Steroid and pituitary hormone responses to rowing: relative significance of exercise intensity and duration and performance level

  • Valentina Snegovskaya
  • Atko Viru


To analyse the relative significance of exercise intensity and duration as well as of performance capacity, hormone changes were recorded in 16 male rowers in two experiments separated by a year. The test exercises consisted of 7-min (at the supramaximal intensity) and 40-min rowing (at the level of the anaerobic threshold) on a rowing apparatus. In addition, somatotropin and cortisol responses were estimated in rowing for 8 × 2000 m in 14 rowers of national class. All three tests caused significant increases in somatotropin and cortisol concentrations in the blood. Follitropin concentrations were elevated in the 7-min exercise test in the second experiment and in the 40-min exercise test in both experiments. Lutropin and progesterone concentrations increased during the more prolonged exercise in the first experiment. No common change was found in testosterone concentrations. Cortisol and somatotropin responses to the 40-min rowing test at anaerobic threshold were more pronounced than to the 7-min exercise test at supramaximal intensity. When the rowers achieved a national class level of performance (the second experiment) the hormone responses to 7-min supramaximal exercise were increased. During the 8 × 2000-m rowing test cortisol but not somatotropin concentration increased to an extremely high level in the rowers of national class. It is concluded that in strenuous exercise cortisol and somatotropin responses were triggered by the exercise intensity threshold. The exact magnitude of the response would seem to have depended on additional stimuli caused by exercise duration and on possibility of mobilizing hormone reserves.

Key words

Cortisol Exercise Follitropin Glucose Lactate Lutropin Performance capacity Progesterone Rowing Somatotropin Testosterone 


  1. Adlercreutz H, Härkönen M, Kuoppasalmi K, Näveri H, Huhtaniemi I, Tikkanen H, Remes K, Dessypris A, Karvonen J (1986) Effect of training on plasma anabolic and catabolic steroid hormones and their response during physical exercise. Int J Sports Med 7 [Suppl]:27–28Google Scholar
  2. Barreca T, Reggiani E, Franceschini F, Bavastro G, Messina V, Menichetti G, Odaglia G, Rolandi E (1988) Serum prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in athletes and sedentary subjects after submaximal and exhaustive exercise. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 28:89–92Google Scholar
  3. Clausnitzer G, Wendelin T (1976) Die Bestimmung von L(+)lactat in Blut. Theor Praxis Leistungssports 2:99–103Google Scholar
  4. Farrell PA, Kjaer M, Bach FW, Galbo H (1987) Beta-endorphin and adrenocorticotropin response to supramaximal treadmill exercise in trained and untrained males. Acta Physiol Scand 130:619–625Google Scholar
  5. Few JD, Cashmore GC, Turton G (1980) Adrenocortical response to one- and two-leg exercise on a bicycle ergometer. Eur J Appl Physiol 44:167–174Google Scholar
  6. Galbo H (1983) Hormonal and metabolic adaptation to exercise. Thieme, StuttgartGoogle Scholar
  7. Häkkinen K (1989) Neuromuscular and hormonal adaptations during strength and power training. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 29:9–26Google Scholar
  8. Heck H, Mader A, Hess G, Mucke S, Müller R, Hollmann W (1985) Justification of the 4 mmol/l lactate threshold. Int J Sports Med 6:117–130Google Scholar
  9. Jaffe BM, Behrman HR (eds) (1979) Methods of hormone radioimmunoassay. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Karagiorgos A, Garcia JF, Brooks GA (1979) Growth hormone response to continuous and intermittent exercise. Med Sci Sports 11:302–307Google Scholar
  11. Kindermann W, Schnabel A, Schmitt WM, Biro G, Cassens J, Weber F (1982) Catecholamines, growth hormone, cortisol, insulin and sex hormones in anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 49:389–399Google Scholar
  12. Kjaer M (1989) Epinephrine and some other hormonal responses to exercise in man: with special reference to physical training. Int J Sports Med 10:1–15Google Scholar
  13. Kuoppasalmi K, Näveri H, Kosunen K, Härkönen M, Adlercreutz H (1981) Plasma steroid levels in muscular exercise. In: Poortmans J, Nisset G (eds) Biochemistry of exercise IV-B. University Park Press, Baltimore, pp 149–160Google Scholar
  14. Lehmann M, Keul J, DaPrada M (1981) Plasma catecholamines in trained and untrained volunteers during graded exercises. Int J Sports Med 2:143–147Google Scholar
  15. Mader A, Liesen H, Heck H, Philippi H, Rost R, Schürch PM, Hollmann W (1976) Zur Beurteilung der sportartspezifischen Ausdauerleistungsfahigkeit. Sportarzt Sportmed 27:80–88, 109–112Google Scholar
  16. Monakhov VV, Tkachuk AP (1977) Classification of sports mastery of rowers. In: Samsonov EB, Pleuhanov JA (eds) Rowing sports (in Russian). FiS, Moscow, pp 31–35Google Scholar
  17. Näveri H, Kuoppasalmi K, Härkönen M (1985) Metabolite and hormonal changes in moderate and intense long-term running exercises. Int J Sports Med 6:276–281Google Scholar
  18. Rahkila P, Hakala E, Alén M, Salminen K, Laatikainen T (1988) β-endorphin and corticotropin release is dependent on a threshold intensity of running exercise in male endurance athletes. Life Sci 43:551–558Google Scholar
  19. Sutton JR, Jones NL, Toews CJ (1976) Growth hormone secretion in acid-base alterations at rest and during exercise. Clin Sci Mol Med 50:241–247Google Scholar
  20. Urhausen A, Kindermann W (1992) Biochemical monitoring of training. Clin J Sports Med 2:52–61Google Scholar
  21. Vanhelder WP, Goode RC, Radomski MW (1984) Effect of anaerobic and aerobic exercise of equal duration and work expenditure on plasma growth hormone levels. Eur J Appl Physiol 52:255–257Google Scholar
  22. Vanhelder WP, Radomski MW, Goode RC, Casey K (1985) Hormonal and metabolic responses to three types of exercise of equal duration and external work output. Eur J Appl Physiol 54:337–342Google Scholar
  23. Vanhelder WP, Casey K, Radomski MW (1987) Regulation of growth hormone during exercise by oxygen demand and availability. Eur J Appl Physiol 56:628–632Google Scholar
  24. Viru A (1992) Plasma hormones and physical exercise. Int J Sports Med 13:201–209Google Scholar
  25. Viru A, Seene T (1985) Peculiarities of adjustments in the adrenal cortex to various training regimes. Biol Sport 2:90–99Google Scholar
  26. Viru A, Karelson K, Smirnova T, Port K (1990) Activity of pituitary-adrenocortical system during various exercises. In: Nazar K, Kaciuba-Usćilko H, Terjung RL, Budhoski L (eds) Advances in exercise physiology. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Ill., pp 160–165Google Scholar
  27. Weicker H, Rettenmeier A, Ritthaler F, Frank H, Bieger WP, Klett G (1981) Influence of anabolic and catabolic hormones on substrate concentration during various running distances. In: Poortmans J, Niset G (eds) Biochemistry of exercise IV-A. University Park Press, Baltimore, pp 208–218Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentina Snegovskaya
    • 1
  • Atko Viru
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Exercise BiologyTartu UniversityTartuEstonia

Personalised recommendations