Strength and Conditioning
31st March 2016
The aging process can bring about changes in certain hormonal levels leading to losses in strength, power, flexibility and a loss in bone quality. Anthropometrical changes such as increases in body-fat percentage, muscle loss as well as chronic issues with joint function could result in slower times over set distances (e.g. Marathon) or reduced distance over set times (1 hour cycle). Training may also become more of an effort with increased levels of pain, reduced recovery time and a subsequent reduction of training time further increasing the loss of function.
A concurrent resistance training program can enhance endurance training aside from any health benefits. Research suggests including resistance training as well as interval training in an endurance program will improve performance and also improve health status. There are many studies showing an improvement in certain physiological measures following strength training in middle aged men and women such as:
- Improved blood lipid profiles;
- Reduced risk of hypercholesterolemia;
- Reduced hypertension;
- Better glucose tolerance;
- Reduction in abdominal obesity;
- Improved resting metabolic rate;
- Improved bone quality;
- Reduced risk of falls and fracture;
- Improved flexibility.
Resistance training can have different effects on the muscle architecture and neuromuscular function depending on the variables such as Sets, Reps, Tempo, Rest and Load. Planning your resistance training program is important in order to peak during the competitive season. It would be detrimental to start a Hypertrophy (growth) phase ‘In-Season’ as this will reduce Power however your Power training will be less effective and you will be more likely to suffer injury if you have not build a strong base of Strength and Stability first. Your resistance training program can easily dovetail into your yearly plan.
Whilst building your AEROBIC BASE as part of your ENDURANCE TRAINING, Phase 1 of your S & C program focuses on GENERAL PREPARATION (GP). This is a total body program that may include pushing, pulling, rotating, lunging, squatting, stepping and core work. Building CORE and joint stability is absolutely crucial here. This is the rock that your strength and power is built on.
Phase 1 moves from GP to HYPERTROPHY (HYP), an increase in muscle size. In some cases, an example being an Australian runner I am preparing for the Boston Marathon, this part of Phase 1 would be removed as there may be too much skeletal muscle mass in the wrong areas. My Aussie runner had been attending Crossfit and was in great shape for Crossfit but not for a Marathon and we had to get rid of a lot of unnecessary upper body muscle mass.
Phase 2 moves from GP and HYP to building STRENGTH (STR) then POWER (PWR) and the sets, reps and loads will change to reflect this. The biggest change particularly as we move toward the end of PHASE 2, is in the speed of movement. Whether you are a runner, cyclist, swimmer or Triathlete, as In-season approaches you want to be getting faster and faster and your training must reflect this.
Phase 3, the In-season phase, will usually include an all-over Total Body conditioning program. This program will include lots of COMPLEX movements or MULTI-JOINT movements such as the clean and jerk, squat to overhead press and step-to bicep curl as well as stability ball and medicine ball work. Keeping the body going through big ranges of motion whilst performing more FUNCTIONAL exercises.
Phase 4 is the perfect time for a post-season MUSCULOSKELETAL ASSESSMENT. This is also time to UNLOAD the system as you would do with your endurance program. An MS assessment may highlight rotator cuff issues, ITB issues, general hip and back issues, etc. and your OFF-SEASON is the perfect time to address this using less functional movements and more CORRECTIVE movements and you can incorporate Pilates and Yoga into this regime.
During all phases including endurance and S & C it is essential to warm-up and cool-down properly. A graded warm-up with gradual increases in intensity matched by gradual increases in heart-rate ensure blood is slowly diverted to the working muscles (this will be covered in more depth in Cardiovascular Health). Soft tissues will also warm-up reducing the likelihood of injury and facilitating movement. Cooling down properly will help reduce the likelihood of blood ‘pooling’ in the working muscles and better prepare you for your next workout.
At SSC we use Surface Electrode MyoGraphy (SEMG) to directly measure neuromuscular function and determine how much certain muscles are contributing toward certain movements. We have worked successfully with British Triathlon in order to prepare athletes for Olympic participation in Rio by designing personalised testing protocols in order to determine the root cause of certain movement dysfunction. We also perform Primal Pattern movement assessments by looking at Squat, Lunge, Gait, Push and Pull patterns in order to highlight problem areas and provide better exercise prescription.
Simple strength endurance tests can be performed at a gym using the Chest Press, Seated Row and Leg Press machines. Having warm-up for 10 minutes simply perform as many repetitions as possible using a 3-0-3 Tempo. This means 3 seconds on concentric phase – no rest/no hold at the mid-range – 3 seconds on the eccentric phase. Each rep should take 6 seconds meaning 10 reps a minute. See how long you can go on for. Remember this is a strength assessment for an endurance athlete. A sprinter may require a more explosive test.
TAKE HOME POINTS
- Your S & C program MUST be built on a base of STABILITY.
- Do not ignore your flexibility work. Learn how to use a foam roller.
- WARM-UP and COOL-DOWN properly.
- Train with purpose. What is the goal of each workout and how does it fit in to your primary objective.
- Speed of movement. Phase 1 is slow becoming quicker and Phase 2 is quick becoming explosive. Don’t mix your phase speed up.
Richard Brennan is managing director of Sport Science Consultants Ltd. He is a clinically trained Exercise Physiologist with a BSc. in Sport Science and an MSc. in Sport & Exercise Physiology. Click here to read his biography.