Enhancing Endurance

Bill Starr

Weight Train to Win  Part 2

Page 1

Last month I focused on athletes who participate in events that are long in duration and that donít have rest periods. This time Iíll finish up with that group and proceed to those whose events are generally much shorter and give participants many breaks and time to recover.

I recommended that endurance athletes use the five-sets-of-five formula for the core exercises and higher reps, 20s for two sets, for the auxiliary movements. The strength work should take priority over practicing the skills needed in a chosen sports as well as any other physical activity, such as running.

The time to begin the strength program is during an off-season or when thereís not an upcoming competition. Two months is best, but six weeks will also get results. After six to eight weeks of learning correct form on various lifts and moving the numbers as high as possible, athletes are ready to make some changes in their routine so that they can go back to practicing their sports skills at a greater intensity.

What endurance athletes are after is to maintain a high percentage of the strength theyíve gained during the strength cycle while utilizing some of their newfound prowess for improving stamina and the skills needed in their sport. The strength theyíve gained in their arms, shoulders, back, hips and legs will enable them to run, row, bike or skate longer and with more vigor. An athlete who gained 30, 40 or even 50 percent overall strength is going to perform better right away in all facets of any sports activity.

There are two ways of shifting the weight training to strike that balance. Which way you choose is an individual matter. Most prefer to switch from lower to higher reps, some gradually, staying with a certain set-and-rep formula for a couple of weeks before moving to the next stage. Others prefer to move from fives to much higher reps in a matter of two weeks. The first step is to change from five times five to four sets of eight. The next move is to four sets of 12, then three sets of 15 and, finally, three sets of 20. Thatís for the core exercises and works nicely for most of them. Any high-skill movement, however, has to be done a bit differently. Performing more than 10 reps on an exercise that requires a great deal of technique, such as the power clean, isnít a good idea because as you tire, your form begins to break down. An exercise is productive only when you use proper technique throughout a set. So stay with eights or 10s for high-skill movementsóeven fewer than that if your form starts to get sloppy. Just add more sets to get the needed work in. You can also do this: Power-clean a weight for eight to 10 reps, then deadlift it for another 10 to 15 reps.

When you move to the higher reps, work quickly. A circuit can be very effective. Set up stations for your primary exercises, and move from one exercise to the next with a minimum of rest, only long enough to change the plates. You can, however, slow down for your final spin through the circuit because the final sets are the meat of the program. You want to be rested so you can handle as much weight as possible and crank out the desired number of reps in perfect form. If youíre not spent when you finish, you either need to move through the routine at a faster pace or use more weight on the final sets.

As you begin spending more time with your sport, you can drop a weight-training day. Also, if you feel youíre not recovering sufficiently from the weight work, eliminate some or all of the auxiliary movements. Most athletes are satisfied with moving gradually up to three sets of 20, although Iíve trained a number of endurance athletes who opted to run the reps even higher. I trained a mountain biker in Monterey, California, one fall. He had progressed up to the three sets of 20s and said he wanted to find out if pushing the reps a lot higher would benefit him. He was extremely fit, one of the top mountain bikers in the country, so I knew he could handle a great deal more than a beginner or intermediate. Eventually, he ended up doing two sets of 100 reps on a variety of exercises for his three major muscle groups, and, in his opinion, they served him well. He could tell for certain that the weight work helped because his sport was based on time, and he was cutting valuable seconds off his training climbs.