You probably think that if you want to build stamina and endurance, you should head out for a really long bike ride or run, but that’s not the case. Long runs or bike rides should be part of your training program if you are training for a triathlon or marathon, but there’s more to the equation than just cardio.
To gain strength for your outdoor adventures, or for the race course, there are two factors that come into play: lactate threshold and VO2 max. Workouts like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or Crossfit WODs, which are both performed at high-intensity, help to boost both of those factors.
The science behind Crossfit endurance
It can be a delicate balance to train for both endurance and strength at the same time but when done correctly, it will upgrade and boost your athletic performance and give you a stronger physique.
There is a well-documented phenomenon called interference, where people who do endurance exercises as well as lifting weights are not seeing the results they expected when it comes to muscle gain or strength.
That’s where sports scientists come in. Sports scientists have been researching how to get better results with concurrent (endurance and strength) training. Some of their findings are the following:
- Concurrent training will not compromise your endurance; it actually improves work capacity and speed. However, it may weaken the development of power, strength, and muscle.
- The most efficient way to reduce body fat in strength and endurance athletes is high-intensity concurrent training.
- Sprint-endurance training will increase your metabolic rate post-exercise, and it will not lead to a decrease in muscle mass.
- Your muscle mass will be compromised when you perform endurance training more than four times a week for over 20 minutes at a time.
- The performance variable that is most compromised by endurance exercise is power, more than hypertrophy or strength.
Crossfit endurance workouts
There are some strategies you can put to use in your next workout to maximize the benefits and neutralize the sub-optimal power and strength results that come from doing a concurrent training program. To guide your pursuit of optimal performance, we take a look at three parallel training models.
Elite training: Get faster, stronger, and reduce your body fat
To improve their performance, build muscle strength and reduce your body fat, elite athletes perform heavy load strength training, making them able to be faster and sustain higher workout rates, using oxygen more efficiently. Therefore, if you’re looking into endurance cycling or running, you can follow this workout to gain more muscle in your upper body. All endurance competitors can benefit from strength training, as it helps the increase of motor unit recruitment and the building of neuromuscular strength.
How to do it
Performance endurance: If your goal is to increase your performance endurance, you need to do heavy load strength training. Make sure that you focus on the parts of your body that are connected to the endurance exercise, to improve work economy, strength, and speed. You may blunt muscle building, but you will reduce your body fat, resulting in a superior body composition.
Build muscle for aesthetics: If you are interested in building muscle to make your body look better, then your workout program needs to focus on lifting using the muscles that are not connected to your endurance exercise. A significant portion of your endurance workouts need to be done at intervals, and you should also favor intensity over duration.
It’s essential that for this workout, you get adequate nutrition and focus on recovery by training different muscles on different days. Our recovery is mostly under our control, and your diet should always include carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen, protein to sustain the repairing of your muscles, and micronutrients such as sodium, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium.
Endurance competitor: Improve speed and work economy with heavy lifting
Sometimes endurance competitors will forget about the importance that power and strength have on their performance. Often, endurance athletes will do a training program focused on muscular endurance resistance training with high reps and light loads, which does not provide many benefits when it comes to their performance.
If you are interested in endurance competitions, what you need to do is heavy load training for light reps. This will make you sustain faster speeds for more extended periods of time, as you will increase your muscle work efficiency. When you reduce your muscle fiber exhaustion, the work economy is superior, and you have more strength, while also enhancing your neuromuscular coordination and lactate threshold.
How to do it
- Avoid reductions in motor unit recruitment by correcting your training errors. When training use block training, which is shorter training phases of three to five weeks. Train with loads of more than 50% of your regular training volume with high concentration and then change your intensity and volume allowing for optimal adaptation and recovery.
- There may be no need to lift weights year round, depending on your competition goals or schedule. It may be more profitable for you to do high-intensity weight workouts for a certain amount of time, and then take a few weeks off, or reduce your training frequency.
- Focus your training to develop two target fitness components only – one for strength and one for endurance. For example, the first phase of your training could be comprised of around half endurance training, combined with a hypertrophy (muscle building) weightlifting program. You can reduce your endurance training in the high-intensity zone around 10% in the second training phase, focusing more on a weightlifting program designed for maximum strength.
- If you aim to compete in an endurance competition, you should decrease the amount of weight lifting workouts you undertake. The same is indicated if your goal is strength; you can aim for shorter steady-state endurance workouts, along with interval workouts.
All-purpose: Muscle, endurance, and power
Crossfit workouts are a unique training model for gaining endurance and strength at the same time. An all-purpose athlete needs different skills compared to someone that just practices Crossfit, but sports scientists have found that a recreational athlete that practices Crossfit has better average power, while also having reduced body fat.
How to do it
To start a Crossfit endurance routine, make sure your program will focus on technique and training your weaknesses. The best approach is an intense one, focusing on training for strength and speed rather than repetition. Generally, scientists believe that strength training can produce better results when done with moderate volume, a short training phase, and with enough rest. Therefore, our endurance workout and weight training should be done on different days, so your recovery can be maximized.
If you are training twice a day, your workouts should be at least six to eight hours apart, so you can focus on recovering and refueling. Another great tip is to train the most challenging mode in accordance with your chronobiology. Therefore if you are a morning person and you like endurance training, weight lift in the morning and endurance train later in the day, when you’re not so motivated. If you are a night owl, then flip it around, so you weight train during the period of the day when you feel most motivated.