07 Jun Strength Training for Endurance Athlete
Look on any endurance or multisport forum and you’ll inevitably see discussions (sometimes full blown arguments) about the benefits (or not) of incorporating weight training into the training programme for an endurance athlete. A quick trawl of the internet would reveal countless studies that present the case convincingly both for and against.
Engaging in the argument for weight training for endurance athletes there is no magic plan. And people will argue very strongly one way or the other; you should or should not. At MAMultisport we believe it is an essential part of your training plan and you should appreciate that is has a time and place and should reflect the phase in which you are training.
So what is a sensible volume? When should you engage in heavier training loads?
An inclusive training programme incorporating maximal sprints, plyometrics and explosive strength training at 1/3 of total training volume sounds sensible and gives improved results. (For those not familiar with plyometrics, plymoetrics involves a series of jumps and hops, like jump squats or one-leg hops, walking lunges and burpees. With the jump moves aiming to jump faster and further, every jump, lung or squat will stretch and work the muscles, increasing strength.
Areas such as running economy, sprint times, lactate threshold and, most importantly, race times all improved in the runners within the studies referenced by Andrew McDonough (Andrew McDonough, March 2013). At MAMultisport we strongly supply the concept aired by Andrew McDonough. High velocity lifting gives the best results and this requires a fair bit of technique in the gym. Interestingly it is the INTENTION to lift quickly rather than the actual speed of the lift that matters. By trying to lift as quickly as possible you will recruit fast twitch fibres and get the desired neural and muscular responses. (Andrew McDonough, March 2013) Our basic sessions look more like circuit training. You are not trying to build bulk or “look buff” for the mirror after each lift. You are working on transforming your body and how it reacts to continuous load.
We enjoy the saying “sweat is fat crying”. For examples of the types of training blocks will be found later on our site.
We strongly believe that muscle weakness can lead to injury and that variety of movement created by plyometrics and explosive strength training will reduce the risk of muscular imbalance and therefore risk on injury. However it needs to be recognised that as with all training differing energy levels will influence the ability to train and avoid injury, therefore training should be carefully planned in order to most effectively gain strength and range of movement.
So when is the time for power and strength over plyometrics and endurance and should we also look at it as a seasonal consideration. For this argument we will use triathlon/cycling as our example. As a general rule everyone tends to put their bikes away and train indoors for winter. The turbotrainers come out or the spin bikes get much heavier usage. At MAMultisport we believe this is the time for increasing base strength.
In simpler terms increasing the weight lifted and lowering the repetitions. This does not mean 2-5 lifts then stand chatting for 5 minutes, you are still working on endurance strength. You want to find a weight that challenges you and your range of motion but make sure you work through. As the physical load is increased it is then a good philosophy to try and reduce the crossover of same day cardiovascular training and strength training, look to either put weight training after cardiovascular work with a 12-24hr window before you next training session. Allowing the body time to repair and adapt to what it has just done. As you move from off season to race season the balance should shift to introducing more speed and explosive work.
In conclusion, our opinion is that weight lifting can increase strength and when done properly can be used to increase range of motion and applied strength through that motion. The result, we believe, is a stronger, fitter endurance athlete.