08.10.2018

Women training concurrently for strength and endurance: Influence of hormones and hormonal contraceptives

Ritva S. Taipale

The benefits of combined strength and endurance training are widely understood when the training variables including mode, volume, and intensity are properly balanced. When not in balance, suboptimal adaptations or “interference” of e.g. endurance training on strength training adaptations may occur (2,6). The majority of studies examining combined strength and endurance training have been performed with men as subjects although in many age categories, women are equally as physically active, or even more physically active than men. This lack of research in women is due, in part, to the difficult nature of controlling for and monitoring the innate hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle. Striking gender disparities in exercise and sport combined with a lack of understanding of sexual dimorphism in the scientific literature has, unfortunately, led to a deficiency in understanding about effective training and lifestyle interventions for neuromuscular and cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and even performance physiology in women and girls (1,5).

The aim of this presentation is to briefly describe the challenges/benefits the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive (HC) use may present for women and their coaches or personal trainers and to present results from the recent pilot study from our group that examined the effects of 10 weeks of high intensity combined strength and endurance training in physically active women using HC (HC, n = 9) and who had never used HC (NHC, n = 9). Training: 2x strength + 2x high-intensity running intervals / week.

The results of this study showed that 10 weeks of high-intensity combined strength and endurance training lead to similar performance gains in women using HC and not using HC (4) but that this combined training may modify the inflammation status of young women. In the present study, inflammation was higher post training in HC than NHC where favorable changes in body composition were observed (3). These results confirm that HC use may influence some training adaptations, however, larger, well-controlled investigations are needed.

References:

  1. Costello JT, Bieuzen F & Bleakley CM. (2014) Where are all the female participants in Sports and Exercise Medicine research? European Journal of Sport Science, 14(8):847-851.
  2. Hickson RC. (1980) Interference of strength development by simultaneously training for strength and endurance. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology. 45(2-3):255-263.
  3. Ihalainen JK, Hackney AC, and Taipale RS (2018) In preparation. 
  4. Myllyaho MM, Ihalainen JK, Hackney AC, Valtonen M, Nummela A, Vaara E, Häkkinen K, Kyröläinen H. and Taipale RS. (2018) Hormonal Contraceptive Use Does Not Affect Strength, Endurance, or Body Composition Adaptations to Combined Strength and Endurance Training in Women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  5. Sims ST & Heather AK. (2018) Myths and Methodologies: Reducing scientfic design ambiguity in studies comparing sexes and/or menstural cylce phases. Experimental Physiology, 103:1309-1217.
  6. Wilson JM, Marin PJ, Rhea MR, Wilson SM, Loenneke JP and Anderson JC. (2012) Concurrent training: a meta-analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(8): 2293-2307.