Strength training improves cycling efficiency in master endurance athletes

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Feb;112(2):631-40. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-2013-1. Epub 2011 Jun 3.


The purpose of this study was to test the effect of a 3-week strength training program of knee extensor muscles on cycling delta efficiency in master endurance athletes. Nine master (age 51.5 ± 5.5 years) and 8 young (age 25.6 ± 5.9 years) endurance athletes with similar training levels participated in this study. During three consecutive weeks, all the subjects were engaged in a strength training program of the knee extensor muscles. Every week, they performed three training sessions consist of 10 × 10 knee extensions at 70% of maximal repetition with 3 min rest between in a leg extension apparatus. Maximal voluntary contraction torque (MVC torque) and force endurance (End) were assessed before, after every completed week of training, and after the program. Delta efficiency (DE) in cycling was evaluated before and after the training period. Before the training period, MVC torque, End, and DE in cycling were significantly lower in masters than in young. The strength training induced a significant improvement in MVC torque in all the subjects, more pronounced in masters (+17.8% in masters vs. +5.9% in young, P < 0.05). DE in cycling also significantly increased after training in masters, whereas it was only a trend in young. A significant correlation (r = 0.79, P < 0.01) was observed between MVC torque and DE in cycling in masters. The addition of a strength training program for the knee extensor muscles to endurance-only training induced a significant improvement in strength and cycling efficiency in master athletes. This enhancement in muscle performance alleviated all the age-related differences in strength and efficiency.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Efficiency / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*