When done correctly, weight training will increase strength without building muscle mass.
One of the biggest misconceptions about endurance training is that
there is no need for strength work. While triathlon is very much a sport
that rewards slight frames, you still need to have the best possible
power-to-weight ratio if you’re hoping to finish faster.
Let’s start to define what changes we can create in the muscle by
separating them into two main components – metabolic and neural.
Metabolic changes are those that change the muscle itself – the simplest
way to think of this is that metabolic changes are likely to lead to
muscle growth. Neural changes on the other hand change the muscle
software. The goal of neural-focused strength training is to create a
stronger link from the mind to the muscle so that it can contract faster
and more forcefully.
You need three factors for
muscle growth. You need a calorie surplus. A kilogram of muscle requires
a surplus intake of 4,000 cals of protein – that’s one kilogram of protein,
which equates to about five kilograms of steak. When was the last time
you ate an extra five kilograms of steak in a week? Secondly, you need
each set to last somewhere between 45 seconds and 90 seconds. If you’re
doing sets of eight to 12 repetitions per set, you’re probably in this
realm and it would do you some good to rethink the way you’re lifting.
Finally, you need to minimize rest between sets so that total recovery
is never achieved between sets.
If you’re not doing all three of these,
you won’t have to worry too much about bulking up just because you’ve
started lifting weights.
The keys to developing useful strength, the kind that won’t add unnecessary bulk to your frame, are as follows:
• Keep the reps low. True
strength training doesn’t involve lifting higher than five reps per set.
Even at that range you can start to see some metabolic changes
• Keep total reps in a session low.
In any given session you will probably only have about 10 good reps in
you for a given exercise when training for strength. Good choices
include – 2 sets of 5, 3 sets of 3, 5 sets of 2, and 6 sets of 1.
• Rest a lot. As an athlete, you
can feel when your muscles are tired. But there’s no way to judge
neural fatigue and it can take up to five to six times longer than
muscular recovery. That means that despite you only doing three reps and
feeling fine 30 seconds later, you’re going to need to rest more.
Additionally, the resupply of the energy system that fuels this type of
training takes about three minutes too. So aim for rest periods
somewhere around the three-minute mark.
• Use multi-joint lifts. The
more joints involved in a lift, the better it is. The more you have to
load bare, the better it is, too. From a function viewpoint, standing
exercises trump all others. And steer clear of all machine exercises.
Training like this doesn’t take long. You can get incredibly
productive sessions in like this in under an hour. The benefits are that
they leave you fresh – because of the low number of total reps
performed during a session there is little if any muscle soreness
associated with true strength training.
Strength training is beneficial
for hormone production and bone density among other things – but those
two alone should be enough reason for people to get in the gym and start
lifting for real. Don`t forget your compression socks for recovery :-)