Every year I try to make it a point to go through all of the ACSM abstracts to see if anything stands out. If you can’t actually get to the conference, it’s a great way to at least get a glimpse of the latest research people are doing well before it ever comes out in a journal article.

As a coach, as Vern Gambetta like to say, it’s our job to stay ahead of the published research. We should be out there experimenting and trying to figure things out, and letting researchers explain why what we do is successful.So without further ado, I went through all of the Abstracts from ACSM 2014 and separated them out into what intrigued me. My goal is to go through some of these concepts in the future.

The Brain/Perception:

Neural Correlates of Perception of Effort: A Brain Imaging Study

“This is the first study in which brain areas associated with an increase in CMD and RPE have been investigated without concomitant increase in afferent feedback from active muscles. MF was associated with higher activity in motor areas. This result was expected because higher CMD is necessary to lift same submaximal weight with weaker muscles. Association between RPE and activity in ACC was expected from previous studies using hypnosis and imagery to alter RPE. These results support the idea of a centrally generated model of PE and may suggest that corollary discharges are processed in ACC or that activity in ACC and/or motor areas give rise to PE.”

So what- The research correlated changes in RPE with changes in Anterior Cingulate cortex and motor areas.

Sex Differences in Time Perception During Self-Paced Running

“CONCLUSIONS: When given the opportunity to self pace, the
women in this study chose to run at a higher intensity than the men, and consistently reported relatively lower prospective time estimations, perceiving time to be passing by more slowly compared to the men. Further research is needed to examine the effects of time perception during exercise on women’s exercise enjoyment and intention.”

So what?- Research is finally looking at the differences between max tests and self paced max efforts. What they found here is that men and women, when not given feedback on time passage, perceive time passing in different ways. And this may effect perception of effort

Cognitive Function Following an Ultra-Endurance Event

CONCLUSION: These findings indicate that cognitive performance is adversely affected in a dose-dependant fashion during ultra-endurance events. Also, the level of impairment seen appears to be related to the complexity of the cognitive task being executed.

So what?- Not surprisingly, cognitive function declines after a long ultra endurance race. This demonstrates the cognitive fatigue/demands that occurs during running.

The Effect of Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation of S1 on Motor Learning and Sensation

“CONCLUSIONS: Recruitment is ongoing. Our trends suggest that A-tDCS of primary somatosensory cortex can enhance motor learning and sensory processing, and highlight the
potential of combined PT / brain stimulation interventions for improving clinical outcomes. “

So What?- Brain stimulation is going to be the next big thing and here’s some more research pointing towards significant effects. This time on motor learning and sensation.

Prefrontal Cortex Direct Current Stimulation Improves
Physical Performance and Brain Activity Within Maximal Exercise

CONCLUSIONS: Anodal tDCS increased performance and retarded fatigue within cycle-ergometer maximal exercise. Moreover, beta coherence between left andright DLPFC was improved and brain activity related to central fatigue
decreased. These findings suggest a possible relationship between anodal tDCSeffects and fatigue delay during maximal exercise.

So what?- Once again, brain stimulation improves performance. This time of the pre-frontal cortex which plays a large role in decision making.

Deception and Exercise Performance During Repeated 4-km
Cycling Time Trials

“CONCLUSIONS: Trained cyclists whose TT performance improves following deception retain their performance gains once the deception is revealed and do not appear to adopt a different pacing strategy in either of the improved trials (DEC and
KDE). This suggests that the experience gained during the DEC trial allows them to override uncomfortable afferent feedback during a subsequent trial and reproduce the performance improvement while retaining the same pacing strategy and RPE”

So What?- This one is interesting because it shows that if you improved after a deception time trial, you can carry on that improvement to the next performance. Meaning that once you get a breakthrough, you can keep it going because you know you hit a new level of performance.

Glycogen-loading In Skeletal Muscle Synchronously
Increases Hippocampal Glycogen: Evidence For Brain Glycogen-loading

“Conclusion: We revealed that, depending on Carb intake, GL increases both brain
Gly, at least in the hippocampus, and muscle Gly, which supports our hypothesis. The hippocampus could have a Carb-intake-dependent mechanism for glycogen synthesis similar to skeletal muscles. Our results potentially imply the significance of GL using
a high-Carb diet to enhance not only endurance performance by mitigating muscle and central fatigue, but also hippocampus-related memory

So what?- While this was in rats, its interesting to see that brain glycogen is increased with cargo loading. It will be interesting to see if this translates to humans who have traditionally been thought to have very little stored glycogen in the brain.

Strength Training:

Exercise Order of Concurrent Endurance and Resistance
Exercise Modifies mTOR Signaling in Rat Skeletal Muscle

“CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the last bout of exercise dictates the molecular responses, and the mTORC1 signaling induced by any prior bout of resistance exercise may be downregulated by the subsequent bout of endurance exercise.”

So What? Although it’s a rat study, it shows that the order of exercise matters! We can manipulate training adaptations based on order and timing. For instance, we can use endurance training post-strength work if we want to eliminate worries about hypertrophy.

Improved Economy and Acceleration Profiles Among High
School Runners Following Eight Weeks of Plyometric Training

Conclusion: 8 weeks of plyometric training resulted in improved running economy, which may have depended upon reduced RES or increased VTRA among ST.


Do Skeletal Muscle Mitochondria Play A Role In
Making Us More Efficient For Endurance Exercise?

“Chronically trained individuals had greater mito content and function, as well as greater exercise efficiencies. GE during a 1-hr submaximal
bout was related to both mito content and function. Surprisingly only mitochondrial function related to DE during a GXT. This data suggests that individuals are more efficient during prolonged submaximal bouts possibly due to increases in mito content and function whereas only mito function is the factor that may influence efficiency under intensive shorter bouts”

Neuromuscular Control Of Running: Overground VsTreadmill

CONCLUSIONS: Landing preparation and propulsion during OVG requires increased muscle recruitment. However, regardless of the differences in the dynamics of the two tasks there generally is a coherent motor control strategy that is only influenced by specific requirements to cope with step-to-step variability mainly adjusted throughout leg swing.

SO what?- Regular running seems to activate more musculature than treadmill running. Once again, showing they are different to a degree.

Energy Cost of Running Increases with Running Intensity

CONCLUSIONS: Previously equivocal findings concerning a potential interrelationship between CE and % VO2peak seem to reflect expression of CE in terms of COX rather than CEAER and CETOT. CEAER, CEANAER and CETOT increase at and above the moderate intensity domain progressively with increasing % VO2peak

Energy Cost of Running is Independent of Peak Oxygen Uptake

CONCLUSION: The frequently observed positive interrelationships between VO2_run, COX and VO2peak reflect less aerobic carbohydrate combustion and less reliance on anaerobic glycolysis in fitter subjects with higher VO2peak

Performance Modeling of the Fourteen Weeks
Preceding the Fastest Marathon Ever Run by an American

CONCLUSIONS: Since no differences in WO or IF were observed, it appears as though training load was modulated entirely on the basis of duration and not frequency or intensity. In the four weeks preceding the event, training load was reduced 45% while intensity and frequency were maintained. An optimal taper length of two weeks has been proposed and previous work using this modeling approach demonstrated
that extended periods of reduced training resulted in lower CTL, and diminished performance in an Olympic 1500m finalist. Therefore, although this was the fastest marathon ever run by an American, it is not clear if the training approach was optimal.

So what?- This one is an interesting one to me. They tried to provide analysis to Ryan Hall’s training leading up to his sub 2:05 race. I have a lot of thoughts on this one, but will wait to see the full paper. One issue I always have is that any training analysis in the literature is severely limited because it breaks workouts down into variables which lose the effect of the individual workouts. Secondly, it’s almost always approached from the standpoint that research provides the best way to train. Thus you get comments like the ones in the conclusion based on taper and so forth. The problem is that if we followed a pure research training method, we’d all do lower mileage with tons of intensity and crazy tapers…which don’t actually work in the real world.


Physical Exercise And Brain Development: Study
In Rat
Pups Born From Trained Mothers During Pregnancy

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate that physical exercise undertaken during pregnancy can result in significant cellular and molecular changes in the brain of offspring, particularly in the hippocampal formation (a brain region important for memory, learning and emotional processes).

So What?- Previously epigenetics has shown that what happens during/before pregnancy can essentially “switch on/off” genes and pass that down to the offspring. One of my pet theories is that being born at altitude combined with activity may lead to some of the advantages East Africans have. But what is cool about this study is that it found that in rats, if the mother was trained, the rat pup had significant changes in the brain. In particular the Rat pups had higher BDNF (Brain derived neurotrophic factor). So exercise and training during pregnancy seems like a good thing!

Effect Of Maternal Exercise On Mitochondrial Function And Angiogenesis Of Offspring In Rat

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest the possibility that
maternal exercise training during pregnancy may modulate mitochondrial biogenesis and angiogenesis of offspring.

So what?- Continuing along from the previous research, this study found changes in mitochondria biogenesis being passed down. So not only do we have brain changes but also mitochondria changes. Which again, makes me think of my East African epigenetics pet theory.


Autonomic Nervous System Modulation During Exercise
With And Without Caffeine Consumption

“CONCLUSION: These data suggest that 300 mg of caffeine consumed prior to exercise results in lower parasympathetic activity during exercise compared to the placebo condition, suggesting that the caffeine condition was less physiologically

So what?- Caffeine modulates the Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic nervous system dynamics during exercise.

Cytochrome P-450, Caffeine Supplementation, And Cycling Performance

CONCLUSION: A single dose of 300mg of caffeine administered in chewing gum enhanced cycling performance in subjects who possess the C allele.

So what?- The study found that those who had a particular allele responded to caffeine, while those who didn’t, didn’t see a boost in performance. It gives credence to a genetic component of responder versus non-responder.

Effects of Short-Term Macronutrient Redistribution
Testosterone and Growth Hormone in Resistance Trained Males

Conclusion: Switching from a habitual diet to a short-term CRD resulted in a decline in the concentration of T relative to the LF intervention, corroborating the results of Lima-Silva et al. (2009). Future studies should investigate whether the observed changes persist beyond the first week of diet adoption.

So what?- The study looked at the effects of a low carb diet on the hormonal response to resistance training. It looks like a low carb diet resulted in decreased Testosterone post workout.


Validation of Blood Gene Expression Profiles Post Recombinant Human Erythropoietin Administration

“CONCLUSION: This research successfully identified, replicated and validated the blood “molecular signature” of rHuEpo administration and provides the strongest evidence to date that gene biomarkers have the potential to improve the performance of current anti-doping methods such as the Athlete Biological Passport for rHuEpo detection.The study was funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

So What?- Looks like WADA is working on a biological passport type molecular signature of EPO. This would be very good

Testosterone Stimulates Red Blood Cell ProductionIndependent
of Dihydrotestosterone

CONCLUSION: TE suppresses hepcidin and stimulates RBC production. These effects were not inhibited by finasteride co-administration and DHT suppression via finasteride-alone produced no changes in the aforementioned iron markers, indicating that DHT does not regulate androgen-mediated RBC production. Supported by a VAMC Merit Award to SEB.

So what?- Looks like a side benefit of testosterone is that you get RBC increases. This, along with the recovery aspects, probably explains why so many endurance athletes get busted with testosterone.


Muscle Electrical Stimulation Enhances Learning from Unexpected
Events Induced during a Single Limb Task

“CONCLUSION: As few as 5 training sessions were needed to induce a rapid, significant, and stable learning effect of a novel weight-bearing task. Moreover, electrical stimulation enhanced the ability for subjects to respond to an unexpected event. These findings suggest that electrical stimulation tunes the CNS and assists with responses to unexpected”

So what?- At GAIN 2014, Bill Knowles talked about injuries being a brain issue, in that you needed to relearn how to fire the muscles properly. This study suggests that one of Knowles ideas, using muscle stim while exercising to try to retrain the nervous system to remember what to do is effective. I’ve used muscle stim while doing various full body exercises to help heal muscle strains in the hamstrings before.

The Effect Of Non-invasive Gentle Skin Stimulation
OnAutonomic Nervous Activity After Aerobic Exercise

CONCLUSIONS: In spite of being highly individual variation, gentle skin stimulation appears to increase parasympathetic activity after aerobic exercise.

SO what?- People generally think of recovery in terms of muscular recovery and repair, but a huge part of it is recovery of the Nervous System. It appears that skim stimulation increases parasympathetic activity, which should help with recovery. Maybe this is why massages post workout are beneficial to recovery.

Prospective Injury Prediction Using The Functional Movement Screen In Division I Runners

CONCLUSIONS: Unexpectedly, higher FMS scores led to an increased injury risk in collegiate runners. It has been suggested that in order to maintain optimal musculoskeletal health, one must have variety in their movements and postures. Since runners do not get tremendous variety in movements from their sport/training, perhaps those with lower FMS scores are achieving that variety, and avoiding injury, through their more variable movement patterns.

So what?- Surprisingly to some, the better a runner scored on the FMS screen, the higher the injury risk.  Just shows that a generic non-specific movement screen can’t be applied to every single sport and mean anything.


Influencing Factors On The Erythropoietic Response During
Altitude Training (Altitude Project)

Conclusions: Changes in Hbmass in response to altitude training are largely individual and can be negatively affected, in addition to known factors such as low iron stores and illness or injury, by
a continuous intake of NSAIDs. Also a high training load may impact negatively the erythropoietic response.

So what?- Many things effect altitude adaptation. Altitude is another stressor just like training, so it makes sense that if you go to altitude and jack up the training load, you’ve got nothing to adapt to. Another factor we found is that higher cortisol levels correlated with less adaptation to altitude, which makes sense as if you go to altitude already stressed, you can’t adapt.

Get My New Guide on: The Science of Creating Workouts

    1 Comment

    1. Aaron Caldwell on October 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm


      Great to see the review of the ACSM abstracts from Orlando this year. Now that you are in Texas do you plan on attending the Texas ACSM chapter conference this year? If so, I hope to see you there.

    Leave a Reply