The 5 W's of Strength Training
|Posted on February 3, 2021 at 4:05 PM|
I thought beginning February with a blog post about strength training would be fitting because the lack of emphasis many athletes put on this important training discipline. This is a brief introduction to anyone who is thinking about getting in the gym and starting a strength program. I have left out many intricacies and I can certainly go into more detail in the future.
Who should strength train?
Everyone…. All endurance athletes….all ages can and should implement some aspect of strength training and CAN see a positive impact on performance and general well-being.
*It should be noted that strength training for aging athletes (40+) is arguably more important than other age demographics. (More details in the “Why” section below)
What is strength training?
Performing movements or movement patterns to improve muscular strength, function, and efficiency (typically under load)
When to implement strength training in your training plan?
This can and will change depending on the athlete of course, but here is a brief outline:
Begin a strength focused period of training following your off season, before you begin increasing volume significantly, this will allow for maximum adaptations as you will not be accumulating significant fatigue and stress from whichever endurance sport you’re participating in. (you will be sore from strength training…that’s good!)
How long? If you can get in 8-12 weeks of focused strength work that is ideal and certainly doable for many athletes. Keeping strength in your program throughout the year is great and should be considered.
How many days a week? Between 2-4 days a week depending on the athlete and time of year (be sure to have proper recovery between sessions…especially as you increase training volume)
How long will I spend in the gym per session? You can plan on spending 30min-90min per strength session depending on your prescription. (have a plan, warm up and get the work done)
Where should I do my strength sessions?
At Home: It is quite easy to have a great “at home” gym set up to have a productive strength training program. It certainly is more efficient than a gym membership if you have the right equipment at home It will eliminate any travel to and from the gym (and nowadays, unnecessary exposure to other people #COVID)
Things to Have to get started at home: The following items are great to have, but all are NOT necessary to be productive in the gym. You can get everything on this list for relatively cheap.
Squat rack: with bar and weights
At the Gym: If you do not have the space for an at home gym, or don’t have the money, or simply prefer to go to a gym, you can still get the necessary strength work done.
It is important to know your gym layout. When you get to the gym it will be important for you to know the exercises you are doing, where the equipment is, and how you will flow through your session without taking up too much space or equipment.
Take your first few sessions to learn a system that works for you, that way you can be efficient and get the work done.
Why should I do strength training?
There are many reasons in favor of strength training and almost no downside when implemented into your plan correctly.
I have listed some of the more prominent reasons to strength train below, there are MANY more reasons not listed.
The famous reason for strength training quoted by many endurances athletes is “Injury Prevention” While this is one benefit of strength training, I would say it is highly overstated compared to other additional benefits.
Increase fatigue resistance: this is a HUGE benefit of strength training and can be quoted in many studies. One being, with a proper strength program you can convert Type IIX muscle fibers to more fatigue resistant Type IIA fibers
Improved exercise economy:
“Cycling economy is commonly referred to as the steady-rate oxygen cost of a standard power output measured as L·min” https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2010/08000/Maximal_Strength_Training_Improves_Cycling_Economy.26.aspx
The study listed above is one of many, that look at the benefits of strength training (in this case, heavy weight) and its positive impact on cycling economy. There are many studies concluding similar results with runners.
The result that stands out to me from this 8 week intervention is the time to exhaustion improvement in the group that had strength training. The results are as follows : “time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power (17.2%) in the intervention group were shown”
For the aging athlete: there are many more specific reasons for older athletes to strength train, this is simply a starting point to give a sense of the importance.
The benefits above are even more pronounced for those older athletes. “The strength training induced a significant improvement in MVC torque in all the subjects, more pronounced in masters (+17.8% in masters vs. +5.9% in young” https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-011-2013-1
Muscle mass begins to decrease after the age of 30 and will begin to rapidly decrease after the age of 60 as reported in several studies.
Get in the Gym!
Some simple health benefits for older athletes lifting are listed below.
“counteract the age-related changes in contractile function, atrophy, and morphology of aging human skeletal muscle.”
“enhance the muscular strength, power, and neuromuscular functioning”
These quotes are from a statement from the National Strength and Conditioning Association
Tips and Myth Busting:
• Anyone and Everyone should strength train
• Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights
• You’re an endurance athlete, not a power lifter, BE CAREFUL
• Going to the gym is not going to make you “bulk up and gain weight” that’s just not how it works, especially when you have a proper program in place.
• Riding big gear on the bike or hills on the run is NOT a substitute for strength training
• Start light, ensure you’re moving correctly before adding weight to your lifts
• Have someone film you so you can review your form or have your coach review technique
• You will be sore…don’t let this steer you away
• Consistency is key, give yourself an 8 week planned block of strength training to see adaptations
• Get a coach familiar with strength training
• Get in the gym and improve
Why do you strength train?
Why have you not started?
What is your favorite exercise in the gym?
Would you like to see a sample workout for your specific sport?