Should Endurance Athletes Strength Train?

Everyone has their thing. Maybe you love powerlifting or bodybuilding. Maybe you’re a professional or college athlete.  On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re as a cyclist or you compete in marathons/tri-athlons. Whatever floats your boat…if it gets you up and moving and burning some calories, I’m all for it.

That being said, it goes without saying that the powerlifting/bodybuilding and athletic communities benefit from strength training…I mean, it’s what power lifters and bodybuilder do. But should the other community, the endurance athlete, perform strength training?

First, let’s look at a few of the reasons that people strength train;

  • increased/improved strength (duh)
  • injury prevention
  • force production
  • improved body composition/aesthetics

Now the real question, do any of these benefit the endurance athlete? In short, yes.

Lance Armstrong Performed Strength Training

First and foremost, it’s hard to argue that being stronger will hurt your athletic performance no matter sport you are involved in. Have you ever heard an athlete, in any sport or competition, complain that the reason they were beat was because they were too strong? I didn’t think so. But in my opinion (and we all know that’s what matters) if you are strong relative to your bodyweight, you’ll improve your performance. Basically, if your 150lbs, be concerned with being the strongest 150lbs you can be and don’t worry about being as strong as the 250lb power lifter with a 44” waist that doesn’t every leave the squat rack (could be worse things minus the 44” inch waist).

Secondly, injury prevention is crucial in any sport or competition. Athletes that perform the same movement over and over again, like running or cycling, often find themselves suffering from overuse injuries. Training other movement patterns and/or body parts that aren’t being used regularly may just be the best thing for you to prevent overuse injuries. And to captain obvious, if your injured it doesn’t matter how badass you are at what you do because you can’t perform. In the words of the great Bill Ball, “You can’t make the club, sittin’ in the tub.”

Force production may actually be the most important reason on the list of reasons to strength train for the endurance athlete. Simply put, the more force you can produce, on the ground or on the bike, the more efficient you will be. If every single time you put your foot in the ground you produce more force leading to a consistent, stronger stride, do you think you may shave some time off your current marathon time? If you’re on your bike and starting a long uphill climb, do you think you will make it up that hill faster, shaving time off your ride, if you can produce more force? Yes on both accounts.

Long strong short, endurance athletes should perform strength training on a regular basis. Do you need to be lifting some major weights and concern yourself with adding considerable amount of strength and muscle mass? Absolutely not.  But I feel that if you are relatively strong for your bodyweight as well as being as healthy as a horse, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your athletic performance. Who doesn’t want that?

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