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Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika and Laurent Bosquet

The classical work by Robert C. Hickson showed in 1980 that the addition of a resistance-training protocol to a predominantly aerobic program could lead to impaired leg-strength adaptations in comparison with a resistance-only training regimen. This interference phenomenon was later highlighted in many reports, including a meta-analysis. However, it seems that the interference effect has not been consistently reported, probably because of the complex interactions between training variables and methodological issues. On the other side of the medal, Dr Hickson et al subsequently (1986) reported that a strength-training mesocycle could be beneficial for endurance performance in running and cycling. In recent meta-analyses and review articles, it was demonstrated that such a training strategy could improve middle- and long-distance performance in many disciplines (running, cycling, cross-country skiing, and swimming). Notably, it appears that improvements in the energy cost of locomotion could be associated with these performance enhancements. Despite these benefits, it was also reported that strength training could represent a detrimental stimulus for endurance performance if an inappropriate training plan has been prepared. Taken together, these observations suggest that coaches and athletes should be careful when concurrent training seems imperative to meet the complex physiological requirements of their sport. This brief review presents a practical appraisal of concurrent training for sports performance. In addition, recommendations are provided so that practitioners can adapt their interventions based on the training objectives.

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Nicolas Berryman, Iñigo Mujika, Denis Arvisais, Marie Roubeix, Carl Binet and Laurent Bosquet

Purpose: To assess the net effects of strength training on middle- and long-distance performance through a meta-analysis of the available literature. Methods: Three databases were searched, from which 28 of 554 potential studies met all inclusion criteria. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) were calculated and weighted by the inverse of variance to calculate an overall effect and its 95% confidence interval (CI). Subgroup analyses were conducted to determine whether the strength-training intensity, duration, and frequency and population performance level, age, sex, and sport were outcomes that might influence the magnitude of the effect. Results: The implementation of a strength-training mesocycle in running, cycling, cross-country skiing, and swimming was associated with moderate improvements in middle- and long-distance performance (net SMD [95%CI] = 0.52 [0.33–0.70]). These results were associated with improvements in the energy cost of locomotion (0.65 [0.32–0.98]), maximal force (0.99 [0.80–1.18]), and maximal power (0.50 [0.34–0.67]). Maximal-force training led to greater improvements than other intensities. Subgroup analyses also revealed that beneficial effects on performance were consistent irrespective of the athletes’ level. Conclusion: Taken together, these results provide a framework that supports the implementation of strength training in addition to traditional sport-specific training to improve middle- and long-distance performance, mainly through improvements in the energy cost of locomotion, maximal power, and maximal strength.