had put on an average of 2.6kg of muscle. Their upper body strength increased by 30% while their lower body strength only increased by 16%. Measurements between upper and lower body muscle growth revealed that upper body muscles generally put on about twice as much mass as the lower body!
Of course, this information won’t change the way you train (well, most of you anyway), but it’s pretty cool info to have, especially if you have a hard time putting on leg mass. For the rare group who wants to take this as dogma, keep in mind there are about a dozen factors that could’ve caused the differences. Still, it’s interesting to consider that perhaps the legs are a little more growth resistant than the upper body. (12)
THE EFFECT OF RESISTANCE TRAINING WITH DIFFERENT WORKOUT FREQUENCY ON STRENGTH AND LEAN TISSUE MASS
In a twist of the training frequency model, this study examined the effects of training two or three times a week keeping the weekly volume of work the same between the two groups. Whole body workouts were performed for six weeks with group one training two times per week with three sets per exercise and group two training three times per week with two sets per exercise.
Surprisingly, despite only a month and a half of training being performed, there was still a trend for the group that trained three times per week to have greater increases in leg press strength.
In spite of my initial impressions of the study, there was a trend for group two (who trained three times a week) to have a greater weekly volume than group one. This is possible through manipulation of the weight used, so that the subjects could complete ten reps for every set. In other words, by the time group one got to their third set, they had to drop the weight in order to perform ten reps. Because group two only had two consecutive sets, they had no such decreases in weight and therefore performed a greater volume of work (volume = reps x sets x weight).
Not surprising, however, was the fact that neither body composition nor any other strength parameter were different between groups. Bottom Line: Beginners can get away with training only twice a week, and volume appears to have a significant impact on strength gains. (13)
EFFECT OF VELOCITY ON ELBOW FLEXOR HYPERTROPHY FOLLOWING ECCENTRIC HIGH-RESISTANCE TRAINING IN YOUNG MALES
There’s been a lot of focus on contraction velocity and time under tension with respect to muscle growth. In an attempt to examine this phenomenon with biceps curls, subjects performed eight weeks of fast negatives with one arm and slow negatives with the other arm. Basically, the faster eccentrics produced the greater muscle growth.
This research gets my award for “Study of the Year” as it was both well designed and produced great results. The reason for the faster eccentrics producing greater growth is thought to be related to the amount of damage caused by the two training styles (faster eccentrics = greater damage =greater muscle growth).
The primary investigator of this paper was kind enough to e-mail me his entire poster so I could take a closer look at the results. You may also be interested to note that the faster eccentrics also resulted in greater strength increases compared to the slow tempo. This flies in the face of the traditional slow eccentrics and time under tension principle, but may have some strong scientific evidence to support it.
Because of the impact of this information and the controversy it’ll produce, the primary investigator has agreed to co-author a comprehensive article on this very topic in the near future. (14)
THE METABOLIC COST AND MUSCLE ACTIVATION EFFECTS OF PIANO PLAYING WITH AND WITHOUT FINGER WEIGHTS
The purpose of this study was to investigate the metabolic effects of using finger weights while playing piano. If you’re really interested in this study, you’re probably reading the wrong magazine and should stop reading this article now. For real.
No, seriously. If you’re still trying to learn about this study you really need to put your skirt on and change to another web page. (15)
Part 4 – Other Types Of Training and Sport
EFFECTS OF CONTINUOUS, INTERVAL AND SPEED TRAINING ON ANAEROBIC CAPACITY
This study looked at the different effects of three training styles on anaerobic and aerobic capacity. Group one trained continuously at 70% VO2 for 30-50 minutes per session, group two used 85-100% VO2 for 16-35 minutes per session, and group three trained at max speed for 20-50m intervals (total 300-400m) per session.
Interestingly, aerobic capacity increased only in group two while anaerobic capacity increased only in group three. I like this study for its design and the fact that it was conducted at the University of Athens in the Department of Track and Field. (How hardcore is that?)
Clearly the intensity of the long slow distance runs was too low to stimulate any adaptations, while group two had improvements in aerobic capacity with only about 25 minutes of hard running per session. Not surprisingly, the anaerobic capacity improved in the sprint interval training group. I guess it goes to show that in order to get adaptations of any kind, you must train with intensity and specificity! (16)
COMPARATIVE EFFECTS OF TRADITIONAL VERSUS PERIODIZED INTENSITY TRAINING ON CYCLING PERFORMANCE
Following a 35km cycling time trial, experienced cyclists used either a traditional high intensity training regime or a periodized plan for 16 weeks. In addition to the trial time, both maximum power and aerobic capacity (VO2) were measured before and after the training
The periodized group had significantly greater improvements in maximum power, aerobic capacity, and 35km trial time compared to the traditionally trained group. No surprises here! Take home message: Are there people out there still not using periodized training programs? Duh! (17)
PHYSIOLOGICAL, ANTHROPOMETRICAL AND MUSCULOSKELETAL CHARACTERISTICS OF PROFESSIONAL ICE HOCKEY PLAYERS
Over the past decade, the physical and physiological characteristics of hockey players from the New York Rangers were compared and reported in this study. Basically, muscle mass, height, and strength have been steadily increasing over the past ten years, while body fat and aerobic fitness have been consistently declining.
On a more specific note, most recently mass was ~93kg on average and height had a mean of ~73 inches. Body fat started at 13.5% ten years ago and has decreased to a recent average of 8.1%!
Okay, this study probably isn’t going to help your performance at all; it’s just kinda cool to see what’s been happening to the bodies of pro sports players over the last decade. If you’re a prospective pro hockey player, the observed trends can help you appropriately tailor your training program. (18)
PHYSIOLOGICAL RESPONSES TO INTERVAL TRAINING AT VELOCITIES ASSOCIATED WITH VO2 MAX
Interval training has become a popular method for improving cardiovascular endurance and decreasing body fat, but it remains to be determined what kind of work/rest ratio will provide optimum results.
Subjects underwent treadmill interval training of varying proportions of work (100% max aerobic capacity) and rest (50% max aerobic capacity). The three different conditions included:
1) 15 seconds work: 15 seconds rest (1:1 ratio)
2) 30 seconds work: 15 seconds rest (2:1 ratio)
3) 60 seconds work: 15 seconds rest (4:1 ratio)
Having the work periods continue for a total of 2400m normalized all trials. Only five of the twelve subjects in the 4:1 group managed to complete the trial, and the resulting aerobic capacities of these subjects didn’t differ from the control group following training.
Interestingly, there were no statistically significant differences between the aerobic benefit of any training style, although the 2:1 work rest ratio also had the best combination of anaerobic and aerobic benefits. But it’s not that surprising since the intensity of each work interval was the same. Perhaps there would’ve been differences if the intensity of the work interval had been increased with the shorter intervals. Regardless, if time is too short to train each way independently, a combination of aerobic/anaerobic interval training may be an effective alternative. (19)
EFFECT OF THE PROPRIOCEPTIVE EXERCISES ON ISOKINETIC STRENGTH AND BALANCE
Proprioception is basically the awareness of your body’s position in space. It’s related to balance and subsequently athletic performance. As a result, proprioceptive training has become a popular tool for many strength and conditioning coaches, even though we don’t know too much about the effects of such training.
In order to determine the effect, one group “trained” their proprioception by balancing with one leg on a balance board with their eyes closed, while the other group did no such training. Following the six weeks of training for 30 minutes three times a week, the trained group was determined to have greater balance and proprioception than the untrained group, although there were no strength differences between groups.
It would seem that proprioceptive training can have an impact on balance, although the extent to which this carries over to athletic performance remains to be seen. In reality, the training would likely have to be far more sports specific than standing on one leg for half an hour at a time, but this study is an important start. Look for more of these studies in the future, but for now I say leave the standing on one leg “training” to the Karate Kid, not athletes. (20)
IN VIVO CONTRACTILE CHARACTERISTICS OF HUMAN MUSCLE: THE EFFECT OF ACUTE TEMPERATURE CHANGE
We all know warm-ups improve muscle function by changing the actual temperature of the muscle. This study was conducted to see exactly what the effects of changing muscle temperature had on both contraction velocity and strength.
After immersing the lower body in either cold (14°C) or hot (42°C) water for half an hour, subjects performed half squats at various loads. The recorded force and velocity was compared to trials without the cold/hot tub exposure.
To summarize the results, muscle temp increased by 2°C while power increased by 3% when the hot tub was used. Muscle temp decreased by a whopping 8°C while power decreased by 15% when the cold tub was used, compared to trials when no heat/cold exposure was used.
Surprisingly, force output wasn’t affected by temperature, but this has little implication to athletic performance because power is the more important of the two variables (Note: Power is a product of both muscle force and velocity, which is why it’s important in athletics. Ironically, there’s actually very little power in powerlifting, due to the lack of velocity in this sport.)
It’s also important that you don’t confuse the results of this study with those of other cold/hot tubbing experiments. The purpose of this study was to look at simulated warm-ups (or lack thereof) on athletic performance, so they used long exposure times (30 minutes) and didn’t look at the effects of the temperature changes on muscle recovery.
In addition, in this study, the temperature manipulations were done before lifting rather than after, as in the previous studies. The bottom line from this study is that cold muscles have greatly decreased performance, warm-ups can enhance factors involved in athletic performance, and power output is more affected by muscle temperature than force production. (21)
1) J.R. Fowles, G. Boutilier, R.J.L. Murphy
2) J.T. Rogers and S.J. Albrechtsen
3) R.H. Creasy, W.G. Hopkins FACSM, G. Scoon, S. Mayhew, J.D. Cotter
4) A. Wittekind, M.H. Sellens, R. Beneke, FACSM
5) M.M.Celebi, M.A.Zergeroglu, E.Ergen
6) A.C. Fry, E. McLellan, L.W. Weiss,F.D. Rosato
7) D.F. Edwards, D. Phelan
8) H.Y. Kang, H.K. Heidi, J.S. Lee, B.S. Kim, H.L. Jung, H.E. Kwak
9) PSC Gomes; AM de Paula; CEO Diogo; M de Freitas; F Rodrigues; MIR Pereira
10) J.N. Jones, R.D. Hagan, FACSM, and J.W. Priest
11) K. Goto, N. Ishii, K. Takamatsu
12) K. Kojima, T. Abe, C.F. Kearns, T. Aoba, T. Matsumoto
13) D.G. Candow, D.G. Burke
14) T.N. Shepstone, S.A. Dallaire, C.E. Correia, J.E. Tang, and S.M. Phillips
15) Okay sissy, here’s the abstract info: D. De Hoyos, K. Browder, T. Thomas, J. Gentles, J.D. Jones, C.E. Broeder
16) E. Zacharogiannis, S. Tziortzis, G. Paradisis
17) V. Soungatoulin, W. Beam, R. Kersey, J. Peterson
18) C.D. Lauzon, D.A.J. Connolly, FACSM, *M.P. McHugh, FACSM
19) R. Rozenek, K. Funato, K. Junjiro, M. Hoshikawa, A. Matsuo
20) S.T. Jeong, J.H. Hwang, S.Y. Jae, W.H. Park
21) D. Ball, P. Brown, M. Cardinale