Training for strength and endurance at the same time

Strength training is not the same as training for size (like a body builder would). The objective is simply to get stronger. Of course the strength of a muscle is related to it size and all things being equal a large muscle will be able to exert more force than a smaller one.

Training for strength means lifting heavy weights – typically 85%+ of 1RM with reps in the 1-5 range. This doesn’t mean that all the work has to be in this range, but certainly the majority.

The key things to remember when training for strength are:

1. Focus 80% of your effort on large compound movements (dead lifts, squats, bench press, rows etc).

2. Add more weight (not necessarily EVERY session, but consistently).

Some people will say “don”t do any cardio when training for strength or it will hold you back”. Whilst there is some truth in this, I think it is vastly over stated. Sure if you want to get big, then lots of high impact cardio is going to slow your progress (the basic reason for this is that muscles can only really adapt in one way so if you asking them to increase strength and endurance at the same time, you are not going to get the maximum adaptation n any one direction – something will have to give). However, maximum strength training whilst recruiting al the muscles fibres, will primarily change the type 2b fibres. Endurance training on the other had will work the type 1 and type 2a fibres. The key however if you want to do some cardio whilst training for strength is to make sure you only it the type 1 fibres and not the type 2a.

It might be useful at this point to give a quick overview of the different type of muscle fibres.

Type I Red fibers.

Slow oxidative (also called slow twitch or fatigue resistant fibres). Contain:

Large amounts of myoglobin.

Many mitochondria.

Many blood capillaries.

Generate ATP by the aerobic system, hence the term oxidative fibers.

Split ATP at a slow rate.

Slow contraction velocity.

Resistant to fatigue.

Found in large numbers in postural muscles.

Needed for aerobic activities like long distance running.

Type IIa Red fibers.

Fast oxidative (also called fast twitch A or fatigue resistant fibers). Contain:

Large amounts of myoglobin.

Many mitochondria.

Many blood capillaries.

High capacity for generating ATP by oxidation. Split ATP at a very rapid rate and, hence, high contraction velocity

Resistant to fatigue but not as much as slow oxidative fibres.

Needed for sports such as middle distance running and swimming.

Type IIb White.

Fast glycolytic (also called fast twitch B or fatigable fibers). Contain:

Low myoglobin content.

Few mitochondria.

Few blood capillaries.

Large amount of glycogen.

Split ATP very quickly.

Fatigue easily.

Needed for sports like sprinting.

Individual muscles are a mixture of all three types of muscle fibers (type 1, type 2a and type 2b), but their proportions vary depending on the action of that muscle. If a weak contraction is needed only the type 1 motor units will be activated. These fibers are used mainly for endurance activities. If a stronger contraction is required the type 2a fibers will be activated or used to assist the type 1 fibers. Maximal contractions facilitate the use of type 2b fibers which are always activated last. These fibers are used during ballistic activities but tire easily.

So how does endurance and strength training protocols relate to all this. Well you will remember that I said that you can’t ask a muscle to react to two different types of training stimulus. Well actually you can – if you are careful. This is because typically a muscles is made up of all three types of muscles fibres. So if you concentrate your strength training at the type 2b fibres and keep your endurance training restricted to the type 1 fibres, then there will be no conflict within the muscle and you can maximise your results from both types of training.

The important thing to do is to not confuse things by utilising type 2a fibres. So intense aerobics are out and so are high rep weight training.

OK, so how does this fit in with my training. The answer is that these two types of training make up my base training phase. Allowing me to get stronger and at the same time develop a solid base of aerobic fitness ready for the more intense phase of training as I prepare for competition. Where from about 8 weeks out the bulk of the training for competition is interval high impact training, increasing VO2 Max and local muscular endurance.


About thegymmonkey

I'm a fitness junkie,interested in injury rehab and get back into competition. View all posts by thegymmonkey

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