Individual responses to combined endurance and strength training in older adults

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Mar;43(3):484-90. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181f1bf0d.


Purpose: A combination of endurance and strength training is generally used to seek further health benefits or enhanced physical performance in older adults compared with either of the training modes alone. The mean change within a training group, however, may conceal a wide range of individual differences in the responses. The purpose, therefore, was to examine the individual trainability of aerobic capacity and maximal strength, when endurance and strength training are performed separately or concurrently.

Methods: For this study, 175 previously untrained volunteers, 89 men and 86 women between the ages of 40 and 67 yr, completed a 21-wk period of either strength training (S) twice a week, endurance training (E) twice a week, combined training (ES) four times per week, or served as controls. Training adaptations were quantified as peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) in a bicycle ergometer test to exhaustion and maximal isometric bilateral leg extension force (MVC) in a dynamometer.

Results: A large range in training responses, similar to endurance or strength training alone, was also observed with combined endurance and strength training in both ΔVO2peak (from -8% to 42%) and ΔMVC (from -12% to 87%). There were no significant correlations between the training responses in VO2peak and MVC in the E, S, or especially in the ES group, suggesting that the same subjects did not systematically increase both aerobic capacity and maximal strength.

Conclusions: The goal of combined endurance and strength training--increasing both aerobic capacity and maximal strength simultaneously--was only achieved by some of the older subjects. New means are needed to personalize endurance, strength, and especially combined endurance and strength training programs for optimal individual adaptations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Resistance Training*