Leg presses before cycling: 6 percent faster over 20k
Cyclists can make better time over 20 km if, before getting on their bike, they do a few sets of heavy leg presses. Sports scientists at the Catholic University of Brasilia have published their findings in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Post-activation potentiation is the phenomenon where, for instance, bodybuilders can squeeze more reps out of their sets by doing a short set with a heavy weight beforehand. Short but intensive exertion activates the muscles after which they work at a higher level. Athletes can give their body a serious training stimulus in this way. For more on post-activation potentiation click here.
In the experiment that the Brazilians published in the September edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the researchers got 11 experienced male cyclists to do a timed ride of 20 km on two different occasions. One of the timed rides started 15 minutes after the cyclists had done 4 sets of leg presses with a weight at which they could manage 5 reps. The athletes rested for 5 minutes between sets.
The cyclists finished the timed ride in a noticeably shorter time after doing the leg-press sets [Potentiation]: they needed 6.1 percent less time to do the 20 km if they’d done leg presses first.
Post-activation potentiation boosted the VO2 max a little, but this effect was not statistically significant. Post-Activation Potentiation also slightly reduced the increase in lactic acid concentration and fatigue, but these effects weren't significant either. So the researchers are not sure about how post-activation potentiation enhances cyclists' performance.
"These results have practical implications as they suggest that acute interventions with heavy-intensity strength exercises could potentiate the performance of a subsequent cycling time trial", conclude the Brazilians.
"Therefore, heavy-intensity strength exercise bouts may be strategically planned to be included within warm-up routines for specific cycling training sessions and competitions. For example, a 'complex warm-up strategy' involving heavy-intensity strength exercises may be incorporated into a warm-up routine for individual or team speed cyclists, competing short pursuit trials, individual time trials, or short stages of long-term competitions such as the Tour de France."
J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Sep;28(9):2513-20.
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