Does Strength Training Hurt or Help Endurance Sports Performance? with Dr. Bent Rønnestad

We’re joined by Dr. Bent R. Rønnestad to explore concurrent strength and endurance training. Do they interfere with each other? Should endurance athletes strength train?

athlete lifting weights
Low section of unrecognizable male athlete lifting huge heavy barbell from floor, leg muscles straining with effort

A lot of preconceptions and myths surround the concept of strength training for endurance athletes: 

“You’ll put on too much weight.”

“It’ll make you a better time trialer.”

“You’ll make your legs sore.”

“You’ll increase your VO2max.”

“Strength training doesn’t help at all.”

Some coaches and athletes swear by strength training while others wouldn’t get within 10 feet of a gym, much less a dumbbell.  

We don’t blame coaches and athletes for having different opinions. Even the research over the last few decades has been mixed. In fact, the research on concurrent training – doing endurance and strength training at the same time – is a surprisingly new field.  

Leading the charge over the last decade has been a highly respected Norwegian researcher named Bent R. Rønnestad from the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences. There is hardly a subject in endurance sports training where Dr. Rønnestad hasn’t published a respected study. But, his numerous studies and reviews have had a lot of impact on the question of concurrent strength and endurance training.  

We talk with Dr. Rønnestad about the debate over a concept called the Interference Effect – that strength training can interfere with endurance gains and vice versa. And because this is Fast Talk we focus on whether strength training can improve endurance performance and explore the physiology behind why it does or does not help.  

Joining this episode for the coach’s perspective is Coach Joe Friel. Does he recommend strength training to athletes?

Strength and conditioning coach Jess Elliot, founder of TAG Performance, explores the potential benefits of strength training with endurance athletes.

Finally, we ask Trek-Segafredo pro rider Toms Skujins if he incorporates strength training into his routine.  

REFERENCES 

Baldwin, K. M., Badenhorst, C. E., Cripps, A. J., Landers, G. J., Merrells, R. J., Bulsara, M. K., & Hoyne, G. F. (2022). Strength Training for Long-Distance Triathletes: Theory to Practice. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 44(1), 1–14. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000660 

Coffey, V. G., & Hawley, J. A. (2017). Concurrent exercise training: do opposites distract? The Journal of Physiology, 595(9), 2883–2896. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1113/jp272270 

Hamarsland, H., Moen, H., Skaar, O. J., Jorang, P. W., Rødahl, H. S., & Rønnestad, B. R. (2022). Equal-Volume Strength Training With Different Training Frequencies Induces Similar Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Improvement in Trained Participants. Frontiers in Physiology, 12, 789403. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.789403 

Hammarström, D., Øfsteng, S., Koll, L., Hanestadhaugen, M., Hollan, I., Apró, W., … Ellefsen, S. (2020). Benefits of higher resistance‐training volume are related to ribosome biogenesis. The Journal of Physiology, 598(3), 543–565. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1113/jp278455 

Hansen, E. A., & Rønnestad, B. R. (2017). Effects of Cycling Training at Imposed Low Cadences: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 12(9), 1127–1136. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2016-0574 

Minari, A. L. A., & Thomatieli-Santos, R. V. (2022). From skeletal muscle damage and regeneration to the hypertrophy induced by exercise: what is the role of different macrophage subsets? American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 322(1), R41–R54. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00038.2021 

PATON, C. D., & HOPKINS, W. G. (2005). COMBINING EXPLOSIVE AND HIGH-RESISTANCE TRAINING IMPROVES PERFORMANCE IN COMPETITIVE CYCLISTS. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19(4), 826. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1519/00124278-200511000-00017 

Robineau, J., Babault, N., Piscione, J., Lacome, M., & Bigard, A. X. (2016). Specific Training Effects of Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Exercises Depend on Recovery Duration. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(3), 672–683. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000798 

Rønnestad, B. R., Hansen, J., Hollan, I., & Ellefsen, S. (2015). Strength training improves performance and pedaling characteristics in elite cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 25(1), e89–e98. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12257 

Rønnestad, B. R., & Mujika, I. (2014). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 24(4), 603–612. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12104 

Rønnestad, Bent R. (2018). Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Training, Scientific Basics and Practical Applications, 333–340. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-75547-2_22 

Rønnestad, Bent R, Hansen, J., Hollan, I., Spencer, M., & Ellefsen, S. (2016). Impairment of Performance Variables After In-Season Strength-Training Cessation in Elite Cyclists. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11(6), 727–735. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2015-0372 

Rønnestad, Bent R., Hansen, J., & Nygaard, H. (2016). 10 weeks of heavy strength training improves performance-related measurements in elite cyclists. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(14), 1–7. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2016.1215499 

Schumann, M., Feuerbacher, J. F., Sünkeler, M., Freitag, N., Rønnestad, B. R., Doma, K., & Lundberg, T. R. (2021). Compatibility of Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Training for Skeletal Muscle Size and Function: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 1–12. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01587-7 

Schumann, M., & Ronnestad, B. (2019). A Brief Historical Overview on the Science of Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Training. In S. I. P. AG (Ed.), Springer Nature

Schumann, M., & Rønnestad, B. R. (2018). Concurrent Aerobic and Strength Training, Scientific Basics and Practical Applications, 1–6. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-75547-2_1 

Vikmoen, O., Raastad, T., Ellefsen, S., & Rønnestad, B. R. (2020). Adaptations to strength training differ between endurance-trained and untrained women. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 120(7), 1541–1549. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-020-04381-x 

Vikmoen, O., & Rønnestad, B. R. (2021). A Comparison of the Effect of Strength Training on Cycling Performance between Men and Women. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 6(1), 29. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/jfmk6010029 

Yamamoto, L. M., Klau, J. F., Casa, D. J., Kraemer, W. J., Armstrong, L. E., & Maresh, C. M. (2010). The Effects of Resistance Training on Road Cycling Performance Among Highly Trained Cyclists: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(2), 560–566. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181c86583 

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