Specific effects of strength vs. endurance vs. combined endurance and strength training on physical performance in female horseback riders

Anne-Maarit Hyttinen and Keijo Häkkinen Neuromuscular Research Center, Biology of Physical Activity, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland

Introduction: An experienced horseback rider can follow with her/his stabilized and coordinated body the motion and influence the speed, direction and activity of the horse. This study investigated specific effects of strength(S), endurance(E), and combined endurance and strength(ES) training on neuromuscular and cardiorespiratory variables after 12 weeks of volume-equated protocols in female horseback riders.

Methods: The intervention consisted of riding exercise 4-6 x/week including S, E or ES training 3x/week (30-60 min) using the progressive (3+1wk) training model. E included interval and long-lasting low-intensity endurance training (biking/running), S consisted of 10 exercises for maximal strength and muscle-endurance training, while ES performed 1.5x/week endurance and 1.5 x/week strength training. Subjects (N=46) were of national to international level assigned to the groups of S(n=11), E(n=11), ES(n=13) and control (C)(n=10).  Mean age of the total group was 29.4±8.9yrs, height 168.0±6.1cm, weight 67.5±10.0kg and BMI 23.9±3.5. The measurements included maximal isometric bilateral leg press force (MVCLP), counter movement jump (CMJ) and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and cycling time.

Results: A significant (p<0.05) increase of 9% in MVCLP force occurred in S. None of the groups showed significant increases in CMJ. Cycling time in the ergometer test increased in all experimental groups (p<0.05) with a significant increase (p<0.05) in VO2max only in ES.

Conclusions: The present 12-week strength training program in female horseback riders produced the significant gain in maximal strength only in S but not in the combined E+S, maybe due to its lower volume/frequency of strength training and/or some interference effects. Neither S nor ES showed significant gains in dynamic speed strength (CMJ), maybe due to the relative low volume of explosive strength training in the program. All of the experimental groups increased their cycling performance time but maximal oxygen uptake increased significantly only in ES indicating positive effects of the combined E and S training protocol.