Background: Both athletes and recreational exercisers often perform relatively high volumes of aerobic and strength training simultaneously. However, the compatibility of these two distinct training modes remains unclear.
Objective: This systematic review assessed the compatibility of concurrent aerobic and strength training compared with strength training alone, in terms of adaptations in muscle function (maximal and explosive strength) and muscle mass. Subgroup analyses were conducted to examine the influence of training modality, training type, exercise order, training frequency, age, and training status.
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. PubMed/MEDLINE, ISI Web of Science, Embase, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, and Scopus were systematically searched (12 August 2020, updated on 15 March 2021). Eligibility criteria were as follows.
Population: healthy adults of any sex and age; Intervention: supervised concurrent aerobic and strength training for at least 4 weeks; Comparison: identical strength training prescription, with no aerobic training; Outcome: maximal strength, explosive strength, and muscle hypertrophy.
Results: A total of 43 studies were included. The estimated standardised mean differences (SMD) based on the random-effects model were - 0.06 (95% confidence interval [CI] - 0.20 to 0.09; p = 0.446), - 0.28 (95% CI - 0.48 to - 0.08; p = 0.007), and - 0.01 (95% CI - 0.16 to 0.18; p = 0.919) for maximal strength, explosive strength, and muscle hypertrophy, respectively. Attenuation of explosive strength was more pronounced when concurrent training was performed within the same session (p = 0.043) than when sessions were separated by at least 3 h (p > 0.05). No significant effects were found for the other moderators, i.e. type of aerobic training (cycling vs. running), frequency of concurrent training (> 5 vs. < 5 weekly sessions), training status (untrained vs. active), and mean age (< 40 vs. > 40 years).
Conclusion: Concurrent aerobic and strength training does not compromise muscle hypertrophy and maximal strength development. However, explosive strength gains may be attenuated, especially when aerobic and strength training are performed in the same session. These results appeared to be independent of the type of aerobic training, frequency of concurrent training, training status, and age.
© 2021. The Author(s).