Strength and Power Training to Improve Endurance

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Athletes frequently struggle to balance strength work with endurance training. Most positions in sports require supremacy in both categories. An athlete like Steve Nash needs to be explosive and to have enough stamina to perform well throughout an entire NBA game. But there's only so much time in a training day.

Although exercise regimens for strength and power training differ from those for endurance, athletes following a strength/power schedule might also see improvements in running economy—a measure of how efficiently one uses oxygen while running. Anthony Nicholas Turner, CSCS, reports in the Strength and Conditioning Journal that "because increases in strength are often accompanied by increases in power and rate of force development [RFD], there would likely be an increase in blood flow," which allows more oxygen to reach the muscles—and more oxygen means more energy. Turner reaches the logical conclusion that the benefits of strength training would naturally influence an athlete's running economy as well, promoting gains in endurance.

Just don't fall victim to the myth that shortened rest periods improve aerobic capacity. Turner cautions that rest periods of 30 seconds or less are too short to facilitate recovery, so an athlete will not be able to lift as much weight, thus missing opportunities to make strength and power gains.

Check out these exercises from Suns PG Steve Nash, which will improve your strength, power and muscle oxygenation.

Overhead Med Ball Throw

  • Assume athletic split stance
  • Lock out back leg and slightly bend opposite front knee
  • Perform a soccer-style throw overhead

Sets/Reps: 1x12, 1-2x10

Alternating Med Ball Push-Up

  • Keep core and glutes tight
  • Lower down until the ball touches shoulder area
  • Roll ball to other hand at top of Push-Up

Sets/Reps: 1x12, 1-2x10 each arm

Single-Leg, Single-Arm Row

  • Assume single-leg stance with balancing knee slightly bent
  • Move opposite leg to 90-degree angle
  • Row with arm on side of balancing leg
  • Don't twist or jerk body during row
  • Don't allow knee to rotate in either direction

Sets/Reps: 1x12, 1-2x10 each side

Source:  Turner, Anthony Nicholas. [2011]. "Training the Aerobic Capacity of Distance Runners: A Break From Tradition." Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33[2], 40.

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