Eight weeks of heavy strength training increases hemoglobin mass and V̇O 2peak in well-trained to elite female and male rowers

Carsten Lundby, Oscar Mazza, Joachim Nielsen, Mads Haubro, Thue Kvorning, Niels Ørtenblad, Kasper Degn Gejl*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


O 2-transport and endurance exercise performance are greatly influenced by hemoglobin mass (Hb mass), which largely depends on lean body mass (LBM). This study investigated the effects of 8 wk with three weekly sessions of conventional (3-SET: 3 x 10 reps) or high-volume strength training (10-SET: 5–10 x 10 reps) on LBM, Hb mass, muscle strength, and exercise performance in female and male rowers. Hematological parameters were obtained through CO rebreathing and body composition by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scans before and after the training period. Concomitantly, V _ O 2peak was determined during 2-km ergometer rowing and muscle strength by isometric midthigh pull. There were no differences in training responses between groups for any of the parameters. Pooled data revealed overall increments for Hb mass (10-SET: 882 ± 199 g to 897 ± 213 g; 3-SET: 936 ± 245 g to 962 ± 247 g, P ¼ 0.02) and V _ O 2peak (10-SET: 4.3 ± 1.0 to 4.4 ± 0.9 L·min -1; 3-SET: 4.5 ± 0.9 to 4.6 ± 0.9 L·min -1, P ¼ 0.03), whereas LBM remained unchanged (10-SET: 58.7 ± 10.5 to 58.7 ± 10.1 kg; 3-SET: 64.1 ± 10.8 to 64.5 ± 10.6 kg, P ¼ 0.42). Maximal isometric midthigh pull strength increased (10-SET: 224 ± 47 kg to 237 ± 55 kg; 3-SET: 256 ± 77 kg to 281 ± 83 kg, P ¼ 0.001). Strong associations were observed between LBM and Hb mass and V _ O 2peak (r 2 ¼ 0.88–0.90), entailing sex differences in Hb mass and V _ O 2peak. Normalizing V _ O 2peak to LBM reduced the sex difference to ~10%, aligning with the sex difference in Hb mass·LBM -1. Strength training successfully increased Hb mass and V _ O 2peak in elite female and male rowers, without an additional effect from increased training volume. Moreover, sex differences in V _ O 2peak were mainly explained by differences in LBM, but likely also by differences in Hb mass·LBM -1. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study in female and male rowers demonstrates that hemoglobin mass (Hb mass), V _ O 2peak, and muscle strength increases with 8 wk of heavy strength training and that this response is not different between conventional (3 x 10 repetitions) and high-volume strength training (10 x 10 repetitions). Moreover, female rowers exhibited less hemoglobin per kilogram of lean body mass compared with their male counterparts, which likely contributes to sex differences in V _ O 2peak and rowing performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-12
Publication statusPublished - 1. Jan 2024


  • blood volume
  • muscle strength
  • oxygen uptake
  • performance
  • rowing
  • Hemoglobins/analysis
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength/physiology
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance/physiology
  • Resistance Training
  • Exercise Test
  • Oxygen Consumption/physiology
  • Female


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