Endurance, Strength, or Power….Where do you fall?

Let’s talk resistance training!


If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m a proponent of resistance training in a lot of different formats. Today I present to you two articles that have changed some of my thoughts on how resistance training should be done as well as some other information on the principles of resistance training.

First, a definition: Resistance training can be defined as the act of repeated voluntary muscle contractions against a resistance greater than those normally encountered in activities of daily living. (Lee, M., & Carroll, T. J. (2007). Cross education: possible mechanisms for the contralateral effects of unilateral resistance training [Electronic version]. Sports Med, 37(1), 1-14.)

This means that resistance training can encompass a variety of different training techniques, including Pilates, some parts of yoga, other body weight exercises as well as those performed with exertion against other external resistance mechanisms such as dumbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or tubing, cable machines, selectorized machines, barbells, etc etc etc.

What is Important to Know About Resistance Training?
Well, a lot. First, you need to determine why you are doing resistance training. This is a big guiding factor in the exercises I choose when I plan my monthly workouts. I am not looking to get bigger and faster. I could care less how easily it would be to lift a tire or throw a piano or if I could jump above the rim. For me, my training is all about endurance. I need endurance to get through each and every day with my kids and my workouts and my work. I need endurance when I teach yoga and when I stand all day for a workshop.

Some people may choose to work on power or strength in some areas of their body and endurance in others. While my ultimate goal this year is to see myself as stronger, my primary training goal is still endurance. Why is this important?

Concurrent Training
April’s edition of the IDEA Fitness Journal has an article on Concurrent Training….something we almost all do. Concurrent training is when you perform multiple different types of training within the same training session. The research looked at the effects of doing cardio training and resistance training on the same day on different gains. The outcomes showed that you deplete energy sources necessary to improve in certain training formats by doing both in the same session and this can negatively impact your improvement. However, the biggest losses were on those participants who were trying to get bigger, stronger, and faster; strength and power athletes. So, what about those of us who are just trying to get through and fit it all in?

Here are some suggestions for not losing during your sessions. First, decide what’s most important out of your workout and if it will benefit your goals to do cardio and strength training on the same day. If not, pick a split training plan and make sure you’re giving your body a full 48 hours rest after training sessions for recovery. If you’re main focus is the resistance training, reduce the time and intensity of the cardio sessions and limit them to 3 per week. If your goal is to do both, determine how much your body can actually take and still get benefit out of what you’re doing.

If you’ve looked at any of my training plans thus far, my focus has been on getting longer and faster with my cardio, but I keep my resistance training low. Why? Because I want to have enough muscle mass to perform the necessary work of the cardio activities that I love, protect myself from injury, and be able to move throughout my daily life successfully. Sure there are a few things I’d like to get “stronger” at, but that’s not my main focus at this time.

Order Up!
When I’m planning my workouts another important principle has come to mind: Order of Exercises. As a personal trainer we’re often taught to go from large muscle groups to small muscle groups and all other sorts of rules regarding training clients. As the field moves further and further away from traditional training styles and more towards coaching (see a great article about that here) we also move toward more functional training. Functional training falls into a myriad of different types of training from physical therapy and cardiac rehab (functional to return you to daily life) to sport specific training (functional for the activity at hand) and even just hitting the four pillars of movement (the movements we perform daily).

So, what’s the correct order for your workout? Well, again I ask, what is your goal? I started out my current training program back in December and was focused on the “Push” pillar because I noted that a lot of the exercises I wanted to do were not improving because I was training statically. So, the first thing I do when I hit my resistance workout is my push-ups. Why? Because, according to this article on Exercise Order in January’s IDEA Fitness Journal, order matters! (you can read the whole article on that link) Basically, the research shows that exercises done toward the end of your workout receive the least result and that you should be putting exercises toward the front of the workout that you want to see the greatest improvement on. I always have push-ups first, but I rotate the rest of the exercises around.

The Real 48 Hours
And finally, let’s hit that rest bit a little more. I read a post the other day at Fit Wanderlust Runner that reminded me that we need to talk about the Reversibility Principle again. You need rest between your workout sessions. Click here to read about the Super Compensation Cycle and why we rest for 48-72 hours between sessions. But there is such a thing as too much rest. That’s when your body starts to lose the gains you’ve made in your sessions. Just as overtraining (we’ll talk about this coming week) can be a big problem in achieving your goals, undertraining can prevent you from forward momentum as well.

I wrote a love letter/apology letter to exercise this last week. I learned three things from the experience:

  1. Life happens and sometimes you take a break, but you just get back out there when you can. This is called a lapse and they’re normal and they happen from time to time. For me, sometimes more than others and that’s okay.
  2. I may be overscheduling and heading into a bit of an overtraining pattern, so I’m going to keep an eye on what I plan out and will write more about this later this week.
  3. When you don’t use it….you lose it. Although I didn’t take that much time off from working out this week, I always notice that it’s that much harder to do the work the next time I meet it. Consistency is key as you can lose your gains so quickly.

So, my next rest day was supposed to be today. I chose instead to take my kids for a nice bike ride this morning. The weather held up and it was very pleasant and less intense than my normal runs. My next rest day will be Wednesday and tomorrow is my second HIIT day. Come back then to see how I used HIIT in a different way, but until then, it’s one deep breath in and one slow exhale out to the end of the weekend. Enjoy!


Do you have questions about resistance training?
Post them here or email me in the side bar to your right!