Benefits Of Strength Training In Endurance Athletes

Let’s face it, most endurance junkie I know do not practice strength training as part of their daily routine. When it comes to endurance training, it is easily that most will be caught up with more and more swimming, cycling, running, hiking, rowing and other “repetitive” motion activities. I’m not saying that we should be dead lifting or bench pressing a max load, trying to balance a single leg squat with a heavy load or even performing plyometrics every day. Lifting will not replace swimming, biking or running, or even to replicate the forces of specific motions involved in endurance training. However, a training program that includes strength training will boost an athlete to move efficiently, allows the body to stay less injured, improves the ability to bounce back faster from an injury or a hard session, and perhaps bring the body’s performance to the next level.

You get the idea? Let’s jump into some benefits and how to incorporate strength training in our routine.


1. Reduces risk of injury

Excessive use of the same muscles in a similar or automatic pattern of movement may result in chronic aches and pain, muscle imbalances, inflammation and soft tissue irritation. As with the overuse of injured muscles, sprains and strains are more likely to happen as the muscle group does not maintain the agonist and antagonist function of retraction and contraction. One side will be weaker than the other and compensation of muscles will take place. One can apply large, multi-joint exercises or by performing isolation moves on these tiny, supportive muscles. Some examples would be a barbell or dumbbell overhead press, where its targeting the rotator cuff but also uses other motor units and coordination of the body. Exercises such as overhead presses, squats, clean and jerk, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, get ups, or barbell front squats demonstrates a multi-joint movement.

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2. Increases strength and power

Speed and power is almost everything in endurance sports. Specific strength regime at different phases of training and splitting of training focusing on fitness goals will boost peak performance in an athlete. These “periodization” period allows building of muscle fibres as well as train the cardiovascular system to be efficient and even boost the lactate threshold. Just some simple rules to follow in terms of “periodization”.

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Off-season – This is when training workouts are performed in a set of higher repetitions to allow muscle hypertrophy, designed for muscular growth and strength. It usually consists of 3-5 sets for each exercise, 10-15 reps, at 65%-75% intensity, with 30-60 seconds rest between sets. Circuits with minimal rest is encouraged as well.

Base/Foundation building – The goal for this period of training should be to develop strength and muscle coordination focusing on specific sport without adding tremendous soreness. It usually consists of 3-4 sets for each exercise, 8-10 reps, at 75%-85% intensity, with 60-90 seconds rest between sets. Weights can generally be heavier.

Build – The build phase usually has a high volume and intensity of endurance training, therefore it’s logical not to exert and overstrain on strength training. This phase usually consists of 2-4 sets, at 6-8 reps at 85% – 95% intensity, 90 seconds to 2 minutes rest between sets. Plyometric circuits are encouraged during this period, either after the strength session or separately.

strength training
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Peak & Taper – The goal of this period is to maintain neuromuscular coordination and peak power. When performed properly, it should be little to no soreness or muscle failure, and lifting should be done explosively with a lighter weight. This phase is just at 1-3 sets, of 4-6 reps of 40%-60% intensity lifted explosively with light weights, about 1-2 sessions/week.

So, there you have it. There is only good to incorporate some strength workout in your endurance training. Bodyweight exercises such as a variation of planks and push ups are also part of strength building. If you have not been doing much resistance or strength training, start slowly and with some proper guidance and add the intensity and volume as your base and foundation improves.

Always refuel and recover well after every session.

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