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Unleash the power of strength training for endurance athletes: Boost performance and prevent injury
This article will describe the advantages of strength training for endurance athletes and provide tips on incorporating it into your busy schedule. So follow along!
- Benefits of strength training for endurance athletes
- Incorporate strength training into your triathlon or swimrun training plan
- Your next move
Benefits of strength training for endurance athletes
So why should I, as an endurance athlete, spend my valuable time on strength training?
Well, it is proven that strength training boosts power and endurance via increased muscle strength. It even raises your oxygen uptake. In turn, that helps improve your sports performance, protects against injuries, and enhances your overall fitness.
So, let us dig into the benefits of strength training.
Improve power and endurance
First and foremost, strength training improves your power and endurance by building muscle mass and increasing muscle strength.
Building muscle mass allows your body to produce more force, which, for example, helps you run faster and cycle harder. That means you can push off the ground or pedal with more power, which can help you go faster and longer.
Another thing – one could say that strength training’s close cousin is muscle endurance. And when you train your muscles, they become better at using oxygen and producing energy, which means they can work for longer periods before fatiguing. And this is especially important for you training for a triathlon or swimrun.
Increase oxygen uptake
So strength training is an effective way to improve oxygen uptake by increasing muscle mass which in turn allows for greater blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles. On that note, strength training can also help improve lung function, increasing the amount of oxygen that can be inhaled and utilized by the body.
And your body’s ability to use oxygen, also known as oxygen uptake or VO2 max, is crucial for you in endurance sports. VO2 max is a measure of an athlete’s cardiovascular fitness and the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles.
Oxygen is needed by the body to produce energy through so-called cellular respiration. During endurance exercise, the muscles require large amounts of oxygen to sustain a prolonged effort. The more oxygen the body can take in and utilize, the more energy the muscles can produce, and the longer you can maintain the effort.
So, with a higher VO2 max, you can perform at a higher intensity for longer and perform better before fatigue. Sound good, eh?
In triathlon and swimrun, you are at a higher risk of overuse of your joints and muscles than in other sports. Injuries such as stress fractures and tendonitis are caused by endless repetitive motions that stress the same muscles and joints in your body.
And by building strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments, they become better at absorbing the stress from repetitive motions. That, in turn, protects your joints from “breaking apart”. So you will not be affected by it at first. Still, when you start incorporating more extended workout sessions and stack them, you will begin to notice your weakest links.
But it is not just that.
Strong (core) muscles play a significant role in maintaining proper body posture and balance. Think about it, you typically move in a diagonal fashion when you are swimming, cycling, and running. And without a strong and resilient body, you soon become wiggly in your movement. Which in turn makes you less efficient as an endurance athlete.
Did I say that strength training for endurance athletes is of the essence…
Improved overall fitness
In addition to the above specific benefits, you also improve your overall fitness through strength training.
Let us discuss two advantages.
Metabolism. When you build muscle mass, your body burns more calories to maintain it. And that happens even when you sleep. So, if you want to lose some or maintain a healthy weight, strength training can help give your metabolism a boost.
Bone density. Most athletes we coach are in their 40th and 50th, referred to as age groupers. And as we age, our bones lose density, making them more prone to fractures and injuries. But, when you engage in strength training, you are placing “positive” stress on your bones, which rebuild their density and overall health.
If you are still reading, you should be convinced that strength training is something for you. And want to know the best exercises for you as an endurance athlete. And how you can incorporate them into your training plan.
So let us dig into that now.
Incorporate strength training into your triathlon or swimrun training plan
Before you rush off and sign up for a lifelong membership at the local gym, you can do a lot without expensive equipment. And the good news is that many strength exercises are great for endurance athletes, and they do not all require a lot of heavy lifting. But first…
Find your weaknesses
Think of your body as a link from your head to your toe. And you know the saying about the weakest link! This goes for your body as well.
So before discussing any specific strength training, you should find your weakest link. The recommended and most thorough way to do this is with the help of a physiotherapist. The consultation will result in a comprehensive evaluation of your imbalances or weaknesses and, ultimately, an individual strength training program.
You can use several self-assessments to find your weakest link, such as Muscle Imbalance Tests, Movement Screen Tests, and Postural Analysis. However, remember that these self-assessments are just a starting point and should not be used to diagnose or treat an injury.
Core strength training
Nowadays, most of us spend long hours sitting at a desk in front of a computer. If this is you – you probably find yourself “sinking down” more and more during the day. And that is usually due to weak core strength.
So, with a strong core, you can maintain a proper posture, reducing the strain on your neck, back, and shoulders. Ultimately preventing pain and discomfort.
Needless to say, when you train for a triathlon or swimrun, it is absolutely essential to have a functioning body.
Adding core training to your daily routine can be as simple as doing a few minutes of exercises like planks, back extensions, and bridges at your desk, or incorporating a more comprehensive core workout into your training plan.
Why not use our 4-week core strength training plan? It is designed to make you less prone to injury and better prepared for all disciplines in your regular training plan. And you can do the core workouts at home without any equipment.
Strength training for runners
After the specific core training, we advise you to set up a run strength and mobility routine based on the exercises we suggest in this blog. It features several exercises using resistance bands of varying strengths, making them ideal for home workouts or on-the-go strength training.
To enhance your running performance, we have crafted a 4-week run strength training plan featuring our top strength exercises for runners.
Strength training for swimmers
Next out is swim strength and, more specifically, dryland strength training. And why is that!?
The on-land activity complements and enhances in-water training by targeting specific muscle groups that may not be sufficiently activated through swimming alone.
So, to help increase your strength, flexibility, and overall physical mobility in swimming, we have put together 15 dryland strength exercises and designed a 4-week swim strength training plan. Check it out!
Strength training for cyclists
As a cyclist, you are more or less stuck in a fixed position. And you move in the same pattern to propel your bike forward. Over time, you lose the ability to move well through your hips. Therefore you want to develop your cycling strength and mobility to improve performance and avoid overuse injury.
We have produced a series of upper and lower body exercises (videos) to help you add power and become more efficient on your bike.
Your next move
Incorporating strength training into your routine can be the difference between reaching the finish line or sitting on the sidelines. It is time to stop thinking of strength training as something for bodybuilders and start thinking of it as an essential part of your triathlon or swimrun training plan.
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