Resistance training for Endurance performance

“I am an endurance athlete. All I want is to swim, cycle, or run as fast as I can, for a prolonged period of time. Resistance training and weightlifting will make me slower, even heavier; plus, I cannot squeeze strength workouts in my training calendar.” Although this conviction seems to be less popular nowadays, unfortunately, some athletes still think this way. To set the record straight, there are two main reasons for an endurance athlete to execute strength training. First, to minimize the possibility of an injury and, second, to improve performance. To clarify things, below we’ll examine how resistance training can enhance endurance performance.

Impact of resistance training in endurance performance

Indeed, according to Talpale et al (2010), strength and endurance training are commonly known to produce divergent adaptations. 

On one hand, the primary adaptation to endurance training shows improved oxygen transportation and utilization through increased capillary and mitochondrial density; as well as increased enzyme activity, which, in turn, improves oxidative energy metabolism. 

On the other hand, the primary adaptation to strength training (high loads) includes increases in maximal strength, resulting from improvements in voluntary neuromuscular activation; usually followed by muscle hypertrophy, during a prolonged training period. 

Furthermore, scientific studies have shown that resistance training can lead to superior performance, even for a well-trained endurance athlete; if applied properly, that is (Billat et al 1996, Aagard et al 2008, Talpale et al 2010).  

So, how can these opposing training methods work in conjunction, to improve aerobic performance? Well, strength training promotes neuromuscular adaptations. In turn, the enhanced neuromuscular activation improves endurance performance, as well as sport-specific economy/efficiency of exercise. 

The mechanics of neuromuscular adaptations in resistance training

As mentioned above, properly implementing resistance training is crucial for success. To recap, the mechanics of enhancing endurance performance depend on improved neuromuscular adaptations that lead to improved exercise economy; and, the best way to promote these adaptations is through explosive training and maximal strength.

The fact that endurance athletes need maximal strength training and no muscular endurance training is an oxymoron; yet, it is explained by the mechanics of neuromuscular adaptations — nothing escapes Science

So what are the basic principles of maximal strength and explosiveness? 

The principles of maximal strength and explosiveness

Maximal strength

Maximal strength requires relatively heavy loads, which translates into more than 85% one-repetition maximum (1RM), with repetitions, between 1 and 5, per set. It goes without saying, maximal effort is required on each lift. Rest intervals must be long enough to allow for the necessary recovery phase between sets. Generally speaking, the total amount for an endurance athlete should be between 2-4 exercises of 2-4 sets, twice a week.


Athletes can develop explosiveness using either low loads (30-40%, 1RM) or heavy loads (80-90% of 1RM); but both with the maximum possible velocity (Olympic weightlifting, cleans, etc). Maximum velocity, as you’ve probably gathered, is a critical point here. Also, just like in maximal strength, explosiveness requires long duration rest intervals to allow for full recovery; mainly to ATP and PCr resources. 

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Lift it up!

So why not give the aforementioned methods a try, squeezing at least 1 strength session into your weekly training routine? Soon, you’ll start reaping the benefits of resistance training in your endurance performance. One last thing, if you want your workouts organized in a super-efficient way, you can always recommend our platform, Endogusto, to your coach!

Ready to lift it up, then?

Resistance training for Endurance performance was last modified: July 27th, 2022 by Aris Myrkos