Long climbs of modest grades are the ideal terrain for Muscular Endurance

Before we get to the fun of actually conducting our experiments (from a nearby but unknown location comes the sound… “Moo hoo hoo ha ha ha” said with a deep and ominous voice) — sorry about that — when we get close to actually conducting our experiments… well, you know — my lab assistants gets very excited.  As I was saying, before we conduct our experiments, we must define the specific method of testing or measuring what we are studying.

To do this, we must think like a researcher.  A good researcher wants a good definition of what we are studying, how we will study it, and specifically how we will know if there is a change as a result of our study”™s inputs.  Consequently, we need a way of “baselining” our subjects such that the way we measured their baseline can be easily repeated later to see if our hypothesis was valid or invalid.

Identify or Create the Drill That Reflects the Research Topic

To create a drill or performance test that can be conducted to reflect our research topic (in this case Muscular Endurance) I like to start with the science perspective — university, medical community, etc.  I like to read the journals that the professional researchers read to get a solid foundation — to help me think the way they think.  The first place I started was a position statement by the ACSM:

“Muscular strength and endurance are developed by the progressive overload principle, i.e., by increasing more than normal the resistance to movement or frequency and duration of activity.  Muscular strength is best developed by using heavier weights (that require maximum or near maximum tension development) with few repetitions, and muscular endurance is best developed by using lighter weights with a greater number of repetitions (1).”

So first we have some confirmation of our approach in their statement that Muscular Endurance is best developed with lighter weights and higher repetitions (translating into a lower Heart Zones and a higher cadence).  This answers the question of HOW we will execute the training, but we still need to know how they chose to measure Muscular Endurance.

Create the Performance Test To Measure Before & After

From the same study referenced above, we read this (paraphrased):

“At 0, 10, and 14 weeks, subjects performed maximal repetition tests; designed such that a similar number of repetitions were performed during each set, the second set to failure. “

While this is pretty easy to accomplish with weights and repetitions in a set, it takes a little bit of “translation” to apply this to cycling.  As such, we will need to use heart rate and power as our gauges and metrics as we push our test subjects to “failure”.  In our current study, failure will be defined by the point the rider goes above Zone 3 in Heart Rate and/or what power level they are not able to maintain for a full 10 minute stage.

For Example:

Subject A does a baseline test (the test at 0 weeks) where he holds cadence steady at 85 RPM, a heart rate in the middle of Zone 3, and power at 150 Watts for 10 min.  We then increase his Power to 175 Watts, and he is told to keep his cadence and HR nearly the same.  He does this by increasing his gear or resistance.  He handles this without a problem, despite a slight increase in HR (but not over zone 4).  We then increase his power in a similar fashion to 200Watts, and within the 4th minute he exceeds Zone 3 and thus reaches failure within our definition of Muscular Endurance.

Upon retesting at say week 8 or 10, he does the exact same test but this time he is able to go to 225 Watts before he reaches failure.  Without getting into the concept of “statistical significance”, let”™s just say that we could deduce that the training used had the effect of improving his Muscular Endurance.

Make It Fun:

The good thing about not being paid to do this research, and not being part of a university lab, is that we can actually have some fun doing this research.  I always like to integrate Performance Tests into our training or even our Indoor Classes.  In my next post, I will discuss just how you can do that and what other aspects need to be controlled as well.

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