Thursday, February 02, 2006

Max strength training vs. Endurance

Ah yes, the debate rages on. It seems as if this debate has gone on forever and most likely, it will continue to be a hot topic among trainers and athletes. Are there any quantifiable, proven benefits of maximum strength training for endurance athletes? And if so, what is the most effective method of training?

Research conducted over a decade has shown some interesting benefits for cyclists and other aerobic athletes. It appears as though very high resistance and low repetitions (3-4 reps, 4 sets) conducted 3-4 times a week greatly improves Max V02 and work economy without increasing the size of the muscle mass. In other words, it's a win-win scenario for cyclists.

There are, however, some things to keep in mind when performing the training. The motions have to be slow and deliberate, no jumpy, jerky or explosive motion. You are not focusing on explosiveness or speed, but rather trying to improve your body's ability to rally and effectively use the existing muscle mass. Lets take a well used exercise, such as leg press; slowly lower the weights to the lowest point and stop, hold for a few seconds before pushing away. This will improve the connections between muscle tissue and nerve-endings, resulting in increased efficiency. In other words, your muscles can do more with the same amount of energy spent (02 and glycogen). For more on this very interesting topic, take a look at this old, but very interesting article: http://www.ntnu.no/gemini/1996-04/35.html Enjoy!

11 Comments:

Blogger ashwinearl said...

what are your thoughts on a periodized cycling specific strength training program: Hypetrophy, strength, power. The link referenced in your entry seems solely focused on strength only (high weight, low rep)

20:09  
Blogger mags said...

Well, I do believe in periodized strength training - but only for the purpose of slowly introducing your body to high loads at the beginning of a new season.

After that, I don't think any strict periodized program helps much. I would instead focus on high loads, low reps performed slowly and accurately, to improve efficiency. Of course, I would still run "endurance" strength during some sessions as well.

What do you think?

Mags

20:09  
Blogger Surly Drew said...

Mags, do you incorporate any olympic type lifts (squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches) into your off season lifting routine? I'm experimenting with the above 4 now to see how they will affect my power on the bike. It's certainly affected my body composition over the past month.

12:54  
Blogger Surly Drew said...

and yes, it's me from the podium cafe ;-)

12:55  
Blogger mags said...

Drew,

Welcome to my humble domain. :)

The only Olympic style lifting I've done is squats. I have been thinking about including more similiar sessions, but not until next season. I have heard lots and lots of good results from it.

Mags

13:52  
Blogger Surly Drew said...

Mags, it's an excellent site and I like that content very much. I'll try and cruise over here whenever possible.

I've found that the squats and deadlifts build strength in the hamstring/glueteus areas but also increased flexibility in the hip flexors (connecting the front of the pelvis to the top of the leg). Many cyclists are very tight in this area and it does affect and limit their power output on the bike.

The cleans and snatches are explosive lifts that should translate over into increased power on the bike. They also double as a full body workout by affectiving multiple muscle groups (legs, toros and back primarily).

I won't be able to do it this year but next off season I will investigate combining a lifting workout and power work on the bike sequentially. I've read that French track riders have been doing this with very good results for the last few years.

14:33  
Blogger mags said...

Drew,

Thanks for the kind words.

One great side-effect, if you want to call it that, from Olympic style lifting is the core strength training. I think too many cyclists focus too much on pure leg strength, without thinking about a strong, rigid core. Without a stable core, it's hard to effectively utilize your leg strength.

Mags

21:17  
Blogger Surly Drew said...

I couldn't agree more.

I was diagnosed last fall with 2 damaged discs in my lumbar/sacral region (one herniated, one bulging) and the increase in core strength with olympic lifts has helped stabilize things very well. I still have to be careful but when I'm smart enought to pay attention to the warning signs all is well and neither cycling nor lifting is compromised.

How many riders have you known who have good legs but abdominals, spinal erectors, and obliques? And have lower back pain? I know a few for sure.

14:12  
Blogger Surly Drew said...

I meant to say "weak abdominals, spinal erectors, etc"

14:13  
Blogger mags said...

Drew,

A ton, really a ton. And some of the weakest are the highest paid pros.... :) go figure...

Mags

13:49  
Blogger mags said...

Of course, the dilemma is where do you squeeze an additional 3-4 hours of core training into an already jam-packed training week (30-40 hours at the most). And for some, it can seem like a bad idea to sacrifice engine building for core strength.

Mags

13:51  

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