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Should Cyclists Use Strength Training Machines?

A new study from Denmark shows that adding the use of special strength training machines to bicycle racers' cycling training can help them ride faster in races (Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, December, 2011; 21(6):e298-307).

Previous studies have shown conflicting results on whether strength training helps cyclists to ride faster in races. This is one of the best studies because the researchers compared cyclists who added strength and endurance training to their programs for 16 weeks to those doing only the cycling training. Those who added strength training were stronger, as shown by their improvement in scientific measures of strength. Their maximal muscle capacity (MMC) and contractile rate of force development (CRFD), were up to 20 percent greater than the cycle-only group. Their 45-minute time trials were eight percent faster than the cycle-only group. They also had an increase in their proportion of fast twitch strength (type IIA) fibers in muscles. (Fast twitch type IIA fibers are the strength and speed fibers that also have great endurance. In contrast, fast twitch Type IIB are pure strength fibers with minimal endurance).

Both groups had the same short-term, five-minute endurance performance increase of three to four percent.

EXPLANATION: Cycling is a power sport. The stronger you are, the faster you can ride over long distances. This study shows that adding weight lifting to a cycling program makes you stronger.

CAVEATS: 1) All athletes should train by some form of stress and recovery program. They take a hard workout on one or more days, feel sore on the next day, and take easier workouts for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away.

2) A typical cycling training program includes very fast days on Tuesdays and Thursdays that usually include some form of interval training; race days of sustained effort on Saturdays or Sundays or both; and much slower recovery days on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

3) Do not use the strength machines on the days that you are recovering from hard cycling and your muscles feel sore. Recovery days are to keep your muscles moving, but not to put so much pressure on them that you delay healing. Remember, you are only as fast as your fastest training days. Riding too fast on recovery days delays muscle healing and can leave you sore on the next day when you had planned to ride fast. Anything that interferes with your intense fast training days will also interfere with your race times.

4) Never use strength training machines when your muscles feel particularly tired or you feel localized pain in your leg muscles. These are the warning signs that you are likely to injure yourself if you put too much pressure on your muscles at that time.


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Weak Arms and Legs Predict Death in the Elderly

In 2003, two hundred and seven 85-year old Japanese men and women were given physical fitness tests and were offered access to an exercise program (Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, January 2012;54(1):28-33).

6.5 years later, 81 of the people had died. Those who survived had had much stronger hand grip strength and leg extension strength. For each increase of one kilogram in hand grip strength, a person had a six percent lower chance of dying. For each increase of one kilogram of leg extension force, a person had a two percent lower chance of dying.

Being strong and active in later life helps you live longer.


Coffee Raises Blood Pressure Only for a Short Time

A review of scientific studies shows that coffee (caffeine) raises blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure for up to 3 hours. However it does not cause sustained high blood pressure and has not been shown to increase risk for heart attacks in people who have, and do not have, high blood pressure (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2011).


Flaxseeds, but Not Extracted Flaxseed Oils, Lower Cholesterol

Flaxseeds are a plant source of a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart attacks. A comprehensive literature search found twenty-eight studies that showed that ground whole flaxseeds, but not extracted flaxseed oils, reduce total and bad LDL cholesterol. They did not change triglycerides or the good HDL cholesterol (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2011).

Whole flaxseeds are not a good source of omega-3 fatty acids because their thick outer layer prevents most of the omega-3 oils from being absorbed; the seeds pass through undigested. Ground flaxseeds are a good source of omega-3s.


All Impotent Men Should Be Checked for Diabetes

One of the most common causes of impotence is diabetes or pre-diabetes (Urologic Clinics of North America, February 2012; 39(1):53-62).

If you are a man who suffers from inability to maintain or sustain an erection, get blood tests called HBA1C and fasting blood sugar level. If your HBA1C is greater than 6 or your fasting morning blood sugar level is over 100, high blood sugar levels are probably the cause of your inability to perform.

When blood sugar levels rise too high, sugar sticks to the outside surface of cell membranes to damage your arteries so you cannot sustain an erection. You are also at high risk for the same thing happening to the arteries leading to your heart to cause a heart attack.

You need to check with a doctor. Restrict all forms of sugar, particularly sugared drinks, bakery products, pastas and desserts; avoid red meat; and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Get into a supervised exercise program, lose excess weight, build muscle and get checked for vitamin D deficiency.


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December 18th, 2011
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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