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Informations sur les Sciences de l'Entraînement Sportif

Effects of concurrent training in endurance and strength for high-level kayakers

by A. Manolova | 1 June 2018

kayak, concurrent, training, sport, strength, endurance, force, power, periodization, high level, performance

The sprint kayak racing is a speed event with a dead start that takes place in calm water. The paddler sits in his boat and uses a double paddle. The Olympic events are played over lengths of 200m (introduced at the London Olympic Games 2012), 500m and 1000m, alone (K1) or pairs 2 (K2) or 4 person crews (K4). Each race opposes 9 kayaks. The competitions are organized in qualifying series before the final.

Considering the intensity, the duration and the repetition of the efforts, to optimize the performance in kayaking, it is essential to perform at the same time endurance and strength training. Nevertheless, these are two distinct processes whose neuromuscular adaptation mechanisms are different and often contradictory. This conflict has been called "interference phenomenon" and explains the fact that the development of strength is affected when it is trained along with endurance. Yet the results of the literature are not unanimous about this phenomenon. Several factors seem to affect the results observed such as athletes' initial training level, exercise mode, intensity, volume, training frequency and session planning, the last three factors seem to play a major role.

Indeed, some studies have shown that beyond 3 weekly workouts, a training combining endurance and strength was detrimental to strength gains. Neuromuscular mechanisms related to the development of power and explosive force seem to be the most affected. Conversely, strength training is beneficial for endurance performance.

The Study

Some studies have shown that non-linear or undulating periodization where short periods of high volume are alternated with short periods of high intensity allow higher gains in strength. Based on these findings, a team of Spanish researchers examined the effects of a 12-week non-linear periodization that combines endurance and strength training on neuromuscular and cardiovascular parameters in high-level kayakers. The goal was to minimize a possible phenomenon of interference.

For this, 11 kayakers of international level including 2 gold medalists at the J.O. Beijing 2008 participated in this study. Before starting the study protocol, no specific kayak training and no weight training session were performed. The study was then conducted over 12 weeks divided into 3 phases (P1, P2 and P3) with four test sessions (T0, T1, T2 and T3).


Day 1

Each test session was performed on the first 3 days of the first week of each phase. The first day was devoted to anthropometry and a kayak ergometer test (Fig. 1). Anthropometry included measurement of height, body mass, skin folds (ie, triceps brachii, subscapular, abdominal, anterior quadriceps, medial calf, supraspinal and biceps brachii), circumferences (ie, chest, forearm , thigh and calf).

Concerning the ergometer test, the athletes carried out an incremental test until exhaustion. The test started at 11.5 km/h with speed increment 0.5 km/h every minute. For each kayaker, the following variables were determined during the tests using a gas analyzer :

  • Maximum oxygen uptake (V02MAX)
  • Oxygen uptake at the second ventilation threshold (VO2 to VT2)
  • The second ventilation threshold as a percentage of VO2MAX [VT2 (% VO2MAX)]
  • Maximum heart rate (FCMAX)
  • Heart rate at VT2 (FCVT2)
  • Speed at VO2MAX (SMAX)
  • Speed at VT2 (SVT2)
  • Paddling speed at VO2MAX (PSMAX)
  • Paddling speed at VT2 (PSVT2)
  • Peak lactate concentration
Days 2 & 3

The second day was devoted to maximal force tests for bench press exercises (Fig. 2) and prone bench pull (Fig. 3). The objective was to determine for each athlete the 1RM on these exercises. And during the third day, the maximum power was evaluated. The kayakers made 2 series of 3 repetitions at 45% of the 1RM for each of the two exercises with the aim of maximizing the speed during the concentric phase of the movement. The average speed of the 3 best repetitions was chosen as s45%.

Ergometer Dansprint

Figure 1. Ergometer Dansprint.

Bench Press

Figure 2. Bench Press.

Prone Bench Pull

Figure 3. Prone Bench Pull.

Training planning

During the 12 weeks of the protocol, the training was divided into 3 different phases. Each phase was intended to develop a parameter related to endurance and a parameter related to the force :

  1. P1 (from T0 to T1) lasted 5 weeks : Work focused on the development of the second ventilatory threshold (VT2) and hypertrophy.
  2. P2 (from T1 to T2) lasted 5 weeks : Work focused on the development of Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) and maximal strength (1RM).
  3. P3 (from T2 to T3) lasted 2 weeks : Work focused on the development of specific racing pace and maximal power output (PMAX).

The athletes were training each day with one day of rest per week. Power sessions were placed before the endurance sessions, if that was not possible, 6 to 8 hours of recovery spaced the two sessions. Below are detailed programs in endurance and strength.

  • Endurance Training Program :
    • Frequency: 10 to 15 sessions / week
    • Volume : P1, 52.7 ± 1.9 hours ; P2, 49.5 ± 1.5 h ; P3, 21.5 ± 0.8 h (Fig. 4).
  • Strength Training Program :
    • Frequency : 3 sessions / week
    • Volume : P1, 15.6 ± 0.8 h and 2430 ± 42 repetitions ; P2, 13.2 ± 0.7 h and 660 ± 13 repetitions ; P3, 8.4 ± 0.5 h and 520 ± 14 repetitions (Fig. 5).
Relative contribution of each exercise intensity zone to the total endurance training time performed in each phase

Figure 4. Relative contribution of each exercise intensity zone to the total endurance training time performed in each phase. (Cliquez sur l'image pour l'agrandir)

Relative contribution of each strength training type to the total volume training in each phase

Figure 5. Relative contribution of each strength training type to the total volume training in each phase. (Cliquez sur l'image pour l'agrandir)

Results & Analyzes

Regarding the main changes observed in endurance, in 12 weeks (ie, between T0 and T3), kayakers significantly improved their VO2MAX by 9.5% and their V02 at VT2 by 9.4%, while VT2 (% of VO2MAX) returned significantly to its starting value (80.5% of VO2MAX) after having increased by 12.4% during P1 (which is explained by the decrease of the volume of work at VT2 in P2 and P3). In addition, the speed of movement increased steadily throughout the 3 phases for an increase of 6.2% for VMAX (from 14.5 to 15.4 km/h) and 4.4% for SVT2.

Regarding the main changes observed in strength, in 12 weeks (ie, between T0 and T3), kayakers significantly improved their 1RM by 4.2% in the bench press and by 5.3% in the prone bench pull, and their s45% by 14.4% in bench press and by 10% in prone bench pull. It is important to note that it was during phase 1, focused on hypertrophy, that kayakers improved the most their 1RM (+ 9.7%). These gains were maintained during Phase 2, and it was during P3 that the decrease in maximal strength gains was the greatest. This is explained by the significant decrease in the volume and intensity of the training directed towards maximal strength.

The main result of this study is that a 12-week non-linear training periodization combining both endurance and strength has been effective in inducing significant improvements in strength and muscle power than in endurance. In addition, the high values of 1RM, VO2MAX and V02 at VT2 show that the physiological requirements related to sprint kayak racing are very important.

Practical Applications

The protocol tested here has shown its effectiveness in improving cardiovascular and neuromuscular components in high level athletes. This methodology could be used for many sports activities where high strength and endurance skills are required.

The researchers attributed these results to different parameters. The most important according to them is the prioritization of the variables worked during each phase. For example, hypertrophy work has not been associated with maximal aerobic power because these two variables will lead to opposite physiological adaptations. While hypertrophy training is expected to increase protein synthesis at the cellular level, MAP training requires muscle to increase its oxidative abilities. Therefore these researchers have coupled hypertrophy with work at VT2, which has a lower intensity and is expected to cause less interference.

As for the maximal strength / power work, this can be coupled with the work for MAP, because the training stimuli will be mainly oriented to develop neural abilities (eg, increased motor unit recruitment rate, motor unit recruitment with a higher threshold of excitability, etc.), which will not cause too much stress on the muscle.

Mariyan Dimitrov

Copyright © Mariyan Dimitrov

A second important parameter to consider was the frequency of strength training. Too much strength training frequency hinders strength gains in concurrent training. In addition, the layout of the sessions of strength compared to those of endurance is a parameter not to be neglected because an insufficient recovery would limit the adaptations to the training in both strength and endurance. It therefore seems better to place strength training before endurance training or to space 6-8 hour sessions for full neuromuscular and energy recovery.

Finally, during the strength training sessions, the researchers insisted on the explosive execution of each repetition with the objective of maximizing the concentric phase velocity and avoiding systematically training until muscle failure for better recovery for subsequent sessions.


We warmly thank Mariyan Dimitrov for the photograph that illustrates this article. Mariyan is a Bulgarian top-level kayaker whose track record counts a 7th place at the World Championships in Poznan (Poland) in 2001 in K4 1000m, a 16th at the Sidney Olympics in 2000 in K2 1000m and an 8th place in Final C at the 2011 World Championships in Szeged (Hungary) in K1 200m.


  1. Garcia-Pallares J, Sanchez-Medina L, Carrasco L, Diaz A and Izquierdo M. Endurance and neuromuscular changes in world-class level kayakers during a periodized training cycle. Eur J Appl Physiol 106 (4) : 629-638, 2009.

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