Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

strength-trainingAre you a runner or endurance athlete? Do you train for hours throughout the week to be the best you can be at running? Are you having aches and pains that you believe are unrelated? Aches and pains are a sign that you need to work out smarter.

According to Corrective Exercise Specialist, Bryan Lieberman, “Running, cycling, and endurance training are all great ways to get exercise, but they are only one part to create a healthy and strong body to perform at optimal levels. Dangers of not adding strength training to your workout program leads to imbalances in the body that present itself in the form of nagging pains or unrecognized overuse injuries.”

Lieberman, who has over 25 years of training experience and currently directs training programs for Crunch Fitness, has found that strength training for endurance athletes is vital, especially if running is the only form of exercise a person does to stay in shape. Adding a couple sessions of strength training per week can avoid causing major muscular imbalances.

“There is a major part of society that suffers from postural problems due to anterior muscles being tight and dominant. This is far more exaggerated and problematic in each case of an endurance athlete due to the repetitive nature of the activity,” states Lieberman. “The result is the posterior muscles becoming over stretched and inactive, making it difficult to have proper posture and body mechanics, leaving an athlete prone to injury.”

Injuries occur most often when dominant muscles become tight and are no longer functioning correctly and the brain recruits other muscle groups to compensate in an unnatural movement pattern. Joint damage and pain are sure to follow.

“Many people assume this is part of the natural effects of aging, and it is not,” Lieberman says.“Postural correction is the most common work done with each client daily. … Pain is often eliminated once an individual’s brain begins to activate the muscles that have stopped being recruited for movement. This applies to athletes of any age or fitness level.”

It’s easy to spot a high-level marathon runner or cyclist. Often, their bodies have slouched shoulders, neck jutting forward, shortened chest muscles, shortened abdominals, and shortened hip flexors. Some or all of these imbalances apply. With all of those muscles being pulled forward from a highly repetitive activity, like running, over time the hamstrings and glutes become inactive.

This leads to what Lieberman calls “flat butt syndrome”, which reduces the ability to complete everyday tasks without putting the lower back at risk.

Besides strength training, Lieberman believes that most runners would greatly benefit by stretching the anterior muscles and the strengthening of the posterior muscles of the body.

“An ideal way to learn to strengthen the posterior muscles is to seek the assistance of a fitness professional to properly teach one to recruit the correct muscles,” he says. “If more anterior exercises are suggested instead of stretching those muscles, I suggest finding another professional with a better understanding of corrective exercise.”

In closing, Bryan adds a cautious word of advice to people who seek professional training from an unreliable source: “Please keep in mind, there isn’t a professional strength coach on the planet that would have their athletes doing more than 12 reps to improve strength or maintain muscle,” he says. “Doing more reps doesn’t make a person lean, it destroys your muscle which is your fat burning machinery and is yet another reason why endurance training should not be your only form of exercise. Every ’body’ will benefit from some form of strength training.”