Strength training improves cycling performance, fractional utilization of VO2max and cycling economy in female cyclists

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2016 Apr;26(4):384-96. doi: 10.1111/sms.12468. Epub 2015 Apr 18.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of adding heavy strength training to well-trained female cyclists' normal endurance training on cycling performance. Nineteen female cyclists were randomly assigned to 11 weeks of either normal endurance training combined with heavy strength training (E+S, n = 11) or to normal endurance training only (E, n = 8). E+S increased one repetition maximum in one-legged leg press and quadriceps muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) more than E (P < 0.05), and improved mean power output in a 40-min all-out trial, fractional utilization of VO2 max and cycling economy (P < 0.05). The proportion of type IIAX-IIX muscle fibers in m. vastus lateralis was reduced in E+S with a concomitant increase in type IIA fibers (P < 0.05). No changes occurred in E. The individual changes in performance during the 40-min all-out trial was correlated with both change in IIAX-IIX fiber proportion (r = -0.63) and change in muscle CSA (r = 0.73). In conclusion, adding heavy strength training improved cycling performance, increased fractional utilization of VO2 max , and improved cycling economy. The main mechanisms behind these improvements seemed to be increased quadriceps muscle CSA and fiber type shifts from type IIAX-IIX toward type IIA.

Keywords: Concurrent training; aerobic power; cycling performance; muscle fiber type composition; work economy.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiology
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Young Adult


  • Lactic Acid