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Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

Late winter has become one of my favorite times of the year. The little glimpses of warmer weather act as a reminder that spring is just around the corner, and you can begin to feel some payoff from the big training loads. This time of year is also one of my favorites due to the emphasis on strength training in my, and many other endurance athletes’ routines.

While it may come as a surprise, myself and many other elite-level endurance athletes lift year-round. Done correctly, weight training can add strength, stability, and power to every pedal stroke. Despite a common misconception that weight training adds weight and “bulk” to the endurance athlete physique, lifting can actually be a tremendous tool in keeping weight down and staying lean throughout the year. Here’s how:

Power Development:

During pre-season, weight training takes a priority role in my routine. I focus on multi-movement, power lifts like squats, lunges, and deadlifts. During this time of the year, I’ll typically lift 3-5 days per week with lower rep frequency and higher weight. A typical day in the gym will be something like:

  • 20 minutes of light cardio warm-up
  • 5 sets of 5 reps:
    •             Squats
    •             Lunges
    •             Box steps
    •             Leg press
    •             Dead lifts
    •             Calf raises
  • 20 minutes of stretching

 

The goal during this part of the year is to build muscle and power. I’ll typically gain some mass in my legs, but lose weight overall due to the boost in metabolism that comes with weight training.

Maintenance:

When race season starts, lifting frequency drops to 2-3 times per week. Reps increase and weight and sets decrease. The primary goal during this portion of the season is to maintain the strength and power that was obtained during pre-season. A typical in-season workout will consist of:

  • 30 minute warm-up
  • 3 sets of 12 reps:
    •             Lunges
    •             Box steps
    •             Leg press
    •             Dead lift
    •             Calf raises
  • 30 minutes stretching

 

Combined with your regular riding or running routine, these higher-rep exercises at moderate weight will help maintain muscle tone, power, and overall metabolism rate without adding any additional weight or "bulk" to your physique. Even more, it's just a great way to mix things up and keep motivation high throughout all 12 months of the year.


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