Strength training for endurance goals

It’s well documented that gym training can enhance endurance performance, both in terms of going faster and remaining healthy.  The problem is that most of us who enjoy endurance training come into the gym and do… more endurance training.  You don’t need more of the same.  This is not the time for Body Pump, Spin classes and circuit training, it’s time for some strength training.

If you’re stronger you’ll go further, faster.  You’ll also be less likely to get injured.  I get that if you like endurance training you enjoy constantly moving and getting a sweat on – you haven’t had a good session other wise, right? – but that’s not the point here.  We need some quality, not more quantity.  That’s how we get better.

So what should we be doing?  Different people have different starting points, strength, weaknesses, constitutions, injury history and so on, so it’s impossible to be definitive but some things apply to most, most of the time.

Get stronger in the main full body lifts.  Think squats and deadlifts.  We don’t need high reps here (we don’t want to add size, we want strength), we want lower reps with challenging weights.  Three to six reps is where I personally work for these, for perhaps three to six sets.  I suggest you that don’t do this on the same day as your endurance block.  Note: There will be days when you don’t feel like going heavy, don’t.

Do some pre-habilitation (rather than rehabilitation), corrective and core training.  Think single leg training, mid/lower back work and some focus on the abdominals.  I personally think it’s a mistake to neglect any upper body training so I also regularly include chin up (low reps, weighted) and push up variations.

I also do a lot of hip (glutes) and hamstring training which I think is hugely important, it’s keeps my knees healthy.  My go to exercises here are hip bridge variations, Romanian deadlifts, reverse hypers and glute/ham raises.  Do these after the main lifts, and go for higher reps, for say three to four sets.

Oh, and don’t forget your mobility and soft tissue work.

How often should I be doing it?  It’s important to listen to you body, but twice a week is typically enough.  Keep the sessions short and targeted.  Remember, the idea here is not to trash the system, it’s about making it stronger and maintaining structural balance.

What might a sample workout look like?

Monday’s session for me was a bodyweight warm up/mobility work into:

A1. Barbell Reverse Lunges 5 x 5ea

A2. Shoulder/Thoracic Mobility Drills (in rest period)

B1. Glute/Ham Raise 4 x 8-12

B2. Ring Push Ups 4 x 8-12

B3. AB Wheel Roll Outs 3 x 25

Note: This is not a suggested programme for anyone but me.

If you’re not currently strength training alongside your endurance training give it a go, you’ll very likely see your performance and structural health improve.