Can weight training help endurance athletes last longer?

The principle of specificity?

Exercise physiologists call it the “principle of specificity”. Swimmers have to swim, cyclists have to cycle, runners have to run. That’s why many endurance athletes believe that other forms of training, like lifting weights. Simply because they think it is a waste of time that could be devoted to doing more of their main sport.

Of course, as with any good rule, the most interesting discussions involve figuring out when it should be broken. According to a new study from researchers in France the principle of specificity may apply less to older athletes than it does to their younger counterparts. The difference: The steady loss of muscle as you age means that you get an extra boost from weight training. Even in endurance sports like cycling or triathlon.

Strength training vs. cycling efficiency

A young group with an average age of 25.6 and an older group with an average age of 51.5 went through a three-week strength training program for their legs. After the three weeks the researchers looked for changes in cycling efficiency. A measure of how much energy it takes to maintain a given pace on the bike.

As a result, three weeks of strength training made little difference to the efficiency of the younger group but it led to a massive 13.8% improvement in the efficiency of the older group, completely erasing the difference between the two.

“Force loss is one of the main problems of aging and force loss will affect pedalling efficiency very quickly.”

People typically begin to lose 1 to 2% of their muscle mass each year starting in their 30’s or 40’s unless they’re already doing weights. So the older cyclists had much more room for improvement.

Finding out that strength training can also improve performance in endurance activities is a twist that may encourage cyclists and other endorphin junkies to add some weights to their exercise routine

Many endurance athletes want nothing more than to keep doing what they’ve always loved!

The reality of aging is that if you want things to stay the same you’ll need to forget about the principle of specificity and try something different : STRENGTH TRAINING!

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