Effective Strength and Conditioning Training for Endurance Athletes Without a Gym
Minimal work for maximum results.
Finding a way to fit in a decent training session that does not involve a gym does not have to be difficult. This is not to say that you can’t get a great strength and conditioning session from the gym, quite the contrary. For some, their local gym is the first place they look to start, however, not everyone may feel comfortable in this environment. Strength and conditioning training for endurance athletes may sound like it needs to be a time consuming process, with many long hours spent in the gym on a range of equipment, that in the end is not necessarily the best or only way to achieve impressive results.
It is possible to get a great strength and conditioning session with minimal time and here are some ways to do it.
Outdoor bodyweight training
Think outside the box, literally. Outdoor training is a great way to not only get out for some fresh air, but also provides the opportunity for an abundance of training situations that will challenge you and leave you feeling worked. Regardless of what the weather may be (a little rain never hurt anyone and only makes your training more of an adventure) working outdoors in all conditions will only help you prepare for your event, as the weather is not always ideal on comp day and it might just give you the competitive edge that you are looking for.
Your local park and playground is a great start. If you are lucky enough to have workout stations situated throughout your park, then jump on. If not, head for those monkey bars. Sure, at first it may feel odd hanging about the swings and other obstacles, but these are great tools for working on any Calisthenics training.
Nothing builds strength and muscle endurance like tension work.
You are only limited by your imagination with the ways that you can work your body. These are great exercises that use high tension.
Performed at higher reps, these moves will pump up your overall muscle endurance. This is what it is all about. Burn your way through multiple sets of these and you will be feeling it.
For some added challenge try working in ladders (ascending or descending), 1 for 1’s and single sets. The greater the tension you generate the more you are going to work your body.
These exercises are all aimed at maximal tension and activation of the whole body.
Remember, tension builds strength, so if you are not squeezing it, you are not using it.
Not only will tension work engage your muscles, activate the core, help with spinal stability, rotation and anti-rotation movements, open and closed chain shoulder movements, it is also a great way to train your breathing patterns. It all goes hand in hand, if your breathing is off, then your whole body will follow suit as the core fails to engage correctly. For something that is a necessity for life, breathing can be an easy thing to forget to do when we need it the most.
A lot of these same exercises can even be performed at home if you don’t quite feel like putting yourself out there in the park.
If it is resistance training that you want, you need to learn about the Kettlebell. Nothing can beat them when it comes to developing lean muscle, strength and endurance.
Chances are, if you own a set of Kettlebells, you know all about this and I would suggest you add these exercises to your routine. If you do not, I would recommend finding a quality kettlebell instructor near you and learning everything that you can. These exercises will change your entire perspective of strength and endurance training.
When it comes to the building blocks of movement, the Goblet Squat or Barbell Front Squat is where it all starts. This simple yet complex exercise is a great all-rounder. Load your anterior core and hit those quads while allowing for safe posture. Don’t get too carried away though, you do not need to go heavy to feel the benefit of these. Stick to a few sets, low reps for maximum benefit.
A single session each week of any variety of formats of the swing, from single hand or two hand swings, double kettlebell swings, dead swings, hand to hand swings. The Kettlebell swing really is the answer for almost every conditioning exercise. Higher reps of a moderately challenging weight will increase your endurance, shred excess fat and increase your power.
If swings are one day of the week than the Kettlebell Snatch could make another great single exercise session. Like the swing, the Snatch is a great way to increase muscle endurance, switch on the core as well as maintain back health. Keep the weight lighter and focus on a moderate amount of reps.
Turkish get ups
Turkish get ups are an incredible full body exercise. They make a great single exercise session and allow you to feel how your body is moving, where you may be feeling any instabilities or pain and how your general range of motion is going. They are a great indicator of where you may need to go a little easier on yourself during your training and where you need to stretch.
If you are all clear to move then 20-30 minutes of these are going to do you a world of good.
A great way to oppose these is with the Renegade row, a little push for pull keeps these exercises in balance. The Get up works on shoulder functionality and stability in both open and closed chain patterns, it works the hip flexibility and is great rotational and anti-rotational core work. A renegade row is all about anti-rotation, spinal stability, hip stability, extension and compression in the shoulders. The great thing about both exercises is that they all focus strongly on the core which is where our overall body strength is generated from.
Kettlebell cleans and jerks
Kettlebell cleans and jerks are a fantastic way to hit every muscle group in the body. Not only are they proven to be as beneficial as the Kettlebell swing, they will save your shoulder from the grind of an overhead press. Cleans and Jerks are killer at lowering your overall resting heart rate as well as quickly returning the heart rate to resting after exercise. Keep those weights light with moderate reps, it is about the movement patterns and activation of the body, after all we are not looking to smash records here.
Rest and Recovery
Being an endurance athlete can put a heavy toll on the body. We want to get the very most that we can from ourselves, to be the best in our chosen field. Training is such a huge focus that we can forget about stretching and recovery and the crucial role they play in our training.
Without rest the muscles will not be able to work to maximum effort. We will not be hitting or exceeding PB’s, those small aches and pains can be transformed into bigger long term issues without enough rest and recovery.
Include a good stretching routine in your program. Start each session with a warm up of 10 minutes of functional movement patterns to get your whole body activated and engaged before you jump into your workout, this can save you from injury during training or competition.
If we do not allow our bodies time to heal and replenish, we will not see the full benefit that our hard work and training is providing.
Active Rest Day
Before you panic too much, rest does not mean doing nothing for a day. Incorporating an active rest day in your strength and conditioning program may be just the thing you need to reach your full performance potential. Find a great Yoga, body balance or pilates class and jump in.
Being aware of what your body needs, is what allows for lifelong training that won’t lead to injury and burnout.
Why strength training with sufficient rest and recovery matters for endurance athletes.
On your resistance training days, focus on one big exercise per session, along with your usual event training. It is about building endurance, not size and mass. This is the best way to avoid unwanted gains. You do not want accumulated lactic acid in the muscles, as this is what drives growth hormone production and inevitably leads to increased muscle mass. This is not to say never lift a weight. Some resistance training is great and will do wonders for your performance.
On your alternate day when you are working that finely tuned body of yours in the park, don’t be afraid to use as many bodyweight exercises as you like. The thing to remember when training as an endurance athlete is that our focus is on moving and engaging our own body with confidence and control. During competition that is all we are doing.
Don’t lose focus with the training that corresponds to your chosen event as it will always be the most effective form of conditioning. If you are an endurance runner, then run. Be it road runs, hill sprints, beach runs. This can be said for cycling and swimming too. Keep it consistent, plan your training well and you will quickly see the benefits. By adding a variety of resistance training sessions to your routine, you will be able to boost your strength and endurance efficiently without spending an excess of your time stuck in a gym. You gain freedom to train anywhere, anytime. This will give you much more enjoyment in training all round.
A Simple Strength Training Program for Endurance Athletes
A simple weeks program to follow when incorporating bodyweight and kettlebell sessions into your regular routine would look something like this. The following sessions will work on alternating days providing two training options, one for each day.
|Kettlebell Swing||25 – 30 reps||Moderate, all out occasionally||12 minutes|
|Run||150m – 200m||Moderate||In between KB swing sets|
Beginners working with Kettlebells who do not feel confident in their swings can instead do Kettlebell Deadlifts.
|Renegade Row||5 reps each side||Moderate||10 minutes|
|Turkish Get Ups||Alternate 1 for 1 each side||Light/Moderate||20 – 30 minutes|
Turkish Get Ups can be substituted with Back to ground get ups if you are not yet confident you have the correct movement patterns involved with a Turkish Get up. Use a light weight and focus on keeping your core tight and your movements slow and controlled. Do not rush through, their is no magic number that you need to reach within this time frame. Focus on your breathing and controlling the core.
If you are doing a Renegade Row with a 16kg bell or less, place hands on top of the bell. For 20kg weights or more the handle can be held during the row
|Kettlebell Snatch||5 – 10 each side, 80 – 100 reps max||Moderate||No time limit|
|Skipping Rope||No limit||Moderate||45 – 60 seconds between each snatch set|
If you are not yet proficient with performing snatches stick to swings or deadlifts. There is no rush with these, work through at a controlled pace.
|Spiderman||No limit||Light/Moderate||3 minutes|
|Push Up/Squats Ladder||1 rep each, add 1 each set||Moderate/High||Ladder up to 10, 3x through|
|Leg Extensions||10 reps||Moderate||3 sets|
|Tall Plank||No limit||Moderate||2 minutes|
|Pull Ups||5 – 10 reps||Moderate/High||3 sets|
|Russian Twist||20 reps||Moderate||3 sets|
Cycle through a set of each exercise, starting back at the top once list has been completed. 3x through.
Ladders 1 rep, 2 reps, 3 reps etc working up to 10 reps. You can work exercises in pairs or to be a real challenge cycling through each exercise as you build up your ladder (eg 1 squat, 1 push up, 1 pull up. Next set 2 squats, 2 push ups, 2 pull ups etc, all the way up to 10 of each. Try in ascending and descending order.
|Kettlebell Goblet Squat||5 – 10 reps||Moderate||3 – 4 sets|
|Kettlebell Clean & Jerk||10 reps each hand, max 50 reps each hand||High||10 sets|
When doing the Goblet Squat focus must be on hinging at the hips, this means push that booty back. Knees must not track inwards or go beyond the toes and always remember to keep your chest up. Control your drop, do not let gravity do the work for you, activate those quads.
Cleans and Jerks and be substituted for beginners with a Kettlebell Push Press. Keep in mind that your heels need to remain planted throughout the entire push (this goes for the Clean and Jerk too).
|Leopard Crawl||No limit||High||3 minutes|
|Monk Crunches||10 reps||Moderate||3 – 4 sets|
|Switch Lunges||20 reps||High||3 – 4 sets|
|Spiderman Push Ups||10 reps||Moderate||3 – 4 sets|
|Leg Raises||20 reps||High||3 – 4 sets|
|Squat Hold||No limit||Moderate||2 minutes|
Cycle through a set of each exercise, starting back at the top once list has been completed. 3x through.
To avoid injury always work to your abilities and consult your trainer if you have ANY questions regarding your training and before progressing to more advanced moves.
If this feels overwhelming, don’t be discouraged. Join me on my 90 Day Transformation, a 3 month program designed to reboot your your metabolism and build the strength and conditioning needed for ultimate performance.
Like Mark Allen, smart triathletes have realized that without proper nutrition and a strength & conditioning program you will never realize your full potential.