There is sometimes confusion on whether we should be using strength work in our training and what type of strength training we should use- when and how is best to apply it. Below I hope in simple terms to explain these questions.

Before touching on the different types, let’s look at when is optimal to train.

To build any form of muscle, we have to over work the muscle which will bring fatigue and require recovery. For this reason, we tend to follow a weight’s plan outside of our competitive season.

In our Base level training, we are looking to run/ride at a low intensity which sits well to help muscles recover from strength work (encourages good blood flow). We cannot expect to get a high-performance level while we are stressing our muscles in a strength phase.

General strength training in its most basic form, is focusing on the major muscle groups. If you look at most gym set ups, the machines found in there will work the major muscle groups in basic movement patterns.

When is this general strength training useful? As an athlete who follows a goal focused sport, general strength work can be useful during off season and even during early base phase of training.

Why? It is building an all-round protective strength and will help protect certain joints against stresses that can occur in day to day life as well in specific training sessions.

Building muscle can also help with energy transfer- a mix of fast and slow twitch fibres can give you more energy uptake which can help with endurance.

Looking more at specific strength, you need to break down the range of movement within your sport/activity and then get creative to use resistance of weights (or just body) to build these muscles.  By researching these movements and building exercises that mimic them, you can develop specific muscle growth, giving more power, endurance and speed.

It does not need to be gym focused! For a trail runner, you can use hill sprints or hill bounding which will also overload your muscles and give similar gains to spending time in the gym.

With either of these types of weight training you will need to follow specific phases, always look to start with an;

  • adaptation phase (learning range of movement with little or no weight) this will help prevent injury.
  • Muscular strength (85% 1 rep max)
  • Power endurance (60% 1 rep max)
  • Muscular endurance (40% 1 rep max)
  • Maintenance

Each phase will require varying time spent on them depending on your weaknesses and also type of event you are focusing on.


Remember, don’t just push weights for the sake of it, you will find you build muscle for purely looks which will have little or no practical use, keep focused on why you are doing weights.


Key Points –

  • Core is a strength exercise that should be worked on by all athletes.
  • You don’t need to become a gym bunny
  • Practical muscle does not look like those Instagram pics, its looks like faster run and ride times, stronger climbing and other results specific to your sport.