Many endurance athletes subscribe to the belief that the only way to get faster is to swim, bike, and/or run. But here are two key reasons endurance athletes must strength train consistently.

1. Enhance Full Range of Motion 

imagesCAZ474T5Endurance athletes spend countless hours performing mechanical repetitive movement in set and limited ranges of motion. Over time this repetition creates structural and functional imbalances throughout the kinetic chain (our body).

Ranges of motion for  joints and muscles exists on a continuum.  When we predominantly train only a segment of that continuum, those muscles and joints will be more vulnerable to injury on the periphery of those ranges. This is because the force generated becomes concentrated on the tissues and fibers which operate in that limited range. Prime examples of this are cycling and running, both of which typically require thousands of repetitions occurring in a  fixed (not dynamic) and limited range of motion. Over time, the same fibers and motor units are used over and over while others are neglected. 

It’s estimated that 47- 50% of endurance athletes will be sidelined each season due to injury.  This risk of injury can be greatly reduced through strength and stabilization training. In order to stay strong and healthy, we must develop strength throughout the entire (available) range of motion for tissues and joints. A strong body is one that has good relative ranges of motion for the musculature, soft tissue, and joints.

2. Be Well-trained in all Planes 

SPARQ_training_V2_everyday_drills_lunge_and_rotate_thumbEndurance athletes typically move across distance in one direction (or plane of motion). This predominance creates structural and muscular imbalances, as well as weakness throughout the body. Since most movement typically occurs moving forward (sagittal plane) the muscles and fascial bodies responsible for this movement become dominant and over-used. This sets the stage for structural ineffeciencies and, eventually, injury. 

From a mechanical standpoint, our bodies are designed for dynamic movement in all planes and directions.  When we run, cycle, row, or swim (freestyle) we are moving primarily in one plane. Strength training in all planes not only reduces the risk of injury, but makes movement in the sagittal plane more economical.  Also, multi-planar movement creates more range and stability of the joints throughout our body.

Many injuries occur because the muscles, soft tissue, and joints cannot  produce, reduce or distribute forces effectively  in a non-dominant plane. Often, injuries occur in response to a sudden lateral movement when riding or running (injuries in, and around, the lumbo-sacral junction, or at the hip). Other injuries result from simply too much repetitive movement in one plane over time. This is because the tissues that move us about laterally and rotationally cannot do their job effectively. They become “under active” and lose their ability to stabilize or synergize in concert with the dominant plane “prime movers”.

We can easily avoid these problems by strength training in all planes of motion. By integrating lateral movement and movements with rotation we can change the imbalances that will naturally develop in endurance athletes. We cannot possess good mechanics unless we are well conditioned in all planes. This is the mark of a good athlete.

Feel free to contact me with questions, or comments.

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