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Does the amount of exercising muscle alter the aerobic demand of dynamic exercise?

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  • 1Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA.


The primary purpose of this study was to determine if the aerobic demand for production of specified power outputs is altered by distribution of work between the arms and legs compared with when all the work is performed by the legs. Because of the important exercise training implications, a secondary purpose of this study was to determine if the exercising muscle mass affects the cardiorespiratory demands at specified rating of perceived exertion (RPE) levels and blood lactate concentrations. Nine healthy adults completed leg cycling and combined arm and leg exercise on an Airdyne using a discontinuous protocol. Repeated measures ANOVA revealed that oxygen uptake for the combined arm and leg exercise averaged 0.04 1.min-1 greater (p < 0.05) than for leg cycling at the same external power outputs. However, RPE levels at specified power outputs were lower (p < 0.05) with combined arm and leg exercise than leg cycling. At specified RPE levels and blood lactate concentrations, oxygen uptake and heart rate values were higher (p < 0.05) for combined arm and leg exercise than leg cycling. From these findings we conclude that: (1) the addition of arm exercise to leg cycling results in a reduction in RPE, but a minimal increase in oxygen consumption to perform a given power output, and (2) if training intensity is established by RPE or blood lactate concentration, use of muscle mass larger than that used in leg cycling should allow a greater cardiorespiratory training effect.

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