Thursday, May 31, 2012

Resistance Training improves Cardio Fitness....Get Strong to get fit!

So we have been saying this for a while.... One of the key themes of my book Hillfit is that getting stronger will make you more fit for "cardio" activities such as hillwalking or hiking.  The theme is how to get stronger.  Indeed I had one client ask for a refund because I didn't tell her how to improve her cardiovascular fitness!  I need to send her this new paper:

Resistance Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations

A detailed, peer reviewed academic survey of the literature and previous studies which demonstrates that proper resistance failure...improves all the standard measures of cardiovascular fitness.

This is a proper scientific paper, long and in depth.  The writers have been through all the relevant previous work on this and have demonstrated that getting stronger gets you fitter!

The full paper is available on line and  I have put the abstract below.

Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations. JEPonline 2012;15(3):53- 80. Research demonstrates resistance training produces significant improvement in cardiovascular fitness (VO2 max, economy of movement). To date no review article has considered the underlying physiological mechanisms that might support such improvements. This article is a comprehensive, systematic narrative review of the literature surrounding the area of resistance training, cardiovascular fitness and the acute responses and chronic adaptations it produces. The primary concern with existing research is the lack of clarity and inappropriate quantification of resistance training intensity. Thus, an important consideration of this review is the effect of intensity. The acute metabolic and molecular responses to resistance training to momentary muscular failure do not differ from that of traditional endurance training. Myocardial function appears to be maintained, perhaps enhanced, in acute response to high intensity resistance training, and contraction intensity appears to mediate the acute vascular response to resistance training. The results of chronic physiological adaptations demonstrate that resistance training to momentary muscular failure produces a number of physiological adaptations, which may facilitate the observed improvements in cardiovascular fitness. The adaptations may include an increase in mitochondrial enzymes, mitochondrial proliferation, phenotypic conversion from type IIx towards type IIa muscle fibers, and vascular remodeling (including capillarization). Resistance training to momentary muscular failure causes sufficient acute stimuli to produce chronic physiological adaptations that enhance cardiovascular fitness. This review appears to be the first to present this conclusion and, therefore, it may help stimulate a changing paradigm addressing the misnomer of ‘cardiovascular’ exercise as being determined by modality.
Key Words: Aerobic, Metabolic, Molecular, Myocardial

Go and read will challenge you but will also explain a lot of where I am coming from in this blog and in Hillfit.   James Steele, the lead author, writes about the paper on his excellent blog - No such thing as cardio


JamesSteeleII said...

Thanks for sharing Chris.

Hopefully it will convince whoever wanted a refund aswell as future HillFit'ers that simple resistance training is all anyone needs to be fit enough to do pretty much anything.

Steve Parker, M.D. said...

This is good to know. Thanks for posting. The next question is whether such physiologic adaptation translates into improved longevity.


Chris said...

I would expect so Steve. The Biomarkers Book by Evans and Rosenberg highlights the importance of strength to healthy aging and Skyler Tanner has an excellent post on this at

Bret Contreras said...

Thanks Chris!!!

Bèr said...

Dear Chris,

Do you have any knowledge of the persistent effects of exercise on the human body after years of inactivity/lowered activity?

What I mean by this is: in athletes who have been active all their life, are there some qualities that are permanent (for example: an enlarged heart) or very long lasting? (such as denser bones and tendons)

I assume that while some things decline quickly (muscle mass, cardiovascular capacity, flexibility), others last years after exercise has stopped, perhaps even forever.

I looked but couldn't find anything that was really relevant for the above.

Kind regards,


Chris said...


Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your work. Thanks for the support.