So you are a swimmer, a runner, or a bicyclist, eh? Or, perhaps you are all three and you believe that your endurance workouts, your intervals, fartleks, and long slow distances are all that you need to excel at your chosen sport. Well, I am here to tell you that if you truly want to maximize your performances you need to strength train as well.
After all, the stronger your muscles, joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, respiratory and central nervous systems are, the better prepared you will be when you hit the road, water, or bicycle. It is as the great Russian physical trainer L.P. Matveyev put it, “Strength is the foundation for development of the rest of physical qualities.”
Now, this does not mean that strength training ought to replace your other workouts. No, you still need to put in the sport-specific training that all specialized athletes need to do. However, adding one or two, preferably the latter, short strength training workouts will pay huge dividends over time by correcting muscle imbalances, strengthening those muscles that your sport calls upon, and giving your joints, mind, and body a break from the pounding that endurance training is somewhat known for.
If you are completely new to strength training, you ought to start out slow by taking a three month period to build a base of physical strength. To do this, go with two weekly workouts that will hit your entire body. The most effective strength workouts are those that make use of compound movements such as back squats, standing overhead presses, pull ups, deadlifts, and bench presses. In fact, your entire workout could consist of those movements with you doing two to three sets of ten reps of each. At no point during this phase of your strength training program should you ever lift to failure. Oh, and if you have never lifted before, get a trainer to teach you how to lift safely.
Once your base strength has been built up, move on to the max strength phase which uses the same movements. However, this time you will only be doing five reps per set. You should stay in this phase for two to three months. Once you are done, you can take a break of a few weeks from the strength training before starting again with the base building stage. By following a periodization schedule such as this, you will be able to keep your body and mind from burning out, which is very important to all athletes.