To this day, it is still common to find ourselves in the sports world with the belief that strength training does not benefit those athletes or fans of endurance sports. Many trainers believe that strength work will not induce any positive adaptation, or that it will at least not be too relevant to spend time planning your workouts.
Among amateur endurance athletes or those who practice running, cycling, triathlon, or some similar discipline, it is also very common to find postures reluctant towards strength training with loads, since they think that this will make them slower or heavier, since link weight training to inevitable muscle hypertrophy.
So should an endurance athlete train strength? Of course! at least if he wants to improve his performance and be more efficient.
Within the physical qualities, the force represents the mother of all. In fact the phrase “force is the physical quality through which all others arise”, is true. Strength is present in any physical activity we do.
As I have commented before, some coaches do not include strength training in endurance athletes because they think that it is not specific for this discipline, that is, that it will not comply with the principle of specificity. Nothing is further from the truth!
What is resistance but the ability to continue applying or maintaining force for a certain time? Strength training produces important adaptations that improve the ability to produce force and maintain specific levels of strength over time.
What benefits can strength training bring in endurance athletes?
Are claims that strength training impairs performance in endurance sports not true? Let’s discuss.
- As for the concern that exists among endurance athletes, in relation to resistance training with loads, for fear of gaining muscle mass and therefore becoming slower and losing aerobic capacity, it is not true. Strength training does not necessarily have to be accompanied by an increase in muscle mass. This is one of the points where amateur athletes or even some coaches are unaware.
- We have to know that gaining functional and contractile muscle mass such as sarcomeric hypertrophy will be positive for us, although a substantial increase in sarcoplasmic hypertrophy does not interest us. Strength is divided into several subtypes (I will not go into much here) and strength-hypertrophy, which is focused on increasing muscle mass, is just one of those subtypes, which requires specific premises to work it. In other words, working with other types of strength such as maximum strength, power strength, or resistance strength, we will not significantly increase our muscle mass or at most, the hypertrophy that we will obtain will be the minimum necessary as a basic adaptation. In addition, this hypertrophy would be of a functional nature, so it will provide us with positive improvements for resistance tests as we will see later and it will not make us slower or heavier.
- Furthermore, when strength training is properly planned and included within a resistance training program, it will not induce muscle mass gains since we must bear in mind that it will be used as a resource and strength sessions must be separated in time and They will not be excessively constant as to cause an overly important hypertrophic muscular adaptation, in such a way that it could “harm” us, but the adaptations will be neural.
- On the other hand, to gain a considerable amount of muscle mass that would “harm” us, it would be necessary to introduce other factors such as a constant caloric surplus or training too focused on strength-hypertrophy.
- At this point, you will think “Okay, but then how exactly does strength training benefit us in endurance sports?” Let’s get to the point then. Strength training has been shown to improve the running economy, such that it can increase the ability to maintain or improve stride power during running. By gaining strength we will be able to perform or maintain the exercise with a lower energy cost since we will be more efficient by reducing muscle activation to generate the same effort. In other words, strength training will make us run or pedal at the same intensity with less sensation or perception of effort.
- Another benefit is that it delays fatigue, especially in the final part of races. This is especially important in long-term events such as a marathon or a cycling event. So we can maintain the effort for longer.
- Finally, an important aspect of strength training is injury prevention. Working the core and stabilization is essential to produce force efficiently, without postural or biomechanical alterations that lead to injuries.
Although there are even more reasons why I recommend strength training for endurance athletes, these are the most prominent.