Strong is fast. Wahoo sports scientists Neal Henderson and Dr. Jinger Gottschall are back, and this time they’re tackling strength training.
Strong is fast. Wahoo sports scientists Neal Henderson and Dr. Jinger Gottschall are back, and this time they’re tackling strength training. They’ll bust some myths, explain the benefits of strength training for endurance athletes, and drop some knowledge on exactly what you should and shouldn’t be doing if you want to get the most out of your strength routine. Neal and Jinger are here to pump….you up.
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Neal Henderson 0:00
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the knowledge podcast brought to you by wahoo. I'm Neal Henderson, head of wahoo sports science, you're in Boulder, Colorado.
Jinger Gottschall 0:09
And I'm Dr. Ginger Gottschall, Director of applied research here at Wahoo.
Neal Henderson 0:13
I might not be horns and ginger might not be friends, but we are here to get you pumped up about how to add strength training into your endurance training plan.
Jinger Gottschall 0:24
If that did not motivate you to listen to this episode, I'm not sure what will but I do want to start with what athletes typically tell me when I encourage them to add strength training into their programs. Let's start Neil with how strength training is going to bulk me up. So I don't want to do it's just gonna slow me down.
Neal Henderson 0:46
Yep, for some reason, people believe that if they start doing strength training, all of a sudden, they're going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in like a week or two, that really does not happen you have to have number one a genetic tendency to be able to put on that kind of muscle B, you need to do a phenomenal amount of strength training and work that is definitely not the kind of training that we do for building endurance performance and just general strength. Basically, bodybuilding is a whole different animal and your energy intake and needs need to be such that you wouldn't be able to basically run and ride or swim, do endurance training, and build that kind of muscle all at the same time. So you're not going to get huge if you start adding some strength training into your endurance training, when
Jinger Gottschall 1:35
You heard it here, folks, you are not going to get huge, and you're not even going to build those thunder thighs likely not happening. The second most common excuse I'll call them, that athletes have given me is that they're actually going to increase their risk of injury because muscle fatigue is primarily what I think people assume is happening. What do you say to that?
Neal Henderson 1:58
Yeah, actually, there's some very good evidence and studies that actually show a reduction in injury risk for endurance athletes who actually include strength training in their training. So that's almost I think, the exact opposite of getting hurt actually reducing your potential to get hurt.
Jinger Gottschall 2:18
Yes, myth-busting here, on the knowledge.
Neal Henderson 2:22
Should we talk a little bit more about that, like what might be? Do you know why that happens?
Jinger Gottschall 2:28
I think we should. But let me get to one last myth, and then we're gonna have you, deep dive, into the whole science is, the last one is that they're just going to be too tired, it's going to decrease their fitness in terms of their endurance performance, and they're going to have to increase their food, it's just going to be way too much for them to take on.
Neal Henderson 2:50
]Yeah. So when we're thinking about the kind of strength training that we should be adding for endurance athletes, these sessions generally are like 2030, maybe 40 minutes long. So if spending 20 or 30 or 40 minutes leave you so exhausted, that you can't go for a run, you can't get on your bike and do an easy spin after a session like that, then you've definitely done the wrong kind of training in the gym. So the sessions are not absolutely exhausting and destructive in terms of that total demand of energy. And so you should not be dramatically impacting your ability to continue your training. Yes, you may have on the day some things that you don't do the same kind of training that you would have done otherwise. But no, there's not going to be this absolute inability to complete your training, if you add strength training, right.
Jinger Gottschall 3:44
And let's get to some of those specific tips with respect to what we recommend in how to incorporate this into your program. But I have a feeling you were really excited to talk about this injury prevention.
Neal Henderson 3:58
Yes. So it's, it's one of those things, you know, I have, have had a background working with athletes in kind of clinical settings and sports medicine and seeing what happens with endurance athletes, that there is actually a kind of a high prevalence of overuse injuries that we see in endurance athletes, and some of it is an improper technique that can place additional stress in areas that aren't meant to be able to tolerate that, or it's training errors just doing too much too soon. A couple of things. Yes, you have the traumatic type stuff, but by enlarging what strength training can do to reduce some of these overuse injury potential is to increase your overall structural integrity, especially in your connective tissue. So a lot of times people think about strength training is only affecting the muscle, but that's not true, is it?
Jinger Gottschall 4:49
It is absolutely not. We're talking about decreasing basically any injuries or tendinitis that occurs due to the strengthening of this connective tissue. Another system that is improved by strength train is actually bone density. So not in addition to tendons, we can talk about bones because this deformation that occurs under loading actually causes increased bone formation and a decrease in resorption.
Neal Henderson 5:18
So that helps then also on that traumatic side occasionally, you know, if you ride a bike, on occasion, gravity's going to get you and you're going to crash, that's just part of the nature. old old, Boss of mine said, there are two kinds of cyclists, those who have crashed and those who will, you know, gravity works, and every now and then we go down. And if you have better bone density, you're much more resistant than to have any kind of a fracture, when you do go down. That's definitely helpful from that perspective, as well as again, just being overall stronger. Even if you do have one of those bigger crashes, as you know, and you break something like collarbone, you know, the most common thing being stronger, overall, you're going to be able to recover just more quickly, overall, than if you are not just generally full-body strong and healthy.
Jinger Gottschall 6:04
Super cool to think about the musculoskeletal system as a whole. And that strength training is helping at every level. We talked about connective tissue, we talked about the bone. And then we can talk about the more obvious which is actually improving your type to muscle fibers that are going to be assistive in terms of more maximal force, you're gaining strength, the ability to pedal with more power, and we can't even talk about the economy and when that happens here, but it is a multi-system benefit.
Neal Henderson 6:36
Yeah, so it's almost the exact opposite of saying, like, what negative things it doesn't do is actually what are the positive things that strength training does actually add in terms of improving your performance and ability to do your sport and do it better and faster, that's definitely a really valuable thing. So I know, there are some old studies out there, I actually started my graduate school work looking at the effects of resistance training on endurance performance, specifically in triathletes. So looking across swimming, and cycling and running, if there are differences between sports, but what we did see is some of these older studies that were you know, we'll say, in the 80s. And early 90s were a bit of an overtraining study model, rather than actually an effective strength training, they had untrained individuals that they added an endurance training program to and then they had a different group that they did strength training, they installed benefits, you know, improvements in endurance, and the endurance training group endurance and strength in the strength training group. And then they had a group where they were, again, untrained, that they did both sessions together, they were doing the strength training and the endurance training. And they didn't find as much of an improvement there. Not that they didn't get better, but they didn't get as much better as the independent groups. And so they said, oh, there must be a problem with you know, doing these two things concurrently. But ultimately, it was really a model of overtraining that was just doing too much it was adding two new stressors, both endurance and strength to untrained individuals. So if you're already an endurance-trained athlete, adding appropriate strength training is not going to create this kind of concurrent inability to adapt to one or the other at the same level.
Jinger Gottschall 8:14
Right. And it actually improves multiple performance variables, such as your anaerobic capacity, it actually increases the glycolysis rate and improves your lactate threshold. So there we have two benefits of strength training that you're also looking for in your endurance performance.
Neal Henderson 8:34
Yep. And another area that we do see improvements is in neuromuscular coordination and effectively than an improvement in exercise economy, and what exercise economy really, in neuromuscular coordination we're talking about with strength training, we develop a better neural pathway to contract the muscles that we do want to be active and then reduce the CO contraction of the muscles on the opposite side that can be effectively working against us so the economy or the amount of oxygen that your body is consuming for a given intensity can be reduced with better neuromuscular coordination and strength training will help create that increased neuromuscular coordination.
Jinger Gottschall 9:22
I feel like this list is getting very long with respect to the benefits of strength training. We've talked about all systems related to cardiovascular fitness In addition to these benefits of the musculoskeletal system specific to muscle connective tissue and bones How about the different types of strength training and what we offer what we can find on the system?
Neal Henderson 9:48
Yeah, so there's you know, a typical like people think about Okay, I go to the gym and lift lots of heavyweights is is what strength training is and yes, that is one kind, but there is strength training that you can be done without lots of equipment and without moving lots of weight. So you can be doing things at home and using predominantly bodyweight and a lot of times by using single-leg exercises, you can be still creating adequate resistance to be able to improve your body's strength. And, and in some cases, maybe even more muscular endurance. So if we kind of define strength as like that ability to exert a maximal force, okay, well, we might not be improving your ability to squat, you know, super heavyweight, or to, you know, do one maximal lift, but Endurance Sports really don't really revolve around that we're not like throwing a shotput or anything like that it's not this massive one time, it's repeated muscle contractions that really, that we're trying to impact with our endurance training and strength training that helps improve that. So it's a little bit more of a muscular endurance side of things, as well as our mobility and having a good range of motion. Because we also have certain positions and in sports that we do that we can kind of overdo. And some of the movements that we incorporate in our strength training, are stuff that counters ax that typical posture and helps us maintain better overall integrity, and keeps us from being so locked into that one position.
Jinger Gottschall 11:23
Yes, let's think about a specific example of this, which would be as you are leaning forward in your bike position, we need to open up the chest and retract at the back in terms of posture. So this is that's just one very obvious example. Also, think about how Cycling is forward motion, its sagittal plane, its flexion. And extension at the hip, the knee, and the ankle, we're not getting as much from the outside in the inside, for instance, at the hip strength training with these high repetition and low weight, or bodyweight exercises, and individual leg, single-leg exercises will help that balance. And also that is going to lead to that reduction in injury that we talked about earlier.
Neal Henderson 12:10
Exactly. We often say that you know, endurance athletes are pretty linear, you know, they're just used to going in one direction, forward and backward. And pretty much always forward. But really just in that one way. And so with, with some of the strength training, we're actually incorporating more of that lateral movement and rotation and rotary aspects that will again, help us be stronger, more stable, and more capable as athletes, especially if you do anything other than just riding a bike or run or swim in that linear one way.
Jinger Gottschall 12:39
And I challenge any of you listening who haven't jumped on and tried one of these full-body, lower body or dynamic sessions on the app, you will feel the burn, I guarantee you, you will feel that muscular fatigue, where you know, it's making a difference. Super cool. How often would you then recommend incorporating this type of strength training into your routine?
Neal Henderson 13:07
Yep, a good idea, if you're just trying to maintain what you have, maybe around once a week, twice a week or so, if you're trying to build, which is then you know, something where you're going to create a little bit more stress, that's going to be two or maybe three times a week, you know, not need to be doing strength training five days a week, it's actually probably counterproductive if you're doing it so frequently because you do want to have a couple of days in between your sessions. And so generally, I would say two days a week, but between one and three, whether you're looking to just maintain once a week probably be about adequate, and three times a week, if you're definitely trying to gain and somewhere in between there that two times a week is probably the sweet spot for most folks.
Jinger Gottschall 13:48
And also think about when you are doing these strength sessions. Even though it's bodyweight, even though it may be low weight back to back days is not optimal, especially if you are doing the full-body workouts that you see on the wahoo app. Or if you are doing some of the dynamics that are just separate by two nights of sleep 48 hours in that session. In addition, think about when you are doing your endurance exercise with those. Although it might sound great to do them back to back, just get your workout done at once. probably best to separate into a morning, and then an afternoon or post-work evening. For those.
Neal Henderson 14:31
Yeah, in a perfect world. You know, we say at least four hours between but you know, six or eight hours can be even better. And again, for those of us that work, that's kind of a normal thing. You can do something before work and you could do something after work. We typically if you look at our training plans, we don't do your really heavy, metabolically challenging endurance training sessions on the same day that you do your strength training though you might have some neuromuscular works, you might have some cadence work, or some short sprints. With longer recovery, on the same day that you do strength training, and in some cases, it might just be an easier ride. But we did basically don't encourage coupling both really high-intensity cycling or endurance training session and a strength training session, even on the same day, even if you separate by those four more hours.
Jinger Gottschall 15:18
Yes, I think I'm pumped up. I think I'm totally pumped by learning how to do the strength training, and the multiple benefits and the myths that you're typically going to hear maybe from your buddies on why you shouldn't do it.
Neal Henderson 15:34
Yep, definitely. There are way more pluses than any minuses that you get out of it. And it doesn't take an extreme amount of time or energy to be able to successfully add strength training to improve your performance and keep you healthier.
Jinger Gottschall 15:48
All right. So with that system, here I come.
Neal Henderson 15:52
Thanks for joining us on this episode of the knowledge podcast and we will see you next time.