When are you strong enough? The answer to that question will have a huge variety depending on whom you ask. I would argue that everyone, no matter how strong they are, could benefit from being stronger. There is almost no sport or activity of daily living (ADL) that can’t be improved by getting stronger. Strength is the foundation upon which power, agility and balance are built as well as being a key component in injury-prevention.
For those of you interested in endurance sports such as running marathons, cycling or triathlons adding resistance training to your preparation and increasing your strength levels can have a significant impact on your performance. In a review of studies on strength training in endurance athletes  it was found that resistance training improves performance in both short term (<15 minutes) and long term (>30 minutes) endurance events. The primary mechanism for this improvement was an increase in movement efficacy for both runners and cyclists. The authors hypothesised that the improved movement economy came about because of improved Rate of Force Development (RFD) and tendon stiffness. Improved RFD means the muscle is able to generate force more quickly, meaning that it is working for a shorter period of time, while increased tendon stiffness allows this force to be transmitted more efficiently. Shorter periods of effort and greater transmission of force would certainly appear to be a great way to improve efficiency.
The study found that the best form of resistance training for endurance athletes is high-intensity weight trainingusing heavy loads for low repetitions. This will surprise a lot of you as it flies in the face of conventional wisdom that to improve endurance you have to lift light weights for lots of reps. However, using heavy weights for a small number of reps is the best way to improve both RFD and tendon stiffness. The authors also suggested that it is best to use free weight exercises such as the squat, deadlift and lunge rather than machine weights. I am a huge fan of free weight exercises and couldn’t agree with this recommendation more.
Exercises such as the squat, deadlift and lunge use movement patterns that we do, or SHOULD, use everyday. This quality gives them a far better transfer to sporting activities as well as ADLs than machine weights. Everyday activities such as picking your kids up off the floor, carrying shopping, gardening and even going to the toilet involve some form of either deadlift, squat or lunge. Getting stronger at these movements will make ADLs easier and increase your mobility.
If you are thinking about joining a gym or interested in improving your sporting performance please, contact me at PulseFit Physiology. We are located at Mascot Anytime Fitness. Health fund rebates for exercise physiology are available so sessions can be much more affordable than standard personal trainer sessions.
1) Aagaard, P., & Andersen, J. L. (2010). Effects of strength training on endurance capacity in top‐level endurance athletes. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 20(s2), 39-47.