It is with great pleasure that I announce another publication. This time led by a friend and colleague; James Steele. The paper was originally part of our earlier Evidence Based Resistance Training Recommendations, but whilst writing that a year ago, we decided that this section was worthy of it's own paper. Alas, we have genuinely struggled to get this published, potentially due to the fact that it goes against so many pre-conceived ideas of exercise.
Anyway, good has conquered, and the paper has now been published in Journal of Exercise Physiology (which it would be amiss of me not to mention their open-minded scientific review process).
I have included the abstract below, and whilst the article itself is a lengthy piece, it will surely be of interest. I'm not usually one to give away the ending, but the point in all this is simple: If you train to muscular failure then it appears you can improve your 'cardio' fitness to the same extent as if you do traditional cardiovascular exercise (e.g. cycling, rowing, running, etc).
The reality is that this has been hypothesised for a while, and most of you will know that my own training mimics these ideas; I occasionally do a barefoot run, but more for the skill (and fun) of barefoot running that for the exercise. That said, I would happily engage in what most people would consider traditional CV exercise because I believe the HIT training I do helps maintain my cardiovascular fitness. I could list many more who train in a similar way and would agree wholeheartedly.
Anyway, here's the link to the full text, and the abstract is below:
Resistance Training to Momentary Muscular Failure Improves Cardiovascular Fitness in Humans: A Review of Acute Physiological Responses and Chronic Physiological Adaptations.
Steele J, Fisher J, McGuff D, Bruce-Low S, Smith D. 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.