Many endurance athletes believe strength training has no place in their weekly training schedule. Myths run amok that lifting weights will make them big and bulky or lead to injury. Contrary to popular belief, hitting the gym a couple times a week can lead to significant gains in endurance performance. Here's why:
- Endurance athletes who participate in strength training may recover faster from injuries, prevent overuse injuries, and reduce muscle imbalances (Baechle & Earl, 2008). This means the athlete is able to spend more time training and hence become more “fit”.
- Endurance athletes who participate in heavy strength training can improve muscular efficiency. Hansen, Ronnestad, Vegge and Raastad (2012) found that cyclists who performed 12 weeks of heavy strength training in addition to their regular endurance training were able to improve their performance by 7% compared to the cyclists who only did endurance training. This improvement in performance was due to improved pedaling efficiency.
- Going hand in hand with the above point; strength training increases muscular tone. Increased muscular tone, when running, reduces energy lost to “rebounding” off the pavement (Wilson et al., 2012). In lax muscles, energy is required to absorb the force of contact with each step, yet tense muscles will absorb the force without expending as much energy. This equals more efficient locomotion.
- Higher power output is another benefit endurance athlete can gain from strength training. Certain aspects of endurance events such as hills climbs, breakaways, and the final sprint all depend on the ability to produce power quickly and can often mean the difference between first and second place (Zupan & Petosa, 1995).
Leveritt, M., Abernethy, P. J., Barry, B. K., & Logan, P. A. (1999). Concurrent strength and endurance training. Sports medicine, 28(6), 413-427.
Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Human kinetics.
Wilson, J. M., Marin, P. J., Rhea, M. R., Wilson, S. M., Loenneke, J. P., & Anderson, J. C. (2012). Concurrent training: a meta-analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2293-2307.
Hansen, E. A., Rønnestad, B. R., Vegge, G., & Raastad, T. (2012). Cyclists' improvement of pedaling efficacy and performance after heavy strength training.
Zupan, M. F., & Petosa, P. S. (1995). Aerobic and Resistance Cross-Training for Peak Triathlon Performance. Strength & Conditioning Journal,17(5), 7-12.