Basic Barbell Training for Endurance Athletes Basic Barbell Training for Endurance Athletes

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Thread: Basic Barbell Training for Endurance Athletes

  1. #1
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    Default Basic Barbell Training for Endurance Athletes

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    Coach Rippetoe,

    Good evening and thank-you for your continued time answering questions pertaining to your expertise. I have some thoughts that I would like to share to stir up questions that you or others might shed light on as I have a full interest in hearing intelligent thought processes pertaining to the following.


    I have been “coaching” the general population in Vail, Colorado (home to the World Class Ski Resort) for 8 years as a passion and career. While my experience is somewhat limited to training “athletes”, I do have a few at my disposal to experiment with.


    The general population is somewhat aging, very thin, and highly adapted to aerobic metabolism. I have experienced that most people here in the general population are recreational athletes that participate in high altitude cycling, mountain biking, hiking, mountaineering, climbing, alpine skiing (anaerobic), white water sports, etc. and are “fit” by the standards set forth by the general public which isn’t saying much. Most of these sports seem to require a high reliance of VO2, muscular endurance, lactate threshold and relative strength (in no particular order of importance).


    It seems the most successful of these folks (when measuring their results in some of the said high altitude sporting events) have low body weight. This leads me to believe that relative strength is the quantifiable variable that is separating them from the pack. They are carrying less weight over the duration of the event.


    The big experimentation I have been tinkering with of the last few years with varying results (due to lack of continued motivation by this said population, and the small sample size) is the role of basic barbell training, particularly the back squat and conventional deadlift.


    With this in mind, to some extent I am having a hard time propelling these folks strength in the back squat and deadlift (in attempt to improve force production) due to these folks emphasis on extracurricular alpine activities. They don’t get enough calories to gain weight to improve their leverages and recovery, they are too aerobically conditioned, and fail to progress.


    Have you had experience with endurance athletes, and would you suggest focusing on neural adaptation alone (lower volume), or is weight gain a beneficial adaptation for this population? To me it seems like improving strength is vital, yet it seems very difficult without weight gain and in fact weight gain may negate the strength benefit altogether for this demographic.


    Or, do you nix the barbell training altogether and have them specifically focus on cycling, for example if their goal is to become a better cyclist?


    At what point is barbell training null and void for endurance athletes? 1xBW deadlift or squat? 2X? Or does it even matter altogether?



    Warm regards,
    Ryan

  2. #2
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    I have found that the vast majority of endurance "athletes" are primarily in it for recreation. As such, the vast majority of them will not do anything that does not involve the recreational activity itself. They are not interested in improved performance in the sense that a competitive athlete is, and for that reason it is usually pointless to try to make them train outside their primary activity. Just my impression having worked with cyclists. Ski-types may be different.

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    You mention "relative strength" being the determining factor in performance in these various activities, but I think you probably mean "relative power", which for aerobic activity is generally governed by the cardiovascular system rather than any means of force production. Once VO2Max adaptations for an athlete reach their genetic limit, there's little else the athlete can do to improve power production other than to drive LT adaptations as close to VO2Max as possible. Beyond that, carrying the least mass possible is going to yield the best results in terms of aerobic performance.

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    My version: Once VO2Max adaptations for an athlete reach their genetic limit, there's little else the athlete can do to improve power production other than to get stronger. Thinking that carrying the least mass possible is possibly the single biggest impediment to increased performance for endurance athletes, as long as that mass is lean and as long as its acquisition does not specialize the athlete for explosive strength.

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    I've been wondering about a similar question recently, which is how you would program lifting for a sport like rowing that has big strength and aerobic components. I've often thought that I'd love to have had Starting Strength when I was on crew in college, because I didn't learn good technique in some of the lifts, particularly squats. We could not have done The Program, however, because we obviously had to spend so much training time on the other facets of our conditioning, not to mention on rowing itself. I'd be interested to hear any thoughts you might have on that. I'm referring to heavyweight rowing; I assume weight training for the lightweights, where they have a maximum weight 160, is a different ballgame.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    My version: Once VO2Max adaptations for an athlete reach their genetic limit, there's little else the athlete can do to improve power production other than to get stronger. Thinking that carrying the least mass possible is possibly the single biggest impediment to increased performance for endurance athletes, as long as that mass is lean and as long as its acquisition does not specialize the athlete for explosive strength.
    And, in fact, it is fairly well know (or it should be) that increasing absolute strength increases aerobic capability: http://www.ifbb.com/page.php?id=14 (Try to ignore the fact that this is from a bodybuilding page - it's still a good article). The relevant bit:

    CARDIORRESPIRATORY ENDURANCE :

    The 1-RM significantly increased for all exercises for both (low intensity exercise (LEX) and high intensity exercise (HEX)) groups. Aerobic capacity increased by 23,5% and 20,1% for the LEX and HEX groups respectively. Treadmill time increased by 26,4% and 23,3% for the LEX and HEX groups respectively.
    Conclusion: Significant improvements in aerobic capacity and treadmill time to exhaustion can be obtained in older adults as a consequence of either high- or low-intensity resistance exercise. These findings suggest that increased strength, as a consequence of resistance exercise training, may allow older adults to reach and/or improve their aerobic capacity.
    Similar studies exist demonstrating this phenomena in trained athletes (who have not performed a strength-building program). I see this all the time in my coaching practice - guys get better simply by getting stronger during the winter. I rarely have to change up their on-the-bike training much, other than to make it more organized and focused.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    I have found that the vast majority of endurance "athletes" are primarily in it for recreation. As such, the vast majority of them will not do anything that does not involve the recreational activity itself. They are not interested in improved performance in the sense that a competitive athlete is, and for that reason it is usually pointless to try to make them train outside their primary activity. Just my impression having worked with cyclists. Ski-types may be different.
    This is a very sound observation for all the said disciplines. Thanks for the reply.

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    I live in Denver and sometimes Deal with a similar type. I think part of your situation may revolve around your own limited exposure to strength training. I don't intend that statement to be a slap in the face. As your knowledge grows your ability to direct them also improves. That being said there will always be a percentage that "has shit in their ears."

    Sounds like your on the right track.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Need2Lift View Post
    I've been wondering about a similar question recently, which is how you would program lifting for a sport like rowing that has big strength and aerobic components. I've often thought that I'd love to have had Starting Strength when I was on crew in college, because I didn't learn good technique in some of the lifts, particularly squats. We could not have done The Program, however, because we obviously had to spend so much training time on the other facets of our conditioning, not to mention on rowing itself. I'd be interested to hear any thoughts you might have on that. I'm referring to heavyweight rowing; I assume weight training for the lightweights, where they have a maximum weight 160, is a different ballgame.
    I would include 2x/week under the bar: 1. squat, deadlift, and chins 2. squat, clean, press.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    I would include 2x/week under the bar: 1. squat, deadlift, and chins 2. squat, clean, press.
    That sounds reasonable (I'd do pull ups instead of chins because the rowing grip is overhand). I think cleans and deadlifts are great exercises for rowing, but for whatever reason we only did them my freshman year, even though I had the same coach for all four years. I never understood why we stopped, and didn't know enough at the time to ask the coach.

    I'm curious why you'd include press and not bench press, and whether this would still be sets of five with a linear progression. (This is hypothetical for me in that my rowing days are behind me, so I understand if you don't want to spend anymore time indulging my curiosity. I assume, though, that a program like this would also be applicable to other sports, as well as to people who generally want to train for both strength and conditioning.)

    Thanks.

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