There is a common belief that strength training is exclusively for explosive sports. Yes, strength training is high risk. Yes, there is significantly more stress placed on your skeletal system when doing these training sessions. Yes, it is important to get technique correct before implementing the exercises. And yes, additional muscle mass can be detrimental to endurance performance. So, why should you (an athlete focused on endurance) do such a thing?
Here at Optimal Movement, we believe that doing brief intensive strength workouts can have a significant benefit to your endurance performance. Contrary to the common aims of strength training, as endurance athletes we don’t engage in such activities with the aim of “getting massive”. Our aim is to make the muscles you currently have stronger and more functional, not necessarily to stimulate hypertrophy (the growth of your muscle fibres). As well as increased strength and functionality, strength training also has the benefit of reducing excess body fat and preserving lean muscle mass when combined with a healthy diet.
The rationale behind strength training for endurance sports:
- Your neuromuscular system (the system which links what your brain wants your muscles to do and what your muscles actually do) is enhanced.
- Power is increased (Power = Speed x FORCE)
- Efficiency is increased. This means less wasted energy when you run, swim, bike etc…
- Reduces injury by increasing bone density and limiting the breakdown of soft tissue during your other training sessions.
- Neatens up your posture and irons out any muscular imbalances.
We’ve all seen runners approach the end of a race with a completely different technique compared to when they started. Their efficiency has significantly decreased, now shuffling to the finish line with a slouched posture. More specifically, their ability to use oxygen as fuel has decreased due to compromised breathing and the energy that was previously being transferred to the pavement to propel them forward is now being used to prevent them from falling over! The same can be said for swimming and cycling — when you are fatigued, efficiency decreases significantly. This is where strength training will help.
A session or 2 per week integrated into your endurance training will help you preserve form and exhibit correct technique through increased muscular efficiency when pedalling a bike, pounding the pavements or swimming open water. The coaches at Optimal Movement can prescribe personalised strength training plans for your specific requirements.
In the next post we will give some practical implications for strength training for endurance athletes. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions in the meantime!