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The Effect of Strength Training on Performance in Endurance Athletes

Abstract

Background

Economy, velocity/power at maximal oxygen uptake (\( {\text {v}} \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } /{\text w}\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } \)) and endurance-specific muscle power tests (i.e. maximal anaerobic running velocity; vMART), are now thought to be the best performance predictors in elite endurance athletes. In addition to cardiovascular function, these key performance indicators are believed to be partly dictated by the neuromuscular system. One technique to improve neuromuscular efficiency in athletes is through strength training.

Objective

The aim of this systematic review was to search the body of scientific literature for original research investigating the effect of strength training on performance indicators in well-trained endurance athletes—specifically economy, \( {\text{v}}\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } /\,{\text{w}}\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } \) and muscle power (vMART).

Methods

A search was performed using the MEDLINE, PubMed, ScienceDirect, SPORTDiscus and Web of Science search engines. Twenty-six studies met the inclusion criteria (athletes had to be trained endurance athletes with ≥6 months endurance training, training ≥6 h per week OR \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } \) ≥50 mL/min/kg, the strength interventions had to be ≥5 weeks in duration, and control groups used). All studies were reviewed using the PEDro scale.

Results

The results showed that strength training improved time-trial performance, economy, \( {\text{v}}\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } /{\text{w}}\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } \) and vMART in competitive endurance athletes.

Conclusion

The present research available supports the addition of strength training in an endurance athlete’s programme for improved economy, \( {\text{v}}\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } /{\text{w}}\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2 \, \hbox{max} } \), muscle power and performance. However, it is evident that further research is needed. Future investigations should include valid strength assessments (i.e. squats, jump squats, drop jumps) through a range of velocities (maximal-strength ↔ strength-speed ↔ speed-strength ↔ reactive-strength), and administer appropriate strength programmes (exercise, load and velocity prescription) over a long-term intervention period (>6 months) for optimal transfer to performance.

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Acknowledgments

The authors have no potential conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review. This research is supported by funding from the University of Limerick Physical Education and Sport Science (PESS) Scholarship 2012.

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Correspondence to Kris Beattie.

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Beattie, K., Kenny, I.C., Lyons, M. et al. The Effect of Strength Training on Performance in Endurance Athletes. Sports Med 44, 845–865 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0157-y

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Keywords

  • Strength Training
  • Endurance Athlete
  • Jump Squat
  • Drop Jump
  • PEDro Scale