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Endurance Training: To The Max With Master Methods



Posted in: Training Articles
By Ash Batheja, MPT, CSCS | Feb 21, 2007



Endurance TrainingIf you're a dedicated endurance athlete, regardless of your chosen sport, hitting the weights is an absolute must. I know you don't want to get huge, or you think you simply don't have the time, or you feel it may interfere with your aerobic progress, but your choice in this matter is simply out of the question. Whether your athletic endeavor of choice is running, cycling, swimming, or extreme skateboarding, there is an efficient weight training workout for you, and that workout is called circuit training.

Circuit training
saw its popularity soar over a decade ago, but with the serial advent of newfangled exercise routines to stave off boredom, it lost its flavor. What I'm going to do is bring it back, only with a few modifications to make it ideal for the endurance athlete. Its advantages are numerous.

First of all, it's extremely efficient. You can nail down a productive circuit workout in a half hour, and you only need to do it three times a week. For those that are severely challenged for time, you could see benefits doing it just twice a week. What are those benefits? Well, there are multiple - have a look: (1) It's an effective way to exercise the entire body without undue soreness, which is key, since you don't want to be sore during your endurance training; (2) A comprehensive, full-body weight training workout can help prevent the repetitive stress incurred by cyclical endurance exercise by improving muscle balance and stressing joints in varied ways; (3) It adds needed strength for endurance athletes without the fear of weight gain.

Endurance athletes know that they can't afford any significant weight increases, which may occur with a "bodybuilding" workout. However, research on endurance athletes indicates that strength training can improve endurance performance, and that it may improve body composition (you can remain the same weight but carry more muscle and less fat). It's rather elementary. You need strength for every running stride, every swimming stroke, every thrust of the bike pedal, and every land from a jump, be it on your skateboard, bike, or your feet. Weight training, or in this specific case, circuit training, provides the most efficient method for improving strength and muscle balance as quickly as possible.

The method we'll use for this particular workout is actually termed quad-sets. With quad-sets, you will perform four sets in succession (no rest) before resting and moving on to the next circuit. Within each quad-set, you will attack four different body parts. The benefit here is a "global" muscular workout, which continually exercises fresh muscle groups and, in essence, trains the entire body. This method has been shown to simultaneously increase strength and endurance, as well as releasing hormones that promote fat loss and muscle gain. As you'll also see when viewing the workout, and especially when participating, it's not a bad cardio regimen, either. I've provided two separate workouts, so feel free to start with either and alternate between the two. As stated previously, these can be performed two or three times per week, depending on your schedule. Listed below, Group "A" is your first quad-set, where all exercises are listed. These are to be performed consecutively, without rest, so organize your workout environment accordingly. Following the exercises is the volume (repetitions), and finally the rest period, which is only allowed after the completion of the entire quad-set. After the rest, move on to the next quad set, and so on. You will perform each quad-set (each group) three times.

Workout 1
(Perform each Group three times)
Group A Reps Rest Period
Dumbbell Lunge, Dumbbell Bench Press, Bent-over Dumbbell Row, Dumbbell Overhead Press 15 2 min.
Group B Reps Rest Period
Leg Press, Incline Dumbbell Press, Lat Pulldown, Dumbbell Lateral Raise 15 1.5 min.
Group C Reps Rest Period
Dumbbell Curl, Tricep Pushdown,Abdominal Crunch, Dumbbell Calf Raise 15 1 min.
Workout 2
(Perform each Group three times)
Group A Reps Rest Period
Squats, Dips, Pull-ups, Bent-over Dumbbell Lateral Raise 15 2 min.
Group B Reps Rest Period
Dumbbell Step-up, Dumbbell Flyes, Seated Row, Alternate Dumbbell Overhead Press 15 1.5 min.
Group C Reps Rest Period
Incline Dumbbell Curl, Lying Tricep Extension, Reverse Abdominal Crunch, Seated Calf Raise 15 1 min.

You'll notice that each group attacks a specific set of muscle regions. For example, Groups "A" and "B" begin with a leg exercise, followed by chest, back, and shoulder exercises. Certainly, the order within each group can be rearranged according to preference, and new exercises can be substituted for a specific muscle group. Regardless, the most important parameters to follow are the rapid pace of exercise, the rest periods, and the comprehensive nature of the workout. This is non-negotiable!

Now, how about a different and challenging cardio workout to complement the circuit routine? This is a sure-fire way to push your fitness output to levels you may not be able to achieve with traditional endurance training. If you're cardio or endurance workout presently consists of long, slow duration exercise -- jogging, elliptical training, biking -- you're not attaining all of the benefits of what I like to call "high-intensity endurance training."

Like the circuit workout just described, some high-intensity endurance training is essential for preventing boredom and injury. It stresses your body in novel ways, releases hormones that burn fat and improve fitness, and can actually improve aerobic fitness. That's right, high-intensity exercise can actually improve aerobic fitness, even if you aren't actually doing an actual aerobic workout. In other words, a stronger heart, stronger muscles, better breathing capacity, and a higher level of fitness all lead to improvements in endurance and aerobic events. Plus, developing these type of workouts is easy, as you'll see.

Essentially, you need to go hard! Forget the conventional fat-burning zone nonsense and burn as many calories as possible in 20-30 minutes. That means running, or biking, or stairmastering (is that a word?) at a very fast clip. Fast enough that you can only go for about one to two minutes at a time before you need to slow down and rest. For example, you can run hard or even sprint on a treadmill for 90 seconds and then return to a light jogging pace for a few minutes. And then sprint again. And continue that for 20-30 minutes. Yes, it's hard, and you will feel completely out of shape the first time you do it. But pretty soon your sprint time will increase and your recovery jog will decrease. That's the key - to do a little bit more each time. Continually shock the body until your endurance level skyrockets and your body releases fat like a fire hydrant gives off water.

This type of exercise will burn more calories than any other, even if it utilizes less fat for energy. See, you burn more total calories with this method, and in turn may burn more fat calories as a whole when compared to a less prolific (although longer and considerably more worthless) walking or slow jogging session. But that's not even the point. The point is, you utilize a great deal more muscle, which will raise your metabolism and go much further in producing fat loss and endurance improvements.

For true endurance athletes, you don't have to perform this type of cardio workout every day. Even once a week will be enough of a shock to add benefits and improve aerobic/endurance fitness. In fact, it's recommended to start at once a week and gradually work in another workout as you become accustomed to it (you may get sore the first few times).

And for you fitness enthusiasts out there just looking to burn fat and "tone up," you can safely perform this three times a week. It's simply a better method for burning fat and building sleek muscle than any pure aerobic workout.

With this combined circuit weight training and cardio workout, you can feasibly spend just one hour in the gym and gain better benefits than you could derive from boring aerobic workouts. It takes a little more effort and focus, but that usually reaps the biggest dividends. Now go for it!



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