How to build strength and endurance at the same time

It’s a common challenge for athletes, trying to build both strength and endurance at the same time. There is a well-documented “interference” effect when training for both that can make it seem like the endurance work is impeding strength gains, however, when done right it can allow for maximum athletic performance all on fronts. It’s a balance and if this is a goal for you here’s what you need to know:

1. Make sure you’re measuring progress towards your specific goals

When training for strength and endurance you should actually see improvements particularly to your endurance when training for both. What you might find different is the physical building of the muscle (size) and power (if your goal is aesthetic muscles and power lifting capability then you’ll struggle to achieve these with a strength and endurance program) so it’s always important to make sure you’re measuring your progress, you may find you are progressing despite feeling like your muscles aren’t “getting bigger.”

2. Balance your training to ensure you’re building on both goals

If you over train in one area, say endurance, then you run the risk of inhibiting growth in the other, in this case strength. Studies have shown that training for endurance more than 3 times a week for more than 20 minute sessions can reduce muscle mass. In the long term if you’re not strength training then you’ll see reductions in muscle size & strength. The trick is training for both and keeping the balance.

3. Nutrition!

Another key factor when training for both strength and endurance is Nutrition. When you’re working towards two goals you must have this factor right. Without the right nutrition you’re going to struggle to train hard, you won’t recover and get the strength gains you’re looking for, and you’re also running the risk of losing strength and muscle mass. Don’t skip this!

4. Rest

Training for both strength and endurance is hard work. It’s not quite as straightforward as training toward a single faceted goal. Poor recovery is the greatest impediment to progress when training for strength and endurance so make sure you’re getting the rest (and fuel) you need to build on your progress every day.

5. Customize your training

Usually an athlete will lean one way or the other. Either, they’re a strength athlete adding endurance work. Or, an endurance athlete adding strength work. Depending on which group you fall in you’ll want to adjust your training accordingly. This is where having a coach or a professional trainer work with you is really important.

However, broadly speaking, we can suggest the following approach:

a) For endurance athletes adding strength training, consider adding heavy load training for the corresponding muscle groups that are most important for the sport (running, cycling, swimming etc.) This will improve strength, speed and efficiency.
b) For strength athletes adding endurance training, make sure you’re training for each goal on different days to ensure maximum recovery. Don’t exceed 3 days a week endurance work but consider adding an endurance element to your strength work by adding increased intensity via circuit style training, compound movements, speed and reduced rest time between sets. This will allow you to squeeze endurance training into your existing strength work without impeding either goal.

No one said it was easy so if you’ve got big goals you should also consider working with specialists who can help with your personal needs.