There are many misconceptions about the types of resistance, or strength, training that are appropriate for endurance sports, ie, cycling, triathlon, running, etc. Two front runners are the notion that you should focus all your work on your lower body and do high reps and low weight. These notions are just plain not true.
As an endurance athlete some key components that you should consider are a strength training program that engages your entire body, especially your posterior chain; the muscles on the back side of your body. These are what stand you up and support you while you are on the bike and running. The major posterior chain muscles are your calves, hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae and traps. These areas are often overlooked when thinking about how you produce power and most people default to going straight to the legs to work quads.
Engaging in hinges, lat pulls and posterior shoulder movements can go a long way toward keeping you not only pain-free, but improving your efficiency, timing, aerodynamics, breathing and power.
Another factor you may want to consider is how many reps/sets you perform, your load, and the speed or tempo that you perform them. If you are lifting loads that you can consistently perform more than 15 reps at a time comfortably you are likely not getting the best use of your time. You need to overload and change your stimulus to continue to create adaptations. If you are stable and you have good mechanics there is a great deal to be gained by lifting heavier loads or changing the timing as long as you progress carefully.
If you have been lifting weights in the gym for a long time and are technically proficient then lifting loads where you can cleanly perform sets of only 8-10 reps will be a significantly different stimulus and create true strength gains.
Let’s look at it this way. If you were to ride for one hour at a cadence of 70 RPM (lower than most), you would turn the pedals 4200 times; 2100 reps on each leg. Even if you did this to exhaustion that is still a lot of reps to failure. You will get an overload on your metabolic system and it is very hard indeed, but it is not a strength stimulus. Now, let’s be more realistic. If you did a 1 min effort at a cadence of 60 rpms. That is still 60 turns or 30 reps for each leg. This is more of a strength stimulus than 2100 reps but still not the same as doing 3-4 sets of 8-10 squats at, or close to, momentary muscular failure.
If you do not have access to a gym or external loads you can still create adaptations and challenge your strength by changing your timing and rhythm. Slow eccentric loading is a great way to increase your time under tension and improve joint stability. I have always said “If you find this easy it’s easy, go slower” Just in case you don’t believe me, the next time you do a set of pushups, do them with a 5 count down and a 5 count up.
I am not suggesting that you go wild and try to hit one rep max loads or do crazy things that may put you at risk for injury. I am simply suggesting that you not be afraid to broaden your scope of what is beneficial when it comes to resistance training. And if you have not been strength training, NOW is the time to start. The SUF Strength program is a fantastic system with progressive loading and a broad range of movements with more new plans coming in the near future.
There is certainly more to this topic and many ways to structure your strength/resistance training. What does your strength plan look like?