Ask Stew: Can You Train Strength and Endurance?

Weight Lifting

Working with professional trainers has been one thing I have enjoyed tremendously since joining the National Strength and Conditioning Association and becoming certified through their Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist program (CSCS). I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best, but also share a side of fitness that not many are accustomed to by training Tactical Athletes who need to be good at everything but not great at anything (on fitness spectrum). Here is a question from a trainer who is seeking some information on training hard in both strength and endurance, as it is tough to be great at both:

Good Morning Stew,

My name is Nick and I am a Strength and Conditioning Coach at a local University. My question comes from joining weight room strength with running economy. Have you ever come across a running program that will not hinder weight room strength gains? I know that this is a random coming from a strength coach, but if I cannot come up with an answer myself I look to those that I respect in the field for help. Thank you so much for your time.

Nick -- That is a great question and one I have searched and experimented with many options looking for an answer too for years. The only way I have been able to keep up with both running and strength numbers is to cycle them separately. Of course, that is longer distances running -- like 4 or more miles timed events. Sprinting, as you know, goes hand in hand with heavy lifts for strength. However, if the goal is shorter runs like 1 to 1.5 mile timed runs then you can do both relatively well. As you are aware, I am sure, you will never be at your best 1 rep max or your best 1.5 mile or more timed run with lifting HEAVY and running 4-5 days a week at the same time. BUT if you can live with a 20 percent decrease in strength (from 1 rep max) for 6-8 weeks with a solid decrease in running time, then I would suggest the periodization method, which has helped me cycle through for 20 years now. For instance here are issues I am seeing as I age past 40 years of age. This winter, I lifted more than I have in 20 years -- 400 squat, near 450 dead lift, 325 bench, 275 power clean BUT I picked up weight to 225 pounds (heaviest I have ever been in my life). When we dropped the weights and started to progress with a running program in the spring, it hurt. Hurt badly! Running a progressive running plan even every OTHER day hurt. I have since lost 15 pounds, but still would like to lose another 10-15 pounds for optimal run times. Even at 47 years old I am able to get just a sub-7 minute mile pace. My strength at its best is associated with too much weight gain. I'm still working at gaining strength without weight AND running faster at that same weight without pain. I have been doing more interval runs with less distance, which seems to be working well for running pace and dropping some body weight too. Twenty years ago, it was much easier to drop the weight when we started running again. It is difficult to outwork my diet now -- in fact, I cannot. Obviously my maxes are down (I assume), since I have not lifted heavy since March. I find that I keep strength pretty well BUT lose cardio vascular ability real quick. In fact, I can take a week from lifting and come back stronger, but take a week off of running or swimming and feel like I am a beginner again. Must be my background going from heavier runner with a powerlifting base, and then transferring into cardio / high rep calisthenics as a pre-BUD/S student. When we come back around to lifting progressions again, it typically only takes about a six-week program, and I am at my old maxes again or near them when we lift in the winter. This model has worked for me and is very functional for the Tactical Athlete to not overdo too much of anything -- not master anything -- but have no (horrible) weaknesses either. Periodization – How We Do It (more links too) Stew

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