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So Many Variables and Opinions
Should you focus on strength training or endurance training when it comes to conditioning yourself? Why not both? Both experts and athletes have differing opinions, and studies aren’t too helpful do to such a wide array of different variables which can’t all be accounted for at once. Plus, there are so many assorted routines and exercises that fall under the broad spectrum of each category that only further muddy the waters. What I offer below is a common sense approach that has worked well for me and countless others.
To clarify for the purposes of this discussion, the strength training referred to here means weight-lifting in the generally accepted formula of using heavy weights (last set pushing muscles to exhaustion), for smaller reps (8-12), with 3 or 4 sets and a rest period of at least a minute in between sets. While endurance training, in this instance, refers to cardio, running, biking, rowing, walking, and the like. Although a type of lifting whereby you still use heavy weights with much smaller reps (1-4), but many sets (10 -20), with shorter rest periods (30 seconds) in between sets is a hybrid form of strength-endurance. Ways to Gain Strength and Power in Sports is a good article related to this topic.
It’s worth noting that any exercising is better than none at all. However, only doing strength training isn’t very healthy. Some cardio and endurance workouts should be interspersed between your weight-lifting sessions. Solely doing strength training with weights has little real world value. How often do we need to lift a great deal of weight for only a few seconds? For a great deal of activities your muscles require endurance, although strength is very helpful too.
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Maintain a Healthy Balance, but Lean toward Endurance Training
This article is geared toward fitness enthusiasts that could be classified as beginners and intermediates. If you’re an elite athlete, or sport specific trainer, then you most likely know more than me, and you know what works best for your body after years of experience, and trial and error. In my opinion, the former category would be well served to focus heavier on endurance training, but still have strength training programmed into their schedule two or three times a week. Studies have never found that strength training increases performance in professional athletes, although I also haven’t heard of any that say it hinders it.
Since I do a wide range of fitness activities for many years now, I have found that a healthy balance between the two training styles has helped in everything I do, even in everyday, mundane chores. Some of it may even just be psychological, because being strong while still maintaining enduring cardiovascular abilities, just makes one more confident anyway.
Strength training, especially leg workouts (squats, calf-raises, and hamstring machines), benefit mountain-biking, running, snowboarding, and backpacking for sure. All professional athletes use it to help maintain their abilities. Upper body strength workouts help out with climbing and confidence in everything else. But I always do at least 20 minutes of cardio after my strength training workouts, three times a week. On the other days I do extended cardio activities and yoga too. I’m a huge proponent of yoga; find out more about several different types of practices in this Yoga Series. So in conclusion, for most of us, strength training three times a week, along with twice as much endurance work, mostly in the form of cardio, is the healthy choice to keep you in optimal condition.
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Strength Endurance Training
Strength Training & Cardiovascular Training Side By Side: How Does One Affect the Other?