Should I strength train during my season? The short answer is, Yes! The long(er) answer is below.
USE IT OR LOSE IT!
I always find it a bit amusing to see pictures of pre-season professional cyclists at their respective training camps performing stretches and strength training exercises. Why? Because almost none of these cyclists perform strength training during the season, so why do it a little bit during the off-season only to completely stop it once February hits?
Now, when I discuss strength training, I’m not talking about preparing to enter a bodybuilding competition. I’m talking about maintaining lean muscle mass, minimizing muscle imbalances, increasing core strength and for lack of a better word… just getting stronger!
Ask an endurance athlete why they don’t strength train and a likely answer is, they don’t have time. Yes, endurance sports training takes a lot of time. Compound this with a full-time job and family commitments and there is not much time left over – I get it.
The problem with this school of thought is that strength training is viewed as being ancillary to sport-specific training (cardiovascular training). Strength training IS part of the total training program, not a “if I have time for it” sort of thing.
While there have been multiple studies for and against the integration of cardiovascular and strength training, the issue at the center of the debate is recovery and more specifically, what constitutes proper recovery and does strength training concurrently with cardiovascular training allow for it.
Based on multiple studies, the benefits of concurrent training outweigh the negatives. Here are 5 reasons (and guidelines) why you should perform concurrent cardio/strength training.
- A sore muscle as a result of strength training may not affect the same muscle(s) when used in a sport-specific manner.
- You don’t have to perform all exercises in a single session. For example, you can do push-ups when cooking your breakfast and squats during your lunch break. You don’t have to commit to doing all of the exercises in a single bout.
- Muscle fatigue is body part specific. Ex: A cyclist can strength train their biceps without fatiguing their legs.
- Studies have shown that when using the same muscles, so long as there are 8-10 hours between strength training and cardiovascular exercise bouts, there should be little to no decrease in performance.
- As lower reps/higher weight typically induce greater muscle damage than high reps/lower weight, for some people, a higher repetition strength training program may work best when training concurrently.
All of these guidelines must be based solely on the individual as they likely will not be the same for everyone and different people adapt to the same training stimuli in different ways.
Fine, if pro cyclists don’t want to do strength training, its their call. However, most of us are not professional athletes and are likely just as focused on training for an event as we are about our overall well-being and fitness level.
Performing strength training exercises should be viewed not just from a sport-specific standpoint but also in regard to overall health and wellness.