In my role as a professional fitness coach and personal trainer, I’m all too aware of the many misconceptions that continue to persist among even the most experienced of athletes, including athletes at both ends of the fitness spectrum and ranging from sports considered primarily strength-based to those considered primarily endurance-based.
While I respect the opinions of those competing at the highest level of sport, it is all too often the case that these opinions are not at all evidence-based. While there are many areas in which there is room for debate, there is too much evidence to ignore the fact that all athletes benefit from a training program that incorporates an ideal balance of both strength and endurance training.
The Benefits of Balance: Why Every Program Should Include Elements of Strength and Endurance Training
Contrary to what is an unfortunately common belief, strength training will not hurt the performance of an endurance athlete, nor will endurance training hinder the performance of a strength athlete. In fact, the opposite is actually true, as elements of endurance and strength training should be viewed as exceptionally complementary and should thus be incorporated into every athlete’s training program.
Understanding the Positive Impact of Strength Training
Strength training yields a host of benefits, improving strength and mobility while also fostering healthier muscle tissue and helping to increase bone density. Since there are many different approaches to developing a strength training program, it is relatively simple to adapt a strength program to meet the needs of all athletes, including endurance athletes like runners or cyclists. In addition to the obvious benefits make possible through strength gains, this type of training is also valuable as an injury prevention tool.
Understanding the Positive Impact of Endurance Training
In the same way that endurance athletes worry about strength training adding too much muscle mass to a frame that must be as light as possible for peak performance, many strength-oriented athletes worry that endurance training will result in unwanted losses to their hard-earned muscle mass. Despite the prevalence of these beliefs, both of these common concerns are entirely unfounded. For athletes competing in strength-based sports, endurance training makes it possible to achieve greater gains than would otherwise be possible through strength training alone.
Endurance training plays an important complementary role in any strength training program for one simple reason: enhanced endurance enables athletes to increase both the intensity and duration of a strength training session. Allowing the athlete to increase intensity and duration without adding exertion leads to much greater training gains while also helping prevent the injuries caused by overuse or overexertion.
Of course, it is worth noting that “balance” is a relative term when it comes to fitness training for a specific sport or competition. When designing a training program, it is important to understand how each element contributes to achieving the desired outcome for the athlete. While the amount of endurance and strength training elements incorporated into a program will differ from one sport to the next, there is plenty of evidence demonstrating the value of utilizing both strength and endurance training methods regardless of the sport.
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