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Does Powerlifting Harm Heart Health?

Posted by BridgeAthletic on Aug 5, 2019 7:38:11 AM

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The Latest

A 12- week SSTP (supervised strength training program) may increase your athlete’s likelihood of developing significant arterial stiffness. This latest research found oxidative stress (OxS) increased in powerlifting athletes after this 12-week cycle. This is important as long-lasting overproduction of OxS is associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke. 

This was the first of its kind to study the effects of a moderate to high-intensity 12-week strength program on OxS parameters and its relationship with arterial stiffness in powerlifting athletes.

Break this Down for Me...

You know, Oxidative Stress

It took us a second or two, too. OxS is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to counteract their harmful effects through the production of antioxidants. 

Right, so arterial stiffness is when...

Often associated with the onset of a stroke, arterial stiffness describes what happens when the walls of blood vessels become stiff, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood into the arteries. Feeling stiff? Check out these de-stiffening strategies.

The Method

Researchers chose well-trained powerlifters, as previous OxS and arterial stiffness studies were conducted using only low-or moderate-intensity resistance training or in combination with aerobic training. 

The well-trained lifters underwent an 8-week light training period without heavy strength sessions or competitions prior to the trial. During the SSTP, athletes exercised 4 days per week at intensities averaging between 60-90% of 1RM for various movements. Workouts included: 

  • 5-8 worksets (4-12 reps) of Bench Press, Lat Pull Down, Standing Shoulder Press, Arm Curl and Extension, Leg Press, Squat, Leg Curl, Calf Press, Ab Crunch, and Deadlift. 

Following the 12 weeks, athletes participated in the National Powerlifting Championships. 

Baseline maxes, lab measurements (including biochemical analysis and oxidative stress data) and arterial stiffness were measured 1 week before the trial began and again after the competition.

What it Means

This was the first of its kind to study the effects of a moderate to high-intensity 12-week strength program on OxS parameters and its relationship with arterial stiffness in powerlifting athletes.

Watch Out for...

Based on these findings, strength and conditioning coaches might need to consider the effects of long-term exercise-induced changes in OxS and arterial stiffness on an individual level whereby coaches look to arterial stiffness assessment protocols to monitor progress and adaptation to exercise and recovery.

the PowerUp

While there’s a lot of research breaking down the beneficial effects of resistance exercise on metabolic health, muscular strength, bone health, and body comp; little research has addressed the impact of powerlifting on cardiovascular health. 

This research contradicts those previously conducted which point to no significant change in OxS in resistance training, suggesting powerlifting has an impact on arterial stiffness otherwise not seen in other training methods. We’ll be keen to see if incorporating other types of exercise into these routines have any positive impact on OxS. Steady-state cardio, for example, could be considered in follow up research to evaluate how this variation in intensity impacts OxS.

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Topics: Performance Trends