Everything about endurance and strength training

Endurance training

“Endurance" is the term commonly used to describe fatigue resistance. It allows your body to maintain your chosen workout intensity for as long as possible, or keep any lost intensity as low as possible, and stabilise your athletic technique over a prolonged period of time without fatigue. A typical load for developing endurance is the familiar endurance run, which causes your body to make specific adjustments when done regularly.

Cardiovascular system:
Regular endurance training will result in a so-called "athlete's heart". This is mainly due to an expansion of the heart cavities, and, to a lesser extent, hypertrophy of the cardiac chambers. As a result, the heart is able to pump a larger volume of blood under load. Another positive and important effect is the economisation of cardiac output at rest. Increasing the heart’s beating volume can decrease the heart’s beating frequency.

Respiration:
Similar to the adaptation symptoms of the cardiovascular system, respiratory factors are also improved by endurance training. The respiratory minute volume (tidal volume times the respiratory rate) should be mentioned in particular. While untrained individuals primarily increase their respiratory rate under loads, trained individuals increase their respiratory volume.

Muscle metabolism:
Even before adaptation symptoms of the cardiovascular system or other organs can appear, changes first take place on a metabolic level – that is, in the cells. An important adaptation to endurance loads is the enlargement and proliferation of the mitochondria ("the cell’s power stations"). As a result, energy release is increased, and glycogen depots in general are also increased, thus increasing the body’s energy depots for ATP/glycogen.

What you should pay attention to during endurance training
Despite the positive effects of endurance training on the cardiovascular system, it cannot replace strength training. The impact from regular strength training will affect completely different areas of the body, and produce a number of additional beneficial adjustments and effects.

It should also be mentioned that endurance training can also have a negative effect on muscle growth if it is done around strength training, or too intensely and too often. Intense strength training should always come first. If you want to do additional endurance training, then this should be done at a low pulse or intensity to promote regeneration, and improve basic endurance. However, this training should always be done separate from strength training.

endurance and strength training

Strength training

Every biological system reacts to increased (adequate) loads by increasing efficiency. It is called the adaptation reaction of the body. For the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones, this means that they become stronger, more functional and more resistant if they are regularly challenged by intense weight loads. The muscles thus increase in volume, which not only increases their strength, but also results in improved blood circulation and increased metabolic activity, which has a variety of positive effects.

Besides increased muscle mass, improved coordination of nerve-muscle activation also plays an instrumental role in increased muscle strength. This effect plays an important role especially at the beginning of your training. Life can become easier with more muscle power. You may find it easier to cope with all sorts of everyday stresses. Strong muscles stabilise and relieve the joints, and thus prevent potential injuries and cartilage wear and tear from developing.

Strong muscles in the abdomen and back are essential for a good position of the pelvis and spine, and the number one remedy for the prevention and treatment of back pain. 80 percent of all lower back pain can be eliminated by training.

“When should I do the endurance training? Before or after strength training?”
This is definitely one of the most frequently asked questions. But is the order really that important and if so, how will it affect your progress?

endurance and strength training

If your goal is building muscle and improving maximum strength

Several studies have shown that muscle and strength-building suffer when you combine endurance training with strength training. A good warm-up routine will activate your body, and bring it up to operating temperature. 5-10 minutes on an ergometer are all it takes. However, if you make your workout an intensive endurance session, not only is your body warmed up, but it also puts a strain on your body as well. This can lead to a situation, in which your muscles are no longer subjected to a sufficiently intense load, and fail to trigger an optimal and effective training stimulus. In addition, pre-fatigue worsens coordination, and weakens your trunk stabilising muscles, increasing the risk of injury. Therefore, effective strength training should never be carried out with pre-fatigued muscles.

A long, endurance session even directly after strength training is not recommended, as this can negatively influence the muscle-building processes. In the following meta-study, in which 21 studies on the topic “muscle build-up and endurance training" were compared and put into relation, it was agreed that treadmill training has a considerable influence on the body’s potential for muscle growth. Already 30 minutes and more on the treadmill will lead to significant losses in both the body's strength level and hypertrophy potential. The longer the endurance training lasted, the more significant the results were. For this reason, cardio and strength training should be done at separate times or, even better, on separate days. This is likely to result in less lost muscle mass, and can also improve your cardiovascular system.

If you want to improve endurance while running

If your main focus is on improving endurance, then you should complete your running session before beginning your strength training. It is important, especially during long and/or intense running sessions, that your muscles are fully fit and regenerated. However, if these are pre-fatigued, then this will have a negative effect on their economy of movement, and your running technique. This can lead to misuse and overstraining of your joints and muscles. If you still want to run after completing your strength training, then only choose a low intensity workout instead. In other words, a short endurance run in a low intensity, basic endurance range.

If your goal is to lose body weight

It is often recommended to do an endurance session after strength training to deplete your glycogen stores. The body is forced to extract more of its energy from fats in the subsequent running session. The problem with that is: Full efficiency cannot be achieved with depleted glycogen stores, and even prolonged intense activities cannot be sustained. Even though the percentage of fat burning during energy production is very high, calorie consumption is relatively low due to the low training intensity.

As mentioned before, a negative energy balance is the most important factor in weight loss: If you have burned more calories than you actually need, you lose weight. What counts at the end of the day is the total number of calories burned by the training. It is therefore advisable to divide your sessions across separate days. This ensures that you are able to exercise intensely, that you burn many calories, and that your body has enough time to regenerate adequately.

Conclusion

Your personal objective determines which order makes the most sense. The first training session should always correspond to your main focus. Whoever wants to focus on both aspects should plan their strength and endurance training for different days or complete their cardio in the morning and their strength training 7 in the evening, for example. This way, you can guarantee that you can achieve peak performance and don’t overload yourself in both sessions!