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Ask Tawnee: Should I combine strength training with endurance training?

Posted Jan 12 2011 11:01am


Q: Should I do primarily lower body training (ie. legs) before/after a swim workout?

Editor's Note: Contributing writing and USA Triathlon Coach Tawnee Prazak answers some of your most important training questions.

Ideally, you should do strength training as a completely separate workout from endurance, but if you have to combine, try to do the bulk of ST first. Next, yes, I think targeting different areas for the ST vs. endurance is a great idea to some extent. But going back to what I just said about compound exercises, that might not always be doable....

Most my ST sessions and what I recommend to others are full body to some extent. I rarely do just upper body (UB) or just lower body (LB) or just isolation exercises. I may specifically target LB or UB in a session, but even in that case when doing multi-joint LB-specific exercises some “minor” muscle groups of the UB activate to help the “major” muscle groups (like I mentioned about deadlifts above) and vice versa. That said, your arms will probably feel better swimming if you do squats, box jumps and deadlifts rather than a crapload of pushups, pullups and slam balls beforehand.

Getting into specifics:

1. I told you I'd repeat this concept a lot: If you're new to ST start off with lighter weights but don't be afraid to add on more weight and lift heavy loads as you improve – lifting heavy will directly translate to an increase in power and strength; thus, you’ll race faster, be injury resilient and be more fatigue resistant. Using weights that you can lift 100x in a row nonstop really isn’t going to do anything, and it won’t “increase endurance.” However, 100 pushups, situps or [fill-in-the-blank body-weight exercise] – that’s a different story.

2. I'm a big proponent of free weights vs. machines. Free weights add an element of balance and coordination that isn't required with machines. That said, if you're completely mew to ST, might want to start on machines and work your way to free weights.

3. Whatever your program includes, be sure to warm up with non-weighted functional movements plus light weights of the exercises you’ll be doing. Once you’re warm a routine should go in order: the hardest and/or multi-joint/total-body exercises first, then medium-level stuff and finish with the easiest exercises like situps or planks. For example: Deadlifts, knee 2 elbows, band squats, renegade rows, pushups, abmats. Harder/multi-joint/total-body exercises generally require more technique and force production, so you're best off doing those when you fresh (another reason why to ST before endurance exercise).

4. mix up your routines. Doing the same thing over and over will lead to stagnation. Don't get me wrong, I do heavy deadlifts and squats at least once a week, but my circuits, the loads, when/how much I do varies greatly (and also with the training phase).

Tawnee Tawnee Prazak is a Triathlete, USA Triathlon Coach, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (NSCA), personal trainer, exercise science grad student, freelance writer.

You can read more of her knowledgeable advice on her most excellent blog HERE .

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .

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