Weight training for endurance athletes

I don't even train endurance athletes. But I rehab some of them. I know right where to begin...

A few weeks ago I was speaking to the parent of a fairly high level endurance athlete.

"What he [the high school athlete ] needs is to hit the weight room with some high reps and lower resistance in order to keep his conditioning and increase muscle endurance." 

Without the time or desire to stir the kettle, I nodded and went about my work. I know the athlete in question. He completes 90+ minutes of sport specific endurance training 5 days per week, sometimes more than once per day. The last thing this kid needs is to add endurance work. Training that's metabolically different would serve him much better for the sake of improving performance and staying healthy.

Heavy lifting is dangerous and counterproductive for endurance athletes. They need light balance and stability work. Air squats, burpees and crunches between back-to-back bouts of 400 meter runs. Right??

cardio for JSP (MMA Champ)
Giving endurance athletes light resistance activities that primarily demand endurance is like enrolling a mixed martial arts champion in cardio kickboxing, or like switching a diabetic from cookies to cakes. Instead they should work on pure strength and power with low reps and (relatively) heavy loads done safely, at least for the off-season.

I'm not advising training like a meat head, or even like a power lifter, Olympic lifter, or CrossFitter. All these are weight lifting for the sake of weight lifting, which is fine if those are your sports. But if your event takes place in the pool or on the court, track, or field, a little iron can also do wonders, such as improved neural drive, running economy, and metabolic efficiency.

Unless you have a disability or are rehabbing an injury, get off the machines. Quit working your "core" while on your back. I suppose you can can get a decent looking midsection from tons of mat work and a super strict diet. But by the time you can squat, overhead press, and pull a significant load with good form, your core will be functionally epic and at least fairly eyeball shattering.

Lifting heavy demands the brain to move with greater efficiency - because it has to. Heavy lifts done well challenge the entire athlete to maintain good posture and stabilize torque throughout multiple body segments. The rotator cuff (swimmers), IT Band (runners), and on and on will thank you for the solid posture, balanced joint alignment, and tight core from which to leverage.

So what should I do then?

I don't know the finer nuances of endurance training. But I do know that it will be well worth your while to find time for variations of the squat, dead lift, overhead press, single leg movement, and rowing movement, that are well suited for your body type and goals, and get strong in them.

And what's that, but 5 exercises each done maybe once or twice per week? Don't tell me there's no time in your long drawn out workouts for that.

Begin light. Use about half the resistance of what the typical endurance athlete uses for the partial-range-of-motion, crappy-movement-pattern circuit reps. But instead take the mentality of a strong man or woman using perfect form through a full range of motion for just 5 or 6 reps. Rest and repeat. Bump the resistance up from week to week until those 5 or 6 full ROM, perfect form reps are starting to waiver.

Heavy is relative. You're lifting not just for the sake of lifting. Your cardiovascular system is already beastly and receiving tons of attention. So for heaven's sakes, UP the weight!!!

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