Some physiological and biomechanical adaptations happen as a result of strength training. Endurance athletes tend to avoid this type of training as they are of the belief that it will make them “bulky” and “slow”. I’ve heard it a number of times within my local gym, “oh I don’t do weights, because I don’t want to get bulky”.
There are many benefits to strength training for the endurance athlete. Not only can there be an increase in peak force, but the use of effective strength training can also produce a number of physiological improvements. These may include:
- Improved availability of fuel to the muscle
- Increase in mitochondria; improving the endurance
- Increase in bone strength
- Increase in connective tissue strength
- Increase in flexibility
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved neuromuscular coordination
- … I could go on.
The strength benefits do not contradict, but simply compliment endurance capability. Some of the main benefits to strength training is the improvement of strength in the hands, wrists, forearms and arms. Why? It is these that can tire during effort and once they do, surrounding muscles engage further up the chain to support them. The shoulders begin to tire, posture becomes poor and the diaphragm becomes compressed, which results in a lower oxygen uptake.
In recent years, we have seen the use of lighter, less supportive footwear being worn on the pitch or track. Taking this in to account, it’s important that the athlete improves foot strength. There are a number of ways in which this could be achieved, including performing certain Olympic lifts or kettlebells without shoes.
At Ox Strong Health, we do not believe that any particular activity is specific to a certain outcome or result. For example, we may improve strength by incorporating sprint training or the use of gymnastic rings. The point being, that using strength training to improve and increase endurance does not have to take place within the weights area of the gym.
Further to this, Squats performed with an elevated heart rate can also increase diaphragm strength and endurance. The greater the endurance of the diaphragm , the greater the efficiency of the respiration cycles. Movements to train this could be front squat to overhead press or wall ball these could be performed as 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds rest, repeating 15 times.
All movements are initiated by the core and completed by the extremities. It could therefore be assumed that any improvement to core strength would result in increased movement effectiveness and efficiency. One way to improve core strength is to hold weight above your head, for example: overhead squat. Posterior strength can be developed by use of the Deadlift, Clean and Jerk, Snatch, KB or DB swings, squats and it’s variants. Anterior core strength can be developed by plank, med ball throws, l-sits, gymnastic ring push ups etc.
Required strength drills that are conducted in a way to support recruitment, rather than mass, combined with a diet that fuels effort and not to increase mass is an important part of conditioning for the endurance athlete. For many athletic competitors, having a positive power to weight ratio is key, it is a concept we revere at Ox Strong Health.