- Power and Endurance
- Resistance Training
- Plyometrics for Power
- Plymetrics and Endurance Training
Now is a perfect time to focus your training and work on your strength with weights based home workouts. This is true in endurance sports as much any other. Whether it's a sprint finish, an explosive start, an aggressive attack up a hill in cycling, you need muscular power. What you don't need is muscle bulk.
In this article we're going to discuss how you can increase power without increasing bulk, because the two are separate things altogether. In the article we'll discuss using plyometrics to help you achieve this.
By the end you'll be equipped with the knowledge of how to become more powerful, more explosive and a better athlete without being heavier and slower.
Power and Endurance – the Tricky Relationship
In some endurance sport circles, there's still a misconception around resistance training. On one hand you have progressive coaches who will leave no stone unturned when looking for athletic improvement. On the other hand, you've got the old-school who insist that you become heavy, slow and muscle bound through resistance training.
The latter, with respect, are wrong.
Sports Science has moved on a long way over the decades. Our understanding of resistance training, muscle physiology and the response to load and stress has changed dramatically and as such, resistance training is now a feature of every elite athlete's training protocol.
Resistance training is a complex tool – you can adapt it in any which way you need to in order to suit a purpose and as such, no two training programmes are the same.
You can put together a programme to rehab an injury, to improve rowing speed, to improve jumping performance or to build a lot of muscle for bodybuilding. To make a blanket assumption that resistance training in all forms is a negative for endurance sports is plain ignorant. Let's discuss the point further…
An Overview of Resistance Training
The term ‘resistance training' is applied to anything where the body works against a resisting force, or weight. That could be in the form of a barbell, a kettlebell, a dumbbell, elastic bands, chains, drag sleds or even the athlete's own body weight (which is the case with the plyometrics we'll show you later). What provides the resistance is irrelevant – the important thing is that it's there in the first place.
The variance comes in the loads (amount of resistance), the volume (how many sets and reps) and the frequency (how often we train). By manipulating these variables we can achieve dramatically different results, even when using the same tools.
We know for example, that to build large amounts of muscle we should bias a medium to heavy resistance, but perform very high volume work. Strength training should be a lot of very heavy, very low rep sets with plenty of rest in between. Power is similar – heavy weight, short sets, long rest periods. I'll simplify this so that it makes more sense…
Muscle Building – Medium weight, lots of reps (8-20), repetitions performed slowly, lots of sets (4-8), very frequent training (4-6 days per week)
Strength Training – Very heavy weight, few reps (1-3), lots of sets (5-10), relatively-infrequent training (1-3 days per week, depending on weight)
Power Training – Medium-heavy weight, few reps (2-5), lots of sets (5-8), repetitions performed at speed, moderate frequency training (2-4 days per week)
The physiological changes of these are varied too. We know from studies that muscle building occurs at higher volumes of training . Power and strength training don't produce the same outcome of muscle growth, which can be attributed to two factors…
Power and strength training typically recruits mostly the fast twitch muscle fibres.
The volume isn't high enough to illicit a growth response.
So now we've explained the differences in resistance training approaches, we can discuss power training options for endurance athletes. In this specific case, we're going to focus on plyometrics.
Plyometrics for Power
Plyometrics are power-based exercises that combine the following phases…
Eccentric phase. This is where the muscles are being used ‘elongate', building up a store of energy.
Amortization phase. The time between the concentric and eccentric phases. In effective plyometric movements this phase needs to be as short as possible in order to maximise force output.
Concentric phase. This uses the stored energy to increase the force of the movement. The muscle shortens rapidly, exerting most force.
Plyometrics are used by coaches across a wide variety of sports. From a technical standpoint, plyometrics don't require much in the way of technique learning and don't need much equipment, so are versatile.
They're also a way to build power endurance, allowing you to perform multiple reps back-to-back, which is particularly useful for endurance athletes – think of the power needed to attack on a hill in cycling. It's going to require a powerful output for a long time, not a single-second burst.
Here are a few examples of plyometric exercises you could use in endurance training. These cover squat, lunge, push and pull movement patterns.
Perform 5 sets of 5 reps (5 each side on the lunges), ensuring each rep is the highest quality and performed with maximum power output.
The purpose here is to perform each rep with the most amount of explosive power as possible, so focus on rep quality rather than quantity.
Adding Plyometrics into Endurance Training
The plyometrics workout here is only short, but it's very effective if performed correctly. You shouldn't do these movements when tired, so ideally put them in whilst you are doing your dedicated gym work or before a run/ride/swim.
Go through all four exercises twice per week, leaving at least 2 days rest in between. The rest is to allow the body to adapt to the training, make the physiological adaptions and allow the connective tissues a chance to recover.
This is the first part in a series on power training for endurance exercises. Next up we'll discuss specific plyometric exercise drills to move you a better athlete.
For more training advice and tips, visit the Kymira Sport blog .
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