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Strength Training for Endurance Athletes: 3 Simple Whys and Hows

We all intuitively know that building muscles is important as we age. But perhaps it is not so intuitive that as an endurance athlete, you need to strength train for performance gains. Unfortunately, too many endurance athletes figure that more time spent training in their chosen sport is still the best use of their limited training time and even the enlightened ones are often strength training incorrectly (read: ineffectively).  If you are an endurance athlete looking to up your game, it may be worth considering the following points and whether hiring a strength coach might benefit you.


1. Strength training helps with injury prevention. Long duration aerobic sports place repetitive strain on certain muscle groups and promotes the unbalanced development of muscles across joints. Time in the gym should be used to strengthen lagging muscle groups, not reinforce these imbalances. Unfortunately, most athletes go to the gym to replicate the movement patterns and muscular development that their sport already promotes, thus furthering their structural and neuromotor imbalances. Having a structural balance test and a personalized strength training program designed to address individual movement, mobility and strength deficits is key to injury prevention.  Fewer days off pf endurance training due to injury equals better sport performance over the long run.

2. Strength training should be progressive and periodized. Gaining functional strength requires programs that build upon themselves over time and alternate between muscle building (hypertrophy) and strength (neuromuscular efficiency) as goals. The problem is that most endurance athletes train with the same “circuit” of high repetition, low weight exercises that never help them replace mass lost with endurance sport, or reach an intensity that builds Type IIA fibers for speed as well as neuromuscular efficiency. Physio-type work with resistance bands and bodyweight will never achieve meaningful results in the long run.  Training at various intensities (ie rep schemes and therefore volumes and loads) is essential if endurance athletes are to reap the benefits of resistance training.

3. Strength training needs to be year-round. The competitive season is not the time to abandon weight training but rather to modify the volume and intensity. Abandoning the weights for lack of time or because athletes believe they will deplete their  muscles for endurance training simply reflects improper training methods and schedules. Taking even a few weeks off of endurance training impacts aerobic performance and in the same way, a few weeks out of the gym leads to strength and mass loss. Working with a knowledgeable strength coach will ensure that programs accommodate endurance training loads throughout the year.  

If you are an endurance athlete, consider whether your current training program is setting you up for success. If you have too many lost training days for injury, perhaps it is time to reconsider your approach. At Premium Performance Fitness Center, our coaches possess knowledge and experience to help you strength train safely and effectively no matter what your sport or level of experience. Come talk to us today.