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    • Dr. Pat McSweeney PT, DPT

    The Strength to Endure. Basic Strength Training Principles for Endurance Athletes



    We get a lot of questions regarding strength training for endurance athletes. How do I fit it in to my training plan? Will it slow me down? Won’t I get too yolked? (Maybe I only say that last one.) While the answers to these can be somewhat complex and different for everyone, there are some basic principles that are transferrable across the board. We’ve talked about the benefits of strength training for endurance athletes previously (Here), but how do we go about getting started?


    Dialing in a solid strength training program can take some time, but if you are looking to get going this off-season, here are some basic foundational principles to help get you moving in the right direction.


    1. Do the basics well.


    With countless exercise variations and shiny new routines being developed everyday, it can be easy to lose track of basic foundational movements. Some form of squat, hinge, push, pull, and carry (Shout out to Dan John). Now there are several variations to these that should be incorporated (See number 4), but doing these basics well will help us to build a well rounded program that helps us to become a better overall athlete.


    2. Start slow, and focus on movement quality.


    Even if you are experienced in strength training, it is worthwhile to take some time early on in a strength training block to build up your base. This is often an overlooked piece as we want to start going heavy as quickly as we can. I’m definitely guilty of trying to push big weights before I have quality movement patterns in place, but spending the time early on to focus on getting the movements down well will go a long way to help you get stronger, and widen your overall potential capacity.





    3. Train different planes of movement.


    As endurance athletes we spend a ton of time going forward (ie in one plane of motion). The problem with this is that often times we neglect the other two planes of motion (Sagittal-side to side and Transverse- rotational, for anyone keeping track at home). Why is this an issue? Our joints and muscles are built to move in multiple directions and doing so makes us a much more well rounded athlete. Incorporating both rotational and lateral exercises can not only improve our performance, but can also reduce our overall risk of repetitive overuse injuries. (Example: lunges are great, but a side lunge can also be incorporated to train a different plane.)


    4. Train both unilateral and bilateral patterns.


    When we think about “strength” often times we think of traditional movements like squatting, deadlifting etc. These are great and definitely should be a piece of your strength program, but do not forget to include single leg variations. As endurance athletes we need single leg power, strength, and stability. After all, we aren’t hopping down the road on two feet. (Examples: Single leg deadlift, Split squat with your back leg elevated)



    There we have it. 4 basic principles that can help us to build a solid strength training plan for any level of endurance athlete. While there can be a great deal of nuance when trying to program and build a solid strength plan, these tenets can help get you moving in the right direction. Questions on any of these? Need help getting started? Don’t hesitate to reach out!




    Whether you want to cross the finish line for the first time or you are looking to set a new personal best, we are here to help. For more information on how you can reach the starting line of your next race healthier and fitter than ever, email pmcsweeney@pro-activity.com or message us directly on Instagram @pro-activity_ohio.





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