The Importance of Strength Training for Endurance Athletes
by Taylor Rock, PT, DPT
AzOPT Goodyear Doctor of Physical Therapy
Strength training and weightlifting are imperative to maintaining good health and reducing injury risk in all athletes. But while strength training is crucial for all athletes throughout every sport, the benefits are still debated by many endurance sports athletes. Runners, cyclists and swimmers still tend to focus on sport specific training, but not general strengthening. For endurance athletes like them, a strengthening program can have untapped benefits to provide a huge performance boost.
Endurance in sport is defined as the ability to maintain or repeat a given force or power output over a period of time. On the other hand, strength is defined as the ability to produce force.
Our bodies are made up of different types of muscle tissue fibers, but Type I and Type II are the muscles predominantly used during activity. Type I fibers are primarily used during aerobic activity such as running, swimming, and biking. Type II fibers are generally used during anaerobic activities or short, intense exercise that requires energy NOW, such strength training and weightlifting.
Endurance sports are known for longer distances. But that does not mean the demands and challenges over that distance do not change. A swimmer may need those final kicks or a runner may need a quick burst towards the finish line. A cyclist may require more power and force output during a short spurt. These actions rely on Type II muscle fibers.
Endurance sports require hip, knee and ankle joint musculature to work in unison to generate power. Therefore, a strengthening program should reflect these movements. Squats, deadlifts, and Romanian deadlifts are all beneficial exercises. Single leg versions of these are especially great! It is also important to incorporate core strengthening and movements working in different planes and directions.
Bottom line, if you are an endurance athlete looking to potentially gain a performance edge consider adding in strength training! A licensed physical therapist can help design a personalized program to get you started. Consider contacting AzOPT today if you are looking to get started.