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4 benefits of strength training for sport

Personal trainer Sarah Cremen on the reasons why we should be adding strength training to our programmes for endurance sports.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

THE BENEFITS OF strength training for the general population is a topic that has been covered in health and fitness blogs ad nauseam, but with the rise in popularity of endurance sports in Ireland, there can be conflicting messages around the benefits of cross training.

We’re not talking about elite level training for people with top level athletic aspirations., rather just your average weekend warrior; probably a full time desk jockey, out enjoying their sport and occasional healthy competition at the weekends.

So, is strength training a waste of time if your sport is endurance based? Is it effective? Is it necessary? And if you are strength training; should you lift heavy or light, use free weights or machines? Let’s look at some of the benefits.

Preservation of muscle mass

As we age, generally we move less than we did in our teens and twenties. While you may still be staying active by being out every weekend on the bike, overall decreased activity (especially when it comes to manual labour/lifting loads etc.) equals a decrease in muscle mass.

Why is the important? Well, if you find yourself complaining about a slowing metabolism, you should realise that while increasing age undoubtedly plays a role in a slowing metabolism, the amount of muscle mass you maintain plays a bigger one.

Enhanced balance, co-ordination and proprioception

Often, there is this misconception that weight training is a dangerous endeavour, lift too heavy and you’ll get injured etc.

The reality is that most injuries occur during activities of daily living; gardening, shifting furniture, awkwardly lifting heavy objects; when you move your body in a way that places inappropriate stress on weak muscles.

Adding strength training to your regime will only help to develop and maintain neural pathways for proprioception and balance and strengthen the smaller, intrinsic muscles we rely upon for stability.

Think long term — an established routine of strength training can help to maintain your balance and proprioception at a higher level for years to come and help to avoid trips/falls/injuries that only hasten the decline in overall activity and ultimately decrease your life expectancy.

Strength training increases your workout options

If you’ve been pursuing one endurance sport for some time, chances are you have a well developed aerobic capacity, but potentially an underdeveloped musculoskeletal system for anything other than your chosen sport.

For example; if you are a cyclist, it’s likely that you would have the aerobic ability to complete an endurance run, but because cycling is a weight-supported sport, your skeletal system may lack the ability to handle the stress.

Underdeveloped upper body strength is prevalent and can limit the exercise and activity options available to you outside of your usual athletic endeavours.

We all find it difficult to find time in the day and when the opportunity to do something over nothing presents itself, and that something is a quick hotel workout or jog, you want to be able to trust your body’s ability to handle the load.

Become a well-rounded athlete

Having one sport as a primary focus isn’t a bad thing, but neither is expanding your horizons when it comes to training.

Why should you aim to become more well rounded? Well, the activities performed off the bike/road are ultimately what will make you more effective on the bike/road.

Strength training is hugely beneficial (when performed safely and with good form) for injury prevention and if it can help safeguard you from being sidelined by soreness or injury, you can be more consistent in your sports specific training.

While it may not directly make you faster or fitter on the bike/road, adding in strength training could be an important but overlooked component to your training regime.

The indirect benefits above essentially mean that you can apply a greater training stimulus and potentially more frequently than you could otherwise, and that will certainly have you knocking out a few PBs.

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