In this, the final post on our series on weight training, we’re going to talk about endurance training. Whereas strength training is about improving your nervous system to lift heavier weights and size training is about tearing the muscle fibre down to rebuild it, Endurance is all about making the muscle produce strength for longer. This is especially useful for athletes such as runners, cyclists, hockey players, football players etc. It’s also useful for everyday chores such as cleaning and gardening, purely because your muscles won’t be as sore by the end!
At this point you may be wondering “Well, if I improve my strength and size of muscles, surely they’re better so they can work longer?”, nope! Your skeletal muscle fibres (the ones generally considered as muscles to train) consist of 3 types:
Type I – Slow twitch fibres
Type II(a) – fast oxidative fibres
Type II(b) – fast twitch fibres
More on the science of these in an upcoming blog post, but for the purposes of this one; consider Type I as the long-distance, marathon muscle fibres, they can keep up strength for a very long time, but don’t produce short, powerful, maximum strength movements as Type II(b) do.
When you’re training for endurance, you’re training the type I muscle fibres. These use the aerobic energy system, which means they use oxygen in the blood to prevent lactic acid build-up. A way of thinking about this is that your calf and glute muscles are in almost constant use when you’re standing, however, you don’t feel them burn throughout the day.
A common mistake with training for muscle endurance is to just train cardio, such as cycling on a high gear. The problem with this is it trains mostly the cardio-vascular systems, the lungs taking oxygen in, the heart pumping it around and the blood vessels working to a good extent. This doesn’t develop the muscle’s ability to produce more strength for longer.
Another commonly-held belief is that doing a low weight for 3 sets of 15-20 is another good way to train endurance. The problem with this method is that in order to lift a weight for 20 reps, it would have to be a light weight. With this method you’re not placing the muscle into a state in which it has to adapt because of the difficulty of the exercise. You may have tried this before yourself at some point and felt your muscle burn. This is a sign of fatigue from your type 2 muscle fibres, rather than the type 1.
So what’s the best way to train for strength-endurance? We believe the best way is courtesy of Matt Wiggins at http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wiggy1.htm; training with heavy weights, for a high amount of sets and low reps with a very low rest time. This is an all-body workout so at the end of each day, you’ll be very tired out. Rest days will be very important with this workout, so make sure you’re eating and sleeping enough!
What you want to do is enable your muscles to get used to providing a good amount of strength over a prolonged period. Training with this kind of regime will enable you to increase the amount of weight your muscles can move over a long period of time, whereas both previous methods don’t have this benefit. This will be useful, functional strength that will enable you to live a healthier, more able lifestyle.
So after going through this entire series, you may be thinking, what’s the best way for your to train? There are different elements to your muscles, and things are more complex than just lifting a weight and putting it back down again 10 times!
We believe the best way to figure this out is to decide what it is you’re training for. If you’re an athlete, you would train specifically to enable you to perform your sport better. If you’re a beginner, then you’re probably looking to change your body as quickly as possible, in which case, strength training would be best.
However, if you’re looking for general health through weight training, we believe that periodically cycling between the three methods of training is best. 3 months of strength training, 2 months of size training and 1 month of endurance training is normally best. This enables you to train your body in ways that still force it to adapt, and then switch to a different routine before the body can adapt fully to it. This keeps your body in a constant state of growth, constantly becoming better.
Weight training for beginners:
Any questions, then get in touch with us!