Fitness and Exercise

STRENGTH TRAINING FOR ENDURANCE RACES

Training is where passion meets action. It has been an interesting transition from physique enhancement training (bodybuilding and sports modeling) to Multi-Sport Endurance training. I had to shift my mentality from “lifting for more muscle” to “training to be faster and stronger.”

I have a unique perspective on strength training compared to most endurance athletes. It has to do with my love for training heavy and my understanding that a stronger body is a faster body at the same body weight and is able to apply more force and power to all movements. This force and power will help anyone run, cycle, and swim faster.

I know that a stronger body recovers much faster and is much better at avoiding breakdown in the midst of training and racing. There are also countless hormonal benefits to training heavy with big movements for all athletes. There is nothing like a good testosterone surge pulsing through your veins.

After studying and talking to numerous coaches, I realized the tremendous benefits that heavy weight training has on endurance athletes. They mentioned that when they put their clients on heavy squat and dead lift routines that their endurance cycling and running times improved dramatically and that they were able to recover at in-human speeds.

One coach would have his cyclists do heavy box squats the day following a long bike workout, another coach reported his clients setting personal records on bench, squat and dead lift immediately following a 10 mile run. Sounds a little crazy, but hey so is ultra-distance racing. I like to experiment with methods that are outside of the box in addition to applying tried and true principles that have stood the test of time.

I also learned a lot by talking with Brian MacKenzie, an ultra-runner who runs races of 100 miles or more frequently and favors heavy dead lifts and squats to prevent breakdown and to keep in strong running form after racing for 12-24 hours or more.

So I received the evidence I needed to continue training heavy, which I enjoy the most anyway. Now I focus my training on the big movements for functional strength. My favorite moves right now are variations of squats, dead lifts, weighted pull-ups, rows, chest presses, overhead presses and a ton of core work.

It is vital for swimming, biking and running to have a strong core. The more stable you are while streamlining through the water, in the saddle on the bike, and while running, the more efficient you will be.

The more efficient you are, the faster you can go using the same amount of energy.

I add in auxiliary work like hamstring curls and extra work for the ankle complex (like dorsi and plantar flexion). These movements are done to improve speed, strength, and keep me healthy in training and racing.

I also include plyometrics to give a little more spring in each step. I have been doing running-specific plyos and now I will add plyos immediately following sets of squats or dead lifts. After researching the speed and strength improvements that were experienced by runners doing the ploys right after dead lifts, I decided to give it a go. They did box jumps, broad jumps, and short sprints.

I may even experiment with doing heavy front squats and immediately doing hill climbs with the bike as I have seen this strategy work wonders for cyclists. I just need to find a hill with a squat rack at the bottom. Or I may have to improvise.

Basically, I have been doing three full-body strength training workouts using complex moves favoring loads that allow for 3-5 reps, with some sets taken to a higher or lower rep count. (I do not train to failure like I did while bodybuilding. I like to keep one rep “in the bank” on my sets now. This allows me to recover faster, and stay heavy for numerous sets in each workout with shorter rests.)

Switching to a full-body training routine with heavy weights has allowed me to recover much quicker and I don’t get nearly as sore as I did when I would do a typical bodybuilder split of doing four different workouts and training each body part once every 5-6 days.

I may start throwing in some supersets for strength endurance every 2-3 workouts. (For example, I may go from dumbbell chest press immediately to TRX pushups with feet elevated). I will continue to train heavy and rotate exercises and using both unilateral and bilateral lifts.

I am very curious how the plyometrics immediately following squats and dead lifts will feel and work. It is supposed to help with increasing fiber recruitment, so I should expect better lifts and much faster running and cycling times just like the athletes before me in the studies.

With less than 8 weeks to go for Ironman St. Croix, my motivation is higher than ever and I see every workout, every set and every rep as another step taken to be a better Ironman Athlete. In addition to the Ironman races, I will continue to compete in various events ranging from regular road races to Xterra Off-road Races and don’t be surprised if I do a couple adventure races or ultras. The possibilities are endless for athletic pursuits, so why not go for it?

Next article I’ll discuss the sports specific workout design. If you have any questions regarding training, supplementation, nutrition, please feel free to contact me at:
jasonscottjohnson@gmail.com.

Jason Johnson

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