Thursday, October 25, 2012

Strength training for endurance athletes

It's that time year when the the racing season is complete, daylight starts to shrink, and training volume is at its lowest of the year. Is also a time year when the great debate about strength training for endurance athletes begins anew. As a proponent of strength and conditioning for endurance athletes, I have lectured and written numerous times on the subject, and the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of this concept. Yet many coaches still advocate that strength training has little or no value for endurance athletes.

I can only assume this is either due to lack of information, or lazy coaching .You see to create a well-designed 6 week plan for an athlete, takes the same amount of time as it does to create a 6 week training plan and I can only guess that coaches and athletes do not want to create the extra work required to increase performance.

There are many reasons why athletes need to create a year-round strength training plan that will help reduce injuries and increase performance.It is often cited that this takes too much time during the training week and takes away from swim, bike, and run training .  But a well-designed program should only take about 40 minutes to complete and be done twice a week . this type of plan should include movement skills, core training, mobility work , as well as strength and power-based exercises.

 There are many reasons other than increasing strength and power in the prime movers that one should perform regular strength training workouts .

1. Create muscle balance- swimming cycling and running are all cyclical activities which use specific muscles  that are often over worked and shortened.  A properly designed strength training plan will help create muscle balance,  improve posture, and decrease the incidence and severity of over use injuries .

2. Improve athleticism- through basic athletic lifts such as squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, you become a better athlete. the added benefit here is when these are done with barbells, dumbbells, or kettle bells you also improve the stabilizers of the core hips and shoulders which are critical in preventing injuries .

3. Improve movement economy- this has been proven in the laboratory and research time and again in all endurance sports that an increase in strength and stability can improve movement economy from about 5 to 8% . this is free speed with no additional training required.

4.  Masters- after the age of 35 endurance athletes lose muscle mass at the same rate as sedentary people even know they are training aerobically. this is a proven fact in this alone is enough reason for athletes to strength training around. the loss of muscle mass and Masters athletes correlates very closely to decrease in speed often seen. one of the best ways to maintain speed as we get older is to a quality well-designed strength training plan.

 These are just a few the reasons to incorporate  a quality well designed strength plan into your off-season as well as in season training plan.

Below are a few links to some additional articles on strength and conditioning for endurance athletes .