Remember those “girly-men” of 1980s past, or more aptly non-girly-men. To those of us who didn’t look like Hans and Franz (check out a video), Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon scared us. “Wow are they big, they must lift really heavy things,” we collectively thought. Or at least I did. This is where my mind went as I read a review of two new research articles on resistance training and endurance training.
We know the benefits of strength training. From elite athletes to sedentary individuals resistance training is vitally important. Yet, few of us regularly engage in this type of activity. Amongst women the excuse heard most often is “I don’t want to bulk up,” which is based on the common myth that women will begin to look like Hans if they step in a weight room. Men are more comfortable in the weight room yet if you can get one that doesn’t lift heavy things to be honest, they will most likely tell you they aren’t sure of what to do when they get there and don’t want to look silly. They don’t want to be girly-men. Talk to a person in the weight room about what to do and how to do it and you will get a hundred different responses, all delivered with passion. The easiest way around this is to talk to a fitness professional.
Amidst all this confusion is a refrain typically repeated in exercise physiology textbooks which is that endurance athletes should engage in resistance training in order to improve their performance, yet if your goal is to develop strength, stay away from the treadmill. An extension of this is that we shouldn’t do both endurance and resistance training on the same day. The thought is that your body cannot simultaneously respond appropriately to both endurance and resistance training, therefore it chooses one response at the expense of the other. I’ve taught this theory myself. Enter these two new studies, one from the Journal of Applied Physiology (JAP) and the other from Medicine and Science in Exercise and Sport (MSSE).
Both groups of researchers looked at what happened when you resistance train and endurance train concurrently. (Again, the thought is that by doing both you can’t reach your peak in either.) Different types of subjects were used in each study (JAP study utilized sedentary men in their 50s while MSSE went with young active men (college students) who were not competitive athletes.) The subjects in the JAP research cycled with one leg for 45 minutes and then six hours later completed resistance training with each leg (thus, one leg was endurance trained only and the other was endurance and resistance trained). For the MSSE study, subjects rode the bike for 40 minutes on one occasion, resistance trained on another day, and on a third day biked for 20 minutes and did some resistance training.
Although the MSSE group did note some differences, both groups independently stated surprise. “…after combined training, the men’s muscles displayed the same amount of change within both cellular pathways as after either type of exercise on its own, even though the men had actually completed only half as much of each.” Did you catch that? With combined training both types of response (endurance and resistance) increased, and more surprisingly, when cutting by half the endurance portion and resistance training portions (i.e. concurrent training), the same response was elicited as when completing each type of training individually even though they only completed half as much of each type of training. Wow.
Take home message: you can ride your bike AND lift weights when you exercise today without compromising the response. And as an added bonus, rather than cycle for 60 minutes today and do 12 lifts tomorrow, do 30 minutes of cycling and 6 lifts today. Based on these studies, you’ll get similar responses. Interesting.
These are just a couple of studies, looking only at men, and only in the short term. However, the results sure are intriguing. No more avoidance of the weight room for me. Time to cowboy up and lift really heavy things. Like 5 pound dumbbells. Have to start somewhere.