One of the most common misunderstandings of endurance athletes is that strength training could negatively affect their performance. Many of the stereotypes are that lifting weights will lead to weight gain, thus resulting in poorer performance, and an increased risk of injury. The truth is that the benefits of strength training are far too great for endurance athletes to ignore.
With the right strength training program, it is possible for an endurance athlete to get stronger without adding mass, as mass is not a direct correlation of strength. This can be done by fully recruiting all muscle fibers in the body. People are made up of two muscle fiber types: (Type I) slow twitch which correlates to endurance, and (Type II) fast twitch, which correlates to power and strength. When comparing slow and fast twitch muscle fibers, it takes a much stronger signal to contract fast twitch muscle fibers than it does to contract slow twitch muscle fibers. A group of muscle fibers and the nerve that stimulates them is called a motor unit. If the signal from the nerve isn’t strong enough, then none of the muscle fibers will contract. However, if the signal from the nerve is strong enough, then all fibers in the motor unit contract. This is called the “all or none principle.”
Traditionally, endurance athletes are comprised of more slow-twitch muscle fibers which allow them to perform over an extended period of time. To fully reach their performance potential, they must have the ability to recruit all the muscle fibers, both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers. In order to fully recruit all of the muscle fibers, the endurance athlete needs to add strength training to their current program to increase force and strength.
Strength training also provides the benefit of injury prevention. Long distance running on pavement, pedaling on a bicycle, or even long distance swimming can be brutal on knee, ankle, and shoulder joints due to its repetitive nature. Research shows that our bones and joints can actually adapt to the stresses of strength training and become stronger. This is known as general adaptation syndrome (GAS), which give us the ability to prevent any potential fractures, hip, back, knee and shoulder pains.
So, what exercises should you be doing?
- Large multi Joint Exercise
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Split Squats
- Upper Body Presses and Pulls ( To increase upper body strength and to maintain good posture)
- Seated Rows
- Pull downs
- DB/BB press( Flat, Incline, and Decline)