Mitochondrial biogenesis / function improvement

General discussions about getting and staying fit that don't relate directly to your indoor rower
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Mitochondrial biogenesis / function improvement

Post by Gmass » December 2nd, 2023, 5:10 am

Hi everyone,


I have started to row primarily for health benefits. My job and my hobbies require me to sit for my whole life. The only time when I don't sit is... when I sleep basically. Therefore, although my blood test is fine, I always feel tired and sleepy, I have poor sleep, etc. This impacts my daily motivation and even my social abilities.

It's funny to see doing sport at first is making feel you worse. So I do understand why a lot of people tend to stop working out as after 2-3 trainings, the body is really full of lactate, sore muscles and hurt by reactive oxygen species. On top of that, most of rookies tend to train between zone 3 and 4 (working at threshold, not sure of this is the right English term, i.e. at the limit of aerobic and anaerobic), which is the most demanding for the body and may bring injury quickly (very common for rookie runners).

I used to cycle a lot but always badly: once per week and too fast, for too long. I was always feeling bad after, never hungry etc. I guess it is obvious for many people that sitting 6 days per week and going for a 3 hours workout on a road bike isn't a good idea, even if you do this for months/years. I needed a new sport in my life allowing to perform nearly every day without the pain of wearing special clothes, braving cars traffic in town, braving seasons (winter and fall especially) etc. I already rowed in a previous life in a club and I was enjoying, so... I bought a rower. And now it's hard to brake and tell myself I need a day of rest.

I only started for a few weeks and already feel the energy raising along with better nights of sleep. I make sure to start easy as I am a beginner, so zone 2 only which is around 2:40/500m for me.


Well, end of context, here is my question (at last!) :D

I was wondering if zone 2 training, known for its great abilities to improve mitochondrial function, can be used with any sport and have the benefits for the whole body, whatever the muscles in "use".

I mean, if I cycle in zone 2 for 2 hours, will this help as much as rowing for 2 hours at the same heart rate?

The heart will always be used so I guess there's no difference for it. However, cycling will mostly use legs while rowing will also use the arms+chest.
In the end will chest+arms muscles' mitochondria improve even if I cycle? Or are mitochondria improving only for the targeted muscles?


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Re: Mitochondrial biogenesis / function improvement

Post by Dutch » December 2nd, 2023, 11:42 am

Cycling as far as i can tell is easier than rowing and in a recent challenge set by concept they said try for 100 thousand meters in a month and the bike would count as only half the meterage of a rower or ski erg.
If you cycle you are not using your arms or chest so will not get worked out so there will be no physical improvement.
Rowing will also not hit chest like it would most other muscles, it would prob not hit the triceps as much as the biceps either. But some sets of press up would make up for this. I would say sets of 20 reps as least with just a medium arm width.
The term Mitochondrial biogenesis is a term first used by John Holloszy in the 1960s for the process which the body will go through to adapt to endurance training, mitochondria is found in cells and they will divide to create more chemical reactions thus suppying energy via atp, glucose etc.
All we need to know is that zone 2 training can be applied to most aerobic procedures eg rowing, cycling, running etc. But bear in mind some are easier than others.
Any physical exertion undertaken at regular intervals will make the body adapt to become better. This is mitochrondiral function, the function is to generate the energy necessary to power cells.
Hope this helps.
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Re: Mitochondrial biogenesis / function improvement

Post by wizzard » January 7th, 2024, 2:17 am

Gmass wrote:
December 2nd, 2023, 5:10 am
It's funny to see doing sport at first is making feel you worse. So I do understand why a lot of people tend to stop working out as after 2-3 trainings, the body is really full of lactate, sore muscles and hurt by reactive oxygen species.
Sometimes it is due to poor post workout recovery because of poor nutrition. I am 54 years old. In terms of capacity, I can workout like a young professional because I eat lots of protein from meat, eggs, whey protein, extra Ieucine, creatine malate, vitamins, minerals, CBD oil. Without this stuff I would not be able to workout at all.

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Re: Mitochondrial biogenesis / function improvement

Post by jamesg » January 8th, 2024, 5:26 am

The C2 ergometer measures and shows us the Power we develop. This means we know exactly what we are doing at any time, so need to worry about zones or HR or anything else.

If you keep your W/kg ratio at 1 to 1.5, you'll get fit. If you keep it at 2W/kg or more, you'll get very fit. All in due time.

However, rowing is extremely hard work, since it involves shifting us in heavy boats fast through water; so don't overdo it to start with. The C2 machines don't offer any discount with respect to water, so if you want to pull hard, keep the rating down.

If in doubt, you can see how rowing is done here: ... que-videos

Various "plans" specifically for the erg and rowing are available here: ... ing-plans/
08-1940, 183cm, 83kg. Last seen MHR 140.
2024: stroke 6 W-min @ 20-21. No times yet, now using WODs.

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Re: Mitochondrial biogenesis / function improvement

Post by Elizabeth » January 8th, 2024, 7:17 am

Your question is about zone 2's improvement of mitochondrial function. Rowing uses the lats, cycling does not, and so would cycling in z2 improve the mitochondria in the lats or does it specifically need to be done through rowing - is that correct?

I'm not aware of any research, but that's not to say it doesn't exist.

Anecdotally, a lot of rowers cycle as cross-training, but part of that is that it's an additional way to accumulate time in zone and using different training modalities can help lessen risk of overuse injuries. I have noticed that there is a lot of carry-over but that my performance lags in modalities that I don't train in as much. I don't know how much of it is on a cellular level vs zone 2 also being a good way to develop efficiencies in technique - which is another benefit that sometimes gets overlooked. If you care about rowing, I don't think you would want to replace all z2 with cycling, but some amount seems to be fine.
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Re: Mitochondrial biogenesis / function improvement

Post by iain » February 15th, 2024, 9:12 am

NO expert, but the consensus is that to get the same benefit most people need to cycle for longer (and I mean a longer time not just the extra distance logged at the faster pace). While not aware of any research, I would be very surprised if any mitochondria were produced in poorly used muscles. I believe that most of teh larger muscles are used in rowing and this definitely includes the legs that do most of the work when rowing on a sliding seat correctly.
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