Train strength to improve endurance

Considerations to take into account in training and not only to improve performance.


Our collaborator Victory Endurance through Alberto Cebollada, tells us in this article the considerations that we have to take into account when training strength and resistance together.

Concurrent training or how to train strength and endurance together. Considerations to take into account in training and not only to improve performance.

More and more athletes are practicing various sports such as “running” and cycling, or we practice those that combine different disciplines such as triathlon. New and varied training modalities are emerging, such as functional workouts that demand resistance, strength, flexibility, speed, agility and even new sports such as Crossfit that require training all of them.

New sports trends that not only require training a physical capacity but several, also develop psychomotor skills and even coordination and even their own execution require a combination of all of them. It is evident that his training results in an improvement of the overall performance and a more complete physical conditioning.

Strength and endurance are two of the basic physical abilities that in all sports have a greater or lesser degree of prominence, whether related to health, performance in sport or as we will see in this article in the prevention of injuries.

Athletes in sports in which strength is a determining factor, train endurance to improve the cardiovascular and respiratory systems since their demand directly influences health and the correct metabolic functioning of systems and organs. Endurance athletes as I will argue in this article should include the strength training in their routines for among other purposes, optimizing the economy in the effort, which will undoubtedly improve performance. The strengthening of bones, joints, tendons and muscles, allows among other benefits to strengthen and stabilize the joints, delaying the onset of fatigue should be a fundamental part of any program that tries to prevent injuries.

Currently, a large percentage of athletes know the importance of training strength and endurance within their training routines. Sometimes its development concurs in the same session, trying to obtain the benefits of the specific adaptations that both trainings cause. This type of training is called concurrent, and it is key when it is necessary to simultaneously develop the muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance so demanded in cyclical sports such as cycling, swimming, running, canoeing or skating. .

After the consultation of the investigations related to the training studies in which the development of strength and resistance concur, not all are positive effects but many interferences or negative effects are detected  Among which is the influence on the quality and volume of the subsequent training due to accumulation of fatigue. It is more than likely that the different results of the studies are due to the diversity of variables to take into account when conducting the research. We must bear in mind that the effects that this type of training can cause in an amateur athlete is not the same as in a professional, the numerous possibilities of combining the different training methods in the sessions and the varied choice of exercises that can be use in the design of the sessions among other variables.

At present, the concurrent development of strength and endurance in cyclical endurance sports is no longer an alternative, to be one of the most widely used training systems to optimize sports performance

In order to take advantage of the benefits that their performance provides the athlete and minimize interference, it is necessary to take into account a series of considerations when planning training.

The key to avoiding overtraining lies in the “adequate use” of the different variables, relative to the load, type and intensity of the stimulus, the frequency of weekly training and the structure of the planning and always according to individual variability and the particularities of the athlete.

Methods and benefits of simultaneous Strength work in endurance athletes:

The improvement of the specific strength that is required in the different sports is achieved mainly by using the methods of muscular hypertrophy, development of maximum dynamic force, maximum intensity and power method.

Some of its benefits:

  • Improves mechanical efficiency
  • Improves intermuscular and intramuscular coordination (motor recruitment. Coordination improvement favors changes and technical corrections of the sporting gesture.
  • Increase the size of the muscle fiber and the amount of glycolytic enzymes
  • By increasing muscle strength and coordination reduce muscle and nerve fatigue and thereby improves endurance.
  • The time to cover the competition distance is reduced, the speed of displacement increases at lactate threshold intensities.
  • Strength training improves endurance performance by improving the economy of movement, delaying fatigue, improving anaerobic capacity, which increases movement speed.

Methods and Benefits of resistance work in strength sports:

The improvement of the aerobic endurance of all sports specialties depends mainly on the improvement of the anaerobic threshold and the maximum aerobic power (VO2 max).

Some benefits :

  • Increases the number of blood capillaries and mitochondrial density.
  • Oxidative enzymes increase
  • Increase in muscle glycogen reserves.
  • Improvement of the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen.
  • Improves lung diffusion.
  • Improve the benefits of the heart and vascular system.

Strategies to achieve the greatest benefits of resistance and strength training:

1 New trends in the organization of training loads guide reduce the duration of training cycles and work more specifically on specific objectives.

The traditional planning system that was based on simultaneously developing the different manifestations of resistance and strength, entails an impossibility of working in a specific way each one of them and therefore the benefits are lower. In practice, it would mean that the simultaneous development of a single strength objective and a resistance objective for short periods of time is more effective for the development of both capacities, thereby reducing interference.

2 The benefits of strength work at the nervous level and increase in the cross section of the muscle fiber (hypertrophy) depend directly on the total number of repetitions performed by the athlete in the training session.

Performing a moderate volume of repetitions between 50 and 85% of the maximum achieves the greatest positive effects on the development of maximum dynamic force and muscular power in athletes in specialties with high demands on strength and endurance.

3 About him number of optimal series It is situated between 3 and 5 of 4 to 6 exercises, being better the multiarticular ones with free weights on pulleys such as the rowing and traction anterior or pulling, squats and loaded with which better results were obtained. 

4 Regarding the number of strength training sessions per week, it is recommended do not perform more than 3 strength sessions since this frequency allows to achieve the greatest adaptations with the minimum interferences

5 On the necessary rest time between workouts, it has been shown that insufficient recovery less than 8 hours between training sessions limits adaptations due to accumulation of fatigue. An aerobic endurance session prior to strength training decreases the absolute volume and quality of strength training by compromising the neuromuscular system. The most recent results seem to indicate that programming the strength sessions before the resistance sessions allows to obtain improvements in aerobic performance and strength, and they confirm that if a minimum of 8 h is respected. Between workouts this rest allows the correct replacement of muscle glycogen and a decrease in residual fatigue.

6 On the contrary, it must be borne in mind that the simultaneous training of muscular hypertrophy and aerobic power have a lot of interference, since they produce opposite physiological adaptations. Therefore, it depends on the objective that is intended, but in general terms it will be of interest perform the strength sessions before the aerobic resistance sessions This will ensure the quality of strength training and take advantage of the anabolic stimulation of growth hormone that is greater when strength precedes aerobic resistance in concurrent training.

7. It is not necessary to train the force until the "muscular failure", Since reaching the limit repetition involves incurring enormous fatigue, excessive metabolic and mechanical stress (magnitude of muscle damage) that negatively influence the quality of subsequent sessions and is not necessary to achieve optimal strength development . Avoiding "failure" allows you to recover more quickly from fatigue, allowing a higher quality in subsequent training sessions, whether they are resistance or strength.

8 On muscle groups and their combination in training is preferable avoid performing resistance training at submaximal intensities and strength training of the same muscle groups involved in sports.

Thus, for example, in the case of a triathlete, it would be beneficial to perform the resistance training volume in the water, requesting the upper body and subsequently perform a lower body strength work. Or if you are doing a running or pedaling session, it is more appropriate to do a session of upper body strength and core stability afterwards. On the contrary, matching specific resistance training and lower body strength training generate a greater degree of interference, due to increased residual fatigue in the muscle groups of the legs.

Trying not to make the same muscle groups coincide in training, facilitates the adaptations to the training achieved in the previous session and increases muscle recovery, providing more quality in the next training session.

9. Requesting isometric and eccentric contractions in training will allow greater adaptations of the muscle fiber to the effort and will serve to prevent tendon muscle injuries. On the one hand, eccentric work produces in the fiber something that exercise physiologists know as RBE or "Repeated bout effect" with which faster improvements in strength, less swelling and muscle pain are obtained. Its basis can be explained by a structural reorganization of the muscle protein filaments or by the adaptation and increase of the connective tissue after the performance of eccentric contractions. These improvements in the performance of the muscle fiber will protect against the damage produced in future efforts and this is the main argument why eccentric work should be included in all sports physical preparation programs in order to prevent injuries.

Other research shows that isometric contractions do very well for tendons because they reduce inflammation and pain in their structure. Isometric contractions have an analgesic effect, reduce associated muscle inhibition, and increase muscle strength. Athletes should introduce isometric contractions into their training routines as they are beneficial for the tendon structure and do not increase as much muscle fatigue as eccentric work.

10. Key muscles. There are no muscles more important than others, but there are certain muscles that are key due to their function, such as in the dynamics of the hip and the knee during running and pedaling or the movement of the shoulder in the case of swimming or swimming. rowing.

For example, the importance of gluteus medius strength is known due to its biomechanical implication in the position of the hip and whose weakness is the cause of many discomfort in the knee of athletes and cyclists.

It has been proven that by performing selective strengthening exercises of the gluteus medius, numerous incidences of patellofemoral pain, ileotibial band pain, tibial periostitis and other injuries associated with overuse can be reduced.

Mechanics of the hip and knee injuries

Example of hip with excessive internal rotation

A study by Richard Souza and Christopher Poderes found that athletes showing increased internal hip rotation when running, jumping, and descending stairs were caused by decreased gluteus medius muscle strength.

Having a weakened gluteus medius causes excessive adduction and internal rotation of the femur which increases knee valgus and negatively affects knee biomechanics. The role of the gluteus medius during activities such as walking and running is to dynamically stabilize the pelvis in a neutral position during single leg stance.

Tracy Dierks, a professor at Indiana University, conducted a very interesting study in which runners showed significant changes in biomechanics after a program to strengthen the muscles involved in hip stability, especially the abdominals. and buttocks for 6 weeks. They all reported that their knee pain had been reduced by performing fairly simple proprioception and balancing exercises on one leg, 1/8 and XNUMX/XNUMX squats, and resistance exercises with elastic bands targeting all hip movements but in special to abduction and external rotation. 


Include the performance of strength exercises in different planes, axes and angles such as those performed on pulleys or with free weights, will allow greater neuromuscular enrichment than doing them in machines with guided movements.

To request during muscular contractions the different types of muscular contractions requiring speed and power in the concentric isotonic, stopping the movement by means of isometrics and braking it with eccentrics, will allow strengthening the tendinous muscle component of the locomotor structures and reinforcing them before the probability of suffering an injury.

In swimming, rowing and canoeing, but also in cycling and athletics, an anterior projection of the humeral head is frequently observed and the shoulders tend to move forward, partly favored by the shortening of the pectoral musculature, this position being the cause of shoulder discomfort as the glenohumeral joint becomes unstable. The shoulder is a very mobile joint and its stability depends on the balance between the different muscle groups that influence its dynamics. There is talk of coaptator muscles whose action brings together or brings together the articular surfaces and helps to stabilize the dynamics of the shoulder and that together with the adductors of the scapulae that join the shoulder blades serve to retract the shoulders, throw them back in collaboration with the external rotators of the humerus. 

Most of the propulsive actions of the arms overstress the flexors and internal rotators of the humerus and for this reason, in the specialized bibliography it is recommended to selectively strengthen the external rotators such as the teres minor and the infraspinatus and also the middle trapezius and posterior fibers of the deltoid. Since the supraspinatus, pectoralis and anterior deltoid are required in most typical muscular actions performed with the arm such as adductions or internal rotations. It is also recommended to strengthen the biceps, specifically requesting expressly the long portion of the biceps brachii muscle by performing elbow curls (biceps curls) with the pronated hand (palm down) since the long portion is more demanding and this helps by holding the head of the humerus as if it were a belt, giving stability to the shoulder.


Before endurance athletes begin training with heavier loads, mastery of the correct movement technique and the necessary key postural hygiene in weightlifting must be ensured. All work of strength should be associated with a work of muscular elasticity and joint mobility to ensure the optimal functioning of muscle fibers, preserve the reactive component and elastic tendinous muscle and expand the ROM (Range of movement) joint.

Several strategies have been shown to be effective in reducing the phenomenon of interference and the probability of suffering overtraining in the concurrence of strength and resistance training. Among them are to carry out 2 strength training sessions a week, establish around 4-6 specific exercises according to sports gesture and better multi-joint and perform them between 4 and 10 repetitions without reaching "failure". Respect 2 minutes of rest between series, perform 2-5 series of each exercise and maintain this work for 10-12 weeks. Strength exercises must involve the same muscles that are required in sport and perform movements as similar as possible to the technical gesture that is performed in sport.

It is necessary to start any conditioning program with light loads around 40% of the maximum force during the first 2-3 weeks. As the season progresses and the first competitions begin, it is sufficient to perform 1 strength session per week to maintain the adaptations achieved during the 10, 12 weeks of concurrent work.

Selectively strengthen certain muscles such as the external rotator of the humerus, the scapular adductors, gluteus medius and pay special attention in the training to the stability of the lumbopelvic joint, they will stabilize the joints and prevent injuries due to overload of the locomotor system. In this way, neural adaptations can be better exploited, as well as the structural adaptations that force work allows at the muscular level to improve the performance of resistance sport.

Alberto Cebollada Kremer


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Alberto Cebollada - Triathlon


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