Endurance

Why You Need Aerobic Training!

A thought process that is frighteningly common within the fitness industry is that if you partake in too much aerobic exercise (whatever 'too much' means…), you will end up small and weak (AKA you’ll lose all your gains, brah).

Unfortunately, this is a very poorly understood concept.

Yes, while it is true that if we spend hours upon hours each week training aerobically, we can limit our capacity to develop strength, power, and increase muscle mass.

BUT

Building an efficient and effective aerobic system by using smart training methods can have a number of benefits, no matter what your training level and training goal.

Hunter Bennett Performance Aerobic training Personal training adelaide

 

Improved Recovery

Something that a lot of people fail to realize is that no matter how hard or smart we train, if we don’t recover effectively, it is all a little useless.

Adequate recovery allows us the opportunity to adapt to the training stimulus, while providing time to repair damaged tissue. If we don’t recover adequately, we do not allow the body enough time to adapt to the training stimulus, which can blunt the results of our training.

When it comes to having a well-developed aerobic system, we can actually improve recovery through two key mechanisms.

Firstly, participating in low intensity aerobic activity on our rest days can promote blood flow to the active tissue, clearing metabolic by-products associated with muscle tissue damage, and increases the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which further promotes recovery.

Now when I say low intensity I mean low intensity – As in a very light jog or a brisk walk (AKA NOT tempo runs, sprint intervals, or a casual metabolic workout).

Additionally, participating in this type of activity can reduce our resting heart rate and increase capillarization of our muscle tissue, which can lead to a more efficient cardiovascular system.

Secondly, having a well-developed aerobic system improves our training capacity by improving our ability to recover during a session.

By recovering more in between sets, we can perform at a higher intensity during our working sets. As a result, this can lead to improved strength and power development as pretty simply, we are getting more out of each training session.

This can also lead to an increased amount of training volume, which has the capacity to improve muscle growth and hypertrophy, while also promoting fat loss.

 

Improved Performance

Now this one is a bit of a no brainer, but for those of us who compete in some form of field sport, having good aerobic capacity can make the difference between a very good or very bad performance.

The greater our aerobic capacity, the more work we can perform at a higher intensity. This means we can move faster, produce more force, and express more power for the entirety of a match, which will undoubtedly translate to improved performance throughout the games duration.

Interestingly, having good aerobic capacity is also likely to improve our ability to perform sport specific skills at a high level.

Fatigue masks or limits our ability to perform skills at a high level. By staving off fatigue, we increase our capacity to perform skills at a high level, which again, is detrimental to performance.

This also works in a similar fashion during training.

By having an improved aerobic capacity, we will get more opportunity to practice sport specific skills at a high level. This improves our skill development, which further increases our potential for athletic performance.

 

Practical Implications

So we know that having a well-developed aerobic system may actually improve our capacity to develop strength, power, and skill development.

It may also improve our capacity for muscle growth and fat loss.

Additionally, participating in some form of low intensity aerobic activity on our rest days can improve recovery significantly.

But how much is too much?

As suggested earlier, too much aerobic training can actually limit our ability to develop strength and power, and build muscle tissue, but not enough can actually impede our progress.

So what do we do?

Well, like most things, it depends.

For someone who needs a well-developed aerobic system (AKA a field based athlete), we need to place a premium on aerobic work. This is because it is integral to their successful performance.

This is most likely going to mean 2-3 high intensity conditioning workouts a week – particular during the early stages of preseason, where general physical preparedness is the training focus. This volume is likely to decrease during season as maintenance and recovery become the primary focus.

During this time strength training load needs to be managed closely to ensure we still develop strength and power.

For those of us who don’t play sport competitively, we can most likely get away with 1-2 high intensity aerobic conditioning sessions per week, with an additional 1-2 low intensity recovery sessions per week. This gives us an opportunity to develop our aerobic system, but not so much that it effects our other areas of training.

This will be the minimum effective dose to improve aerobic capacity and promote additional recovery, which should supplement our other training goals.

 

If you would like to start integrating aerobic training into your training, contact me via the form below.

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High Intensity Interval Training. An alternative to steady state cardio.

Cardio.

A word that (somewhat unnecessarily) produces feelings of fear and terror in gym goers around the world.

Ok, so maybe fear and terror aren't quite accurate, but nonetheless people are certainly worried about doing cardio. You know, ‘cause you’ll lose all your gainz, brah’

But seriously, I think the inclusion of some form of cardio can be important for both the weekend warrior and athlete alike. 

Cardiovascular, or Aerobic, training can improve your general physical preparedness, which in turn can directly improve your recovery both between sessions, and during sessions, which is going to improve the overall results of your training. Not to mention there are obvious health benefits that are associated with having a well-developed cardiovascular system (reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes for example...). And of course, for the more athletic populations, having a well-developed aerobic system is essential to performing well.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy cardio all that much. I don’t really like sitting in the gym, staring at a wall, turning my legs over and over for hours at a time. And don’t even get me started on running (I am not a particularly good runner..).

So what can I do?

Let me introduce High intensity interval training .

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High Intensity Interval Training

Combines short bouts of high intensity activity with short (sometimes longer) bouts of low intensity activity or inactivity. A simple example would be running and walking, where you might run quickly for 30s and then walk for 60s for a duration of 20 minutes.

It’s a relatively simple concept that has shown to significantly improve aerobic capacity, aid fat loss and improve cardiovascular function.

And the best bit?

It takes very little time!

Now in saying that, most protocols are difficult, and can be quite taxing, and as such may it may not be suitable for the relatively untrained individual. For them building a solid foundation of aerobic capacity through lower intensity aerobic work may be a more beneficial way to go, before commencing higher intensity intervals.

Now, here a couple of protocols that I like to use regularly that you can quickly introduce into your own training. I typically use these with running if im outside or on the stationary bike if im at the gym, although there is no reason they cannot be used on the rower or X-trainer if that is your preference.

Example 1.

2 sets of 15s High intensity (80-90% max speed) 15s rest (inactive) for 8 minutes duration, with 4 minutes between sets.

Example 2.

60s of high intensity (~70% max speed) with 90s light intensity activity, for 20 minutes.

Boom!

Just like that, 2 easy protocols that can be implemented into your week that take less than 30 minutes each.

Ideally undertaking this sort of interval training twice per week is enough to improve aerobic capacity and help body composition goals.

If you like to do cardio and weights in the same day, I would recommend using one of these after your weight session, as doing it before is likely to leave significant fatigue and impact your ability to perform in the gym.

There you have it, a brief spiel on Interval training.

 

If you would like to find out how to incorporate interval training into your workout you can contact me here.

Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

Strength Training and Endurance Performance

Endurance athletes love training long distances. Often described as time in the saddle, it often consists of large amounts of time dedicated to moving slowly over large distances.

While this has been a staple of many endurance athletes training for many years, it may not be the most logical option. With traditional endurance training there is a heavy focus on long distance, steady state exercise. Often the main form of progression utilised with this training is an increase in distance, which is somewhat illogical if we think about it. By running a greater distance at the same speed (or possibly slower) that is always used, are we really going to get faster?

Hint: It does depend on current fitness level, but probably not.

 

So what should we do?

Well, when it comes to strength and endurance training, they are often viewed at opposite ends of the training continuum, with improvements in one causing subsequent reductions in the other. In reality, it’s not that simple.

When we look at endurance performance, it is effectively the ability to maintain or repeat a given force output (think each step during running). Now each individual step we take has the same, consistent amount of force being applied to the ground. Now if we think about it logically for a second, if someone increases their relative strength, each step will require less relative force to maintain the same pace they did prior to getting stronger. This means any step done at any given workload requires less energy, as it is now a lower percentage of their maximal force production. This then results in them moving faster, and further each step, despite using the same amount of energy.

BOOM! Mind blown.

And this isn’t just for running. The same principles apply for cycling and swimming.

Now lets get a little (only a little) sciency for a moment.

Strength training has shown to significantly improve endurance performance in both recreational, and highly trained endurance athletes. These studies have suggested that the inclusion of strength training into an endurance training program will enhance endurance performance greater than endurance training alone. These improvements have been measured by improvements in movement economy (energy efficiency), velocity at VO2max and maximal anaerobic running test velocity.

Often seen is a significant improvement in strength, with minimal improvement in lean mass, suggesting that strength increases are predominantly neural, and result in significant improvements in relative force production.

Associated with strength training is a shift in muscle fibre type from type IIx (Super explosive muscle fibre type) to type IIa (less explosive, slightly greater endurance capacity) fibre types, slightly improving endurance capacity.

Maximal voluntary muscle contraction is improved, reducing the amount of motor units recruited to produce force at any given workload, and therefore requiring less energy at any given workload.

Strength training also causes an increase in musculotendinous unit stiffness. This results in an improved ability to store elastic energy during eccentric muscle actions (eg. landing each step), which in turn increases concentric muscle force (eg. Pushing off the ground). This results in less energy used per step, and an increase in movement economy.

 

So what are the practical implications?

So we now know that strength training can contribute to improved endurance performance, but how should we use this information.

I would suggest that the inclusion of just two full-body strength sessions per week would be sufficient to stimulate a strength adaptation. The focus should be on large compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and lunges to improve lower body strength, working within strength based rep ranges (6x3, 5x4, 4x6 etc.), trying to elicit neural adaptations whilst minimising potential hypertrophy to maximise increases in strength relative to body weight.

The inclusion of loaded carries, pulling movements, and some direct trunk stability work would be worth including as accessory exercises if time permits.

 

 

 

If you want to improve your endurance performance through strength training but don't know where to start, click here!