About This Strength Training Guide

Strength training isn’t just for CrossFitters or bodybuilders. Now, more than ever before, all disciplines of elite and recreational athletes are incorporating strength sessions into their weekly training routine to boost their power, speed, and agility, and to help prevent injury. Gone are the days when cyclists just biked and runners just ran.

This strength guide was compiled to offer you the tools you need to strength train safely, efficiently, and effectively. We’ll start with an overview of the basics, including a master class to help you hone form and technique. Next, coaches will learn how to best design a strength program for their athletes. Finally, we’ll dive into sport specifics for endurance athletes, with a special section on strength training for aging athletes. 

No matter what sports you participate in or your experience level, strength training is a straightforward way to boost your performance and your overall health. Let’s get started.

*This Guide should be used for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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The Benefits of Strength Training

4 Minute Read

Strength work is valuable for athletes of all disciplines, all ages, and all fitness levels.

This means you.

If you’ve been grinding away at your endurance and you have all other training factors dialed in — like nutrition, recovery, hydration, and stress management — but you’re still not seeing improvements in your race times or overall fitness, strength training could be the hole in your game. It’s one of the best ways to prevent injury and ensure your body remains functional well into your nineties.

Let’s dive into why we decided to create this comprehensive strength guide in the first place: so runners, cyclists, triathletes, and many other kinds of athletes can embrace strength as an essential part of their training.

Injury Prevention

Injury Prevention

One of the primary benefits of strength training for endurance athletes is injury prevention. Endurance training can put tremendous stress on the muscles, joints, and connective tissues for long periods of time, making athletes more susceptible to overuse injuries. Strength training improves your muscular imbalances and stabilization as well as your ability to withstand force. A balanced strength program targets key areas like the core, hips, and glutes, which create proper alignment and stability during endurance workouts.

Increased Power

Increased Power

Contrary to the misconception that strength training adds unnecessary bulk, it will actually improve your overall performance. Strength training helps increase power and efficiency, leading to better running, cycling, or swimming economy. With stronger muscles, you can maintain your target pace for longer periods and experience less fatigue during races and training sessions. You’ll also produce more force with every foot strike, pedal stroke or pool stroke from having a stronger body.

Increased Speed And Endurance

Increased Speed and Endurance

Explosive strength exercises like plyometrics and resistance training will boost your ability to generate force during sprints or hill climbs. Being able to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers means a greater capacity for short, high-output efforts (like that sprint to the finish line). Strength training also improves your lactate threshold, allowing you to perform at higher intensities before fatigue sets in. This increase in lactate threshold can be a game-changer during fast training sessions and competitive races.

Muscle Efficiency

Muscle Efficiency

The neuromuscular adaptations gained through strength training result in bigger, better muscle recruitment and coordination. Endurance athletes will perform more efficiently as their muscles work together synergistically. This increased muscle efficiency translates to better form, reduced energy wastage, and greater overall movement patterns. These have a compounding effect of allowing you to move for longer periods and further distances.

Bone Density And Joint Health

Bone Density and Joint Health

Endurance training alone may not be sufficient to maintain optimal bone density. As athletes age, especially in low-impact sports like swimming and cycling, the risk of developing osteoporosis increases. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate bone growth and help preserve bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and promoting overall joint health.

Mental Toughness

Mental Toughness

Endurance training requires significant mental strength. So does picking up a heavy weight. As you push through challenging weightlifting sessions, you’ll develop mental toughness, resilience, and determination. These psychological benefits can carry over to endurance events, helping you push through tough moments and maintain focus during grueling races. The mental grit you gain through strength training cannot be understated.

By incorporating a well-designed strength routine into your training program, you will elevate your performance to new heights, achieve new personal bests, and prolong your athletic career.

It’s time. Stop procrastinating on your strength training. Hit the weights and experience the transformative effects of strength on your endurance journey.


Weight Training 101

12 Minute Read

Learning the basics will take you far on your journey to becoming a stronger, faster athlete. Many newcomers to the strength training world are intimidated by the gym setting. Just walking in the door is where a lot of beginners struggle.

Don’t let overthinking hold you back — just get started.

One way to hit fast-forward on your strength knowledge is to go into a CrossFit gym and take their Foundations course. Functional fitness foundations will get you miles ahead of the game in terms of understanding terminology and how to use strength equipment safely.

Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to become a CrossFit athlete. These courses are just the most accessible way to get a basic lesson in strength training. Think of a CF Foundations course as an in-person version of this chapter with one-on-one technique guidance and a strength coach to answer all of your questions. It’s an excellent resource for beginners and athletes looking to deepen their knowledge of strength work.

Here’s our high-level overview of what you need to know to start strength training.

What Are the Different Types of Strength Workouts?

Strength and conditioning encompasses a variety of training methods to improve your performance and fitness. What actually falls under the S&C umbrella? For the purpose of this guide, we’ll mostly be talking about resistance training — anything involving moving external weight against gravity to increase the size and strength of your muscles. 

But there are a few other methods you might be familiar with:

Plyometrics focus on explosive movements (like box jumps), using the stretch-shortening cycle to improve power and speed. Calisthenics describe a wide range of bodyweight exercises for overall strength and flexibility. They include basic movements like push ups and pull ups to advanced party tricks like planche and L-sits. Gymnastics combine strength, flexibility, agility and dynamic power, often incorporating advanced bodyweight movements and static holds.

You can further break down the resistance training category into other methodologies like functional training (CrossFit), which emphasizes everyday movements that human bodies are generally made for — pressing weight overhead, picking something up off the floor, running, jumping, squatting, etc. CrossFit athletes want to be good at all forms of fitness including lengthy endurance workouts. Because of its broad effectiveness, functional training has been used in all branches of the military and professional sports.

One of the more commonly known categories of S&C fitness is bodybuilding, which uses high-volume strength training to create hypertrophy, or muscle growth, for strict aesthetic symmetry goals. Bodybuilding-style split training is where a lot of athletes get their first introduction to the weight room.

Powerlifting is a subculture of weight training that focuses on absolute strength in three main lifts: squat, deadlift, and bench press. Strongman training is related to powerlifting, but using odd objects like giant stones, logs, and tractor tires.

Olympic weightlifting centers on two lifts: the clean and jerk, and the snatch. These lifts are the most physiologically efficient way for us to move a barbell from the floor to locked out above our heads. Oly lifting is incredibly technical and skill-based.

It helps to understand these different subcategories and their associated styles of training so you can identify what kind of programming works best for your goals. You’ll also feel like less of a newbie in the strength world if you can understand how other athletes are training. Knowledge is power.

Weight Room Basics: Navigating the Equipment Jungle

The gym can sometimes feel like a maze of machines, plates, and contraptions. But with time and exposure, you’ll quickly get a feel for how everything works and what equipment to use.

Let’s break down the essentials of weight room navigation.

Equipment Selection

Choosing the right equipment for your workout makes all the difference. There are a few main categories of equipment in the gym.

  • Free Weights: These include dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. Free weights engage stabilizer muscles and promote functional strength. They’re versatile and should become your go-to for most movements.
  • Machines: Weight machines provide guided movement patterns and are excellent for isolating specific muscle groups using only one joint at a time. They’re beginner-friendly and often have instructions on how to use them. Since machines provide stability for you, they’re often considered “easy mode” for a lot of movements.
  • Resistance Bands: These portable bands add resistance to bodyweight exercises and can be used for both upper and lower body workouts. They’re not a perfect substitute for free weights, but thicker bands mean more resistance.
  • Cardio Machines: These might be the most familiar — rowers, stationary bikes, air runners, treadmills, stair climbers, etc, used for aerobic work.
  • Optional Equipment: Everything else can be lumped into the “other” category, which varies widely in use — ab mats, medicine balls, boxes, yoga mats, sandbags, parallettes, gymnastic rings, battle ropes, tractor tires, and anything else you might see in a gym.

Common Gym Equipment and Their Uses

Understanding the different types of gym equipment and their purposes is essential to knowing what you’re doing. This is some of the most basic equipment in your average gym.

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Squat Rack

Used for squat variations, lunges, bench presses, overhead presses, and other compound movements (see next section).

Try to avoid using the squat rack for isolation exercises like curls.

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These individual handheld weights are extremely useful for adding load to almost any movement.

They’re excellent warmup and rehab tools, since they range in weight from 2 to 100+ pounds.

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Barbells come in two main sizes: 45lb and 35lb. The lighter bar is slightly shorter with a smaller circumference.

There are several more barbell varieties for different purposes, like an even shorter 15lb training bar for beginners.

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Weight Plates

Rubber plates, called bumper plates, come in a standard diameter for Olympic weightlifting.

If a plate is rubber, you can drop it. Try not to drop metal plates unless safety calls for it.

Weight plates come in kilos or pounds.

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Medicine Balls

These usually come in a standard shoulder-width diameter and vary in weight from 6 to 30lb.

They’re used in throwing, jumping, wall ball shots, and other dynamic, ballistic exercises.

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Versatile for exercises like bench press, dumbbell rows, and dips. Benches are often padded on top, which makes them unstable for jumping exercises.

Use something solid like a box instead.

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Leg Press Machine

Great for targeting leg muscles while providing support for your back.

The leg press is a quadricep isolation machine, so it’s not a perfect substitute for squats or other compound posterior chain movements.

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Lat Pulldown Machine

Works your upper back and lat muscles comparably to a pull up.

This machine is good for assisting with strict pull ups, but don’t let it keep you from working on your unassisted pull ups and chin ups!

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Cable Machine

Allows for a wide variety of pulling exercises by attaching handles, bars, or ropes to weighted cables.

You can use one side of the cable setup or both at the same time. 

Gym Etiquette

A harmonious gym environment involves practicing good etiquette, which mostly comes down to common sense. Here are some key pointers:

  • Wipe Down Your Equipment:After using a machine or bench, always wipe it down with sanitizing wipes, especially if you sweat on it.
  • Share and Rotate:If the gym is busy, be considerate of others by sharing equipment and not taking too long in any one space.
  • Re-Rack Your Weights: Always return weights, dumbbells, and other equipment to their designated spots after use.
  • Ask for Help:If you’re unsure about how to use a piece of equipment, don’t hesitate to ask gym staff or a knowledgeable fellow gym-goer for guidance.
  • Limit Phone Use: Except when checking your programming or changing your music. You’re here to train, not scroll on the gram!

Form & Technique

This could be an entire guide on its own, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll focus on an overview of some common technical patterns in weight training.

Learning strength movements as an endurance athlete means building motor control and body awareness.Pay attention to the small details, like how your body moves in space and where you feel the most effort in your muscles during a lift. Instead of zoning out like you might on a long run or ride, you’ll need to actively practice the mental effort for strength adaptations.

The best way to get a feel for whether or not you’re doing an exercise correctly is to have a coach watch you, either in-person or by recording your training and sending it to them for critiques. But there are some universal truths on lifting form that you can rely on across the board for many movements.

Build From The Ground Up3

Build From the Ground Up

All lifting starts where your body is connected to the source of gravity (the ground) — your feet. Get familiar with what your feet are doing and train yourself to use a “tripod” foot for stability. It helps to pay attention to your shoes. Many modern shoes are too narrow and limit the use of your entire foot. Try things without shoes when you can.

Maintain A Neutral Spine

Maintain a Neutral Spine

Your spine is the central point for most of your body’s movement. Excessively arching or rounding your back when you’re trying to manipulate a weight compromises your core and the stability in the rest of your limbs. Start by thinking of your pelvis as a bucket, and work on keeping a neutral pelvic tilt (don’t tip the bucket).

Pay Attention To Your Breathing

Pay Attention to Your Breathing

Bracing for core strength and stability is essential, and you’ll be doing it for every strength training movement. Learning how to use your breathing to create tension in your core will pay massive dividends in your strength gains. As a general rule, inhale to brace before starting a movement and exhale sharply as you finish the rep.

Learn How To Bail Safely

Learn How to Bail Safely

One of the first things you learn in a Foundations class is how to safely drop a weight you can’t lift. This is something all athletes need to know how to do to avoid injuries (and dodge being featured in a “fitness fail” video). Bailing technique is slightly different for each lift, but it helps to practice with a manageable weight first. Check out this video for good demos on how to bail out of some common lifts.

Compound and Isolation Movements

Compound Movements

Compound movements work multiple muscle groups and use multiple joints simultaneously. Squats, deadlifts, and bench press are prime examples. They offer the most bang for your weight training buck and provide several advantages for beginners:

  • Efficiency: Compound exercises save time by engaging several muscles at once, making your workouts more productive.
  • Functional Strength: These movements mimic real-life actions, enhancing practical strength.
  • Calorie Burn: Because they involve large muscle groups, compound exercises burn more calories during and after your workout.
  • Hormonal Response: They trigger the release of muscle-building hormones, leading to faster muscle gains.
  • Core Activation: Many compound exercises require core stability, strengthening your midsection.
Female Athlete Performing Compound Movement I.e. Deadlift

Isolation Movements

Isolation movements target specific muscles or muscle groups and use only one joint. Think bicep curls, tricep extensions, and calf raises. They have some different benefits:

  • Muscle Definition: Ideal for sculpting and defining particular muscles, perfect for achieving muscle symmetry and definition. Bodybuilders use a lot of isolation exercises.
  • Injury Recovery and Prevention: Strengthen weaker muscles due to injury or imbalances, aiding in recovery and preventing future injuries.
  • Mind-Muscle Connection: Develop a better mind-muscle connection, enhancing muscle control and development.
*Beginners should start by focusing mostly on compound exercises to build a strong overall foundation, then learn isolation movements over time.
Female Athlete Performing Isolation Movement I.e. Hammer Curl

Unilateral Movements

Unilateral movements only focus on one half of your body at a time — single leg squats, one-arm row, etc. These also have a place in your training, like working on imbalances or focusing on just one limb at a time.

Female Athlete Performing Unilateral Movement I.e. Tricep Extension

Understanding Tempo & Time Under Tension

This section adopted from Understanding Tempo Training for Maximum Strength Gains by Sari Terranova.

Tempo training is the practice of modifying the speed of movement for an exercise. It requires you to count the seconds and modify the speed patterns that you naturally groove into when performing exercises.

Programming specific tempo ratios into your workouts allows you to precisely dictate the time under tension (TUT), which is the length of time that the muscle fibers are straining during a given movement. By manipulating the amount of time you spend performing a lift, you can create the stimulus necessary for real strength gains.

Eccentric, Concentric, & Isometric Phases

Strength gains are often made during the difficult eccentric, or muscle-lengthening, portion of an exercise. This is when we are moving the load away from the body, like when you’re lowering the dumbbell during a bicep curl.

The concentric phase is the muscle-shortening stage, when you contract the muscle and lift the weight back toward your body.

The isometric phase happens when the muscle is under tension in the absence of movement.

There are generally two isometric phases: one at the bottom and one at the top of each movement.

Tempo is denoted by a series of three or four numbers, for example 3:1:2:0. The numbers tell you how many seconds to lower, pause, or contract in each phase of the lift. The order of the numbers indicates the phase:

  1. Eccentric (lengthening)
  2. Isometric (any pause at the midpoint or bottom of the lift)
  3. Concentric (shortening)
  4. Isometric (pause at the top of the lift)

Using the example above, if you were executing a bench press with a 3:1:2:0 tempo, you would lower the bar to your chest for three seconds, pause at the bottom for one, and press the bar up for a two-count. After full extension, you would immediately begin lowering the bar again. If there is an “X” in place of a number, that indicates explosive movement.

Tempo training doesn’t make sense for every exercise, but it’s a great way to break through plateaus on fundamental compound lifts like deadlifts, squats, and presses. Basic bodyweight exercises such as pushups and pull-ups also lend themselves well to tempo adjustments.

Generally, the more TUT you spend with a movement, the stronger you’ll become at performing that movement under load.

With practice over time, you’ll develop better motor control and movement patterns. Remember, consistency is key, and progress takes time. Keep going!


Nutrition & Recovery Primer

11 Minute Read

It takes discipline and planning, but nailing your recovery and nutrition will pay dividends come race day. It’s crucial to provide your body with the energy it needs so it can begin repairing your muscles and building them back stronger.

To maximize your strength workouts in addition to your strong aerobic efforts, it’s best to time your nutrition around your workouts and allow enough time in between to properly recover. Here are some things to focus on.

Pay Attention to Your Macros: Timing & Amount

Excerpted from How to Fuel Your Strength Workouts: Triathlon Edition

Remember, every athlete is different. If you really want to dial in your nutrition and get macros tailored to your fitness goals, work with a nutrition coach like Fuelin.

Getting Enough Protein is Key

​​Protein intake is paramount for muscle recovery and adaptation. Regardless of age, gender, or training experience, you should aim for about 1.0-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. This intake should be consistent throughout the week regardless of your fluctuation in daily training hours. You must consistently hit your protein number day in and day out for weeks in combination with your training to see the benefits.

Timing Matters

The timing of your meals and snacks can maximize your gains and recovery. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a breakdown of pre-, intra-, and post-workout fueling options.

Pre-Strength Workout

If you are not lifting first thing in the morning, then aim to consume a meal 60-90 minutes before training. This meal should include complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, moderate protein for muscle support, and a small amount of healthy fats.

Pre-Strength Meal 132lb Athlete

Pre-Strength Meal 165lb Athlete

You can also have a snack 15-20 minutes before the session if you want or need some additional carbohydrates. This is a great option if you prefer to do your lifting first thing in the morning.

Pre-Strength Snack 132lb Athlete

Pre-Strength Snack 165lb Athlete

Intra-Strength Workout

For sessions that extend beyond ten sets per exercise and a total duration of 90 minutes, consider fueling with easily digestible carbohydrate sources such as a banana, tortilla wrap with almond butter/jam, or crackers. This will help maintain blood glucose levels and delay fatigue.

Intra-Strength Meal 132lb Athlete

Intra-Strength Meal 165lb Athlete

Post-Strength Workout

The post-workout period is critical for recovery. However, if you have the time, shower, get dressed, relax, and enjoy your meal. Your muscles will not drop off if you don’t slam down a protein drink within thirty seconds of finishing your last set.

Consume a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein, ideally within sixty minutes. You have up to two hours after training to maximize your recovery and adaptations in that post-workout window.

Your carb intake will vary between 0.2-2g/lb/BW depending on the total amounts of carbs you require for the day. Aim for about 0.2g/lb/BW if you’re on a lower carb intake without subsequent sessions that day. Try to get 2g/lb/BW (or potentially more) if you’re doing heavy training or have subsequent sessions that day. It’s important to increase your carb intake on heavy training days where replenishment of glycogen stores is critical to training performance.

Post Strength Workout Meal

Post Strength Workout Meal 165lb athlete

Key Takeaways:

  • To get the most out of your strength training, you’ll need to pay attention to your nutrition. Keep in mind, you might need to eat more than you think you do.
  • Optimized fueling strategies are essential for performance and recovery.
  • Macronutrient intake and timing of meals are critical factors in supporting both endurance and strength training.
  • Individualized approaches to nutrition are based on training intensity, goals, and personal preferences, considering pre-, during, and post-training nutrition needs.

Supplements icon

Get a Boost From The Right Supplements

Excerpted from Supplement Primer for Strength & Conditioning Athletes

An infinite number of supplements flood the nutrition market right now, and wading through the misinformation is exhausting. The good news is, there are very few supplements that are actually necessary for optimal health. Here are the tried-and-true supplements that benefit most bodies who are training for strength gains, regardless of sport type.  

Remember, if you have conflicting medications, diet restrictions, physiological ailments, or other complications, ask your doctor before taking any new supplement.

1. Creatine

Creatine is one of the most researched supplements there is — it’s essentially proven to work for muscle recovery, and many athletes take it to improve their performance. And while it’ll likely improve your performance, it’s not a performance-enhancing drug that will show up on a drug test. 

Creatine supplies the creatine-phosphate system, which is used during particularly high-intensity/short intervals. This makes it an excellent supplement for those who are weightlifting and HIIT training. It works by saturating the muscle stores so you’re capable of producing more ATP (energy). Research also shows that creatine supplementation reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and promotes faster recovery in resistance-trained individuals (aka, you). 

Endurance athletes should take no more than the recommended dose of 5g/day. Taking more than this amount might lead to some unwanted side effects, such as fluid retention and gastrointestinal discomfort. Make sure you purchase through a reputable brand and consume products with NSF Sport, Informed-Sport, or HASTA certification. We recommend products using Creapure

2. Protein

In general, protein is protein. Where it comes from isn’t super important, provided you’re getting it from varying sources. But supplementing with protein powders is a convenient way to make sure you’re feeding your muscles enough to adapt and recover. 

If you’re training hard, you want to consume an above-average amount of protein to provide your muscles with the nutrients they need (between 1.0g-1.5g of protein per kg of body weight). Protein shakes make it a lot easier to hit those numbers.

There are a lot of different protein supplements available depending on your diet — everything from vegan pea and pumpkin powders to paleo beef and egg powders. As a general rule, whey protein is considered the athlete’s go-to, as it’s easy to digest and has a high bioavailability (i.e., absorption rate). 

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been extensively researched and shown to be important for bone health, muscle growth, recovery, and immune function (including battling viral infections). You can get D from food and, of course, sunshine. For this reason, many athletes choose to supplement vitamin D in the winter months.

Dosing for Vitamin D is a little difficult since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it can be stored/accumulated in the body. There is a very small risk of toxicity.

It’s best to get your bloodwork done and start a supplementation routine of between 1,000-4,000 iu per day. Then get your bloodwork done again in three to six months. If your number has gone up to optimal ranges, stick to your current dose. If not, try adding another 1,000 iu. If you’re not in a position where you can routinely get bloodwork, you’d likely be safe in the very conservative range of 1,000-2,500 iu per day.

4. Fish Oil

Everyone has heard of Omega 3s (n3) by now. They’re a relatively unique fatty acid chain. Western diets are largely full of grains/starches and distinctly lacking in oily fish. This gives us a ton of omega 6s and 9s, but not very many omega 3s. Taking an omega 3 supplement, such as fish oil, can restore this balance and give us a more favorable ratio of omega 3-6-9. The result is an anti-inflammatory effect.

Too much chronic inflammation can damage otherwise healthy cells and tissues, causing a wide range of ailments. Keeping tabs on this will help your body recover, lubricate your joints, and keep your organs functioning as they should.

Don’t Sleep on Sleep

Excerpted from The Whole Picture: Recovery Through Sleep

Nutrition is only one piece of the recovery puzzle. Another key element? Sleep. If you don’t get at least seven hours of quality sleep a night, you won’t reap the full benefits of your hard work. Sleep facilitates recovery from exercise-induced damage and is especially important for athletes, who can benefit from sleep’s positive effects on hormones, carbohydrate metabolism, and the immune system.  

Improve Your Sleeping Habits

Excerpted from 4 Ways to Get Better Sleep for Optimal Performance Recovery

Despite all its benefits, it’s not uncommon for athletes to struggle when it comes to sleep. Fortunately, there are a few tips that can help:

Cut Caffeine And Curb Alcohol

Cut Caffeine and Curb Alcohol

The half-life of caffeine is a minimum of six hours and can be up to 48. The reason why this is a problem is because caffeine prohibits adenosine (a brain chemical released to build sleep pressure throughout the day) from binding with its receptors. 

On the other end of the stimulant-sedative cycle, alcohol also disrupts sleep. According to a 2018 study, “Alcohol acts as a sedative that interacts with several neurotransmitter systems important in the regulation of sleep. Acute administration of large amounts of alcohol prior to sleep leads to decreased sleep onset latency and changes in sleep architecture early in the night… with subsequent disrupted, poor quality sleep later in the night.”

Go Dark Before Sleep

Go Dark Before Going to Sleep

One of the easiest ways for you to get higher grade shuteye is to set your screens aside at dinnertime and try not to look at them again until morning. If you have to work or want to watch a movie, try to dim your computer or TV, or opt for a pair of blue light-blocking glasses. Then make sure that your room is as dark that light doesn’t disrupt your well-earned rest.

Get Hot, Then Cold

Get Hot, Then Cold

A study from Loughborough University in the UK concluded that taking a nice hot soak between around 30 to 90 minutes before bed significantly improved sleep quality and reduced the time it took participants to drop off. Then once you’ve clambered out, support your cooling process by setting your thermostat between 60℉ and 65℉, which sleep experts have found reduces the number of nighttime disturbances.

Consistent Evening Routine

Create a Consistent Evening Routine

Try to find activities that are calming and will help you cycle down from the hyper-stimulation of your daytime hours. Once you’ve zeroed in on which of these works for you and what order you should do them in, stick with it, and pair your new evening habits with consistent sleep and wake times to restore a regular circadian cycle.

Other Recovery Techniques

Since muscle soreness, joint tightness, and sticky mobility restrictions can come with regular strength training, it helps to get familiar with the most effective tissue maintenance methods used by athletes. 

Massage therapy is sometimes seen as a “treat”, but the manipulation of soft tissues is excellent for alleviating muscle tension, reducing soreness, and improving circulation. Don’t underestimate the power of human hands to help your body recover.

Since you likely don’t have a personal massage therapist on-hand, self-massage is a great option. For self-myofascial release, athletes use foam rollers, lacrosse balls, massage guns and other tools to apply pressure to tight muscles and trigger points. These can help break up adhesions in the fascia which promotes ease of movement.

Compression therapy isn’t as ubiquitous, but it can be incredibly valuable. For effective joint compression, use Voodoo floss bands to tightly wrap joints like your knees, ankles and elbows. This moves fluid away from the joint so you can “scrub” the sticky tendons and fascia. Blood flow restriction (BFR) uses cuffs to partially restrict blood flow to working muscles during low-load exercise. Normatec boots are also an excellent compression therapy tool for your sore legs.

Cupping is an ancient therapy gaining popularity among athletes for increasing blood flow and releasing muscle tension. It involves creating a vacuum in cups placed on the skin, pulling the tissues away from the body. Before you knock it, try the effects for yourself with this affordable cupping set on Amazon.

CBD is also popular for potential recovery benefits, with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Athletes often use it in creams and oils to alleviate soreness, or ingest it before bed for a deeper sleep. 

And don’t forget to hit a yoga class on your off days or as active recovery on the weekends. Yoga is the perfect balance for a strength training program. 

Be sure to check out this blog for a deeper dive on other recovery methods: 5 Ways to Speed Up Muscle Recovery.


How to Program Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

8 Minute Read

Lifting weights is one thing, but programming a personalized strength program is another. Whether you’re a self-coached athlete or a coach looking to level up your athlete’s performance and resilience, proper programming is key to getting the most out of strength training. Here’s what you need to know. 

Text edited and excerpted from How to Program Strength Training: An Endurance Coach’s Guide by Chris Lee

Endurance sports demand a lot from athletes, both in terms of cardiovascular endurance and musculoskeletal strength. The key when it comes to strength training is to strategically apply a strength “intervention” that enhances an athlete’s work capacity. It’s not just about building muscle; it’s about equipping athletes with the tools they need to excel in their demanding seasons.

Before you begin programming strength for yourself or for your athletes, it’s important to under the basics of weight training. Refer to Chapter 2 of this guide on form, technique, and different kinds of movements.

Timing Strength Sessions With Endurance Workouts

Many athletes and coaches like to do strength sessions on key workout days. Usually, strength training is completed later in the day after the endurance workout. The reason for doing it on the same day is to keep “hard” days hard and allow easy days to be true recovery days.

Do Strength Sessions Have To Be on Workout Days?

Not everyone likes to do their strength training on hard workout days. Some coaches and athletes prefer to execute strength work on an easy day and before any endurance work. This maintains the priority of high-value endurance work while still maximizing the benefit of strength work

Additionally, some studies show that lifting beforehand might offer post-activation performance enhancement (PAPE), but it’s probably not the best idea for athletes who are new to strength training.

The goal of any training session is to achieve an adaptation to the specific stimulus. It’s best to rest a minimum of six hours between endurance workouts and strength sessions to allow for optimal adaptations that maximize the effectiveness of your training. It’s also ideal to rest a minimum of one day between sessions to allow the body time to recover. 

The minimal effective dose for strength training is two sessions per week. If you’re working with an experienced athlete, doing up to three or four sessions a week may be effective, but it comes at a high energy cost that many endurance athletes often can’t afford. Less than two sessions a week, and the effects of strength training are far less. 

Strength Training Warm-Ups

Warm-ups are just as important for strength workouts as they are for endurance workouts. Choosing movements target areas that are generally tight and overused in endurance athletes makes great warm-up exercises. Some movements include: 

Is a Movement Analysis Necessary?

Movement assessments are a great way to identify performance bottlenecks and possible issues that can become injuries. 

Remember that your nature of work is really important as well. Questions to consider include:

  • How many hours do you spend on your feet?
  • Does your job involve extremely early or late hours?
  • Does your job require extended hours 10+ hours straight?
  • Is your job physically demanding by nature?

When conducting a movement assessment, it’s important to understand the general movement patterns, imbalances, and mobility. Find a more in-depth guide to conducting movement analysis here: How to Program Strength Training: An Endurance Coach’s Guide

Strength Training Periodization: A Full Season Overview

An athlete’s strength program needs to complement the current phase of their season, not take away from it. After all, the goal is to help the athlete PR on the course, track, or trail, not on their one-rep max squat. 

Here is one way to program strength throughout the season, starting with a solid base-building phase that allows the athlete to peak at the right time.

Strength training periodization chart

Strength training periodization chart Mobile

Base Training (8 Weeks)

Base training (aka, the offseason) typically lasts about eight weeks (most research shows an eight-week adaptation phase). You can get a little more aggressive without worrying too much about fatigue since there aren’t any races on the calendar. 

Bridging the gap on any key issues and weaknesses is the main goal during this period. If there is a big deficit in strength, you can make a major physiological change here. Basic principles of hypertrophy can be paired with plyometrics and foundational movements as well. Restoring joint function and/or mobility should also be a focus during this time.

The best time to start base training strength is one month after the final race of the previous season. Mobility and foundational movements can be implemented soon after the season, but the mental break is important to consider. So taking a few weeks completely off is usually a good idea.

During base training, remember that you’re reintroducing load AND volume. Exercises to include include compound lifts and key unilateral lifts such as single-leg deadlifts and split squats. Introduction to assisted plyos and transitioning to bodyweight plyos is ideal during this phase. Other key corrective exercises such as Copenhagen planks, star side planks, lateral lunges, and curtsy lunges are also good to include.

Early Season (8 Weeks)

This phase includes early-season races, and it usually lasts about eight weeks. After six weeks of training, plyos no longer have a delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMs) effect or result in muscular damage. This makes the early season phase a great time to continue building plyos and pairing them with max strength since muscular damage is low. (Keep in mind, though, that central nervous system demand is high.) 

As training volume increases, there is going to be a high creatine kinase (CK) production as a result of longer training bouts and an increase in cortisol as well. Plyometrics might have low DOMs and CK production, but top-end strength exercises might make your athlete a little sore. This makes recovery especially important during this phase. 

Ideal exercises to include during this phase include hex bar deadlifts, squats, rack pulls, pull-ups, and bench press. Continue with bodyweight plyos, and try to progress to loaded plyos by the end of this phase. It’s also good to continue with key corrective exercises such as Copenhagen planks, star side planks, lateral lunges, and curtsy lunges.

Mid-Season/Competition Phase (16-20+ weeks)

The mid-season competition phase lasts about 16-20+ weeks depending on the athlete and sport type. Training and racing are the focus during this phase. Volume and intensity will be high with periods of intentional overreaching, so you don’t want strength work to add unnecessary strain to the system. Provided you’ve already trained the off- and pre-season well, the exercises should not impede training, but rather enhance your athlete’s ability to train, race, and recover. 

You’re looking to maintain during this phase. The goal is to maintain strength at a level that does not provide increased or new training stimulus. You’re also trying to mitigate injury by focusing on key areas of high use, which depends on your athlete’s sport. For example, a cyclist or marathoner may have tight hip flexors and adductor complexes that limit gluteal function and posture. In this case, you should try to lengthen and eccentrically load the hip flexors and adductors while strengthening gluteal and abduction function.

Include exercises such as the hex bar deadlift and squats. Put a larger emphasis on dynamic movements such as standing lift and chop movements, lateral lunges, and plyos. Plyometrics should be maintained. During high volume or intensity weeks of training, replace load with isometrics at 90% effort.

Championship Phase (4-6 weeks)

This phase includes the big races at the end of the season. The championship season is often a big variable as many things are changing or in flux. The athlete has gone through a long season of training, so mental and physical fatigue is high. The goal during this phase is to maintain strength with the minimal effective dose, mitigate injury, and modify sessions according to the athlete’s schedule and needs. Maintain, mitigate, and modify. That’s it.

Include a reduced range of motion squats and deadlifts during this phase, and reduce both volume and load. During high-volume or intensity weeks, replace load with isometrics at 80% effort. Put larger emphasis on bodyweight or light-load, full range-of-motion exercises such as slider lunges or deep goblet squats. 

Remember, a great strength program is tailored to the individual and includes movements specific to that athlete. It should address individual weaknesses, build sport-specific muscles, prevent injury, and be modified throughout the season. When programmed correctly, strength training allows endurance athletes to excel and reach levels within their sport.


Strength Training for Cyclists

Chapter Five
16 Minute Read

If you’re a cyclist who thinks of strength training as a nice-to-have, consider this: Tour de France riders are lifting weights year-round to improve their power and efficiency. Here’s what you need to know to maximize gains without spending too much time in the gym.

The Importance of Weight Training for Cyclists

Excerpted from Strength Training: Why All Endurance Athletes Should Go to the Gym by Landry Bobo.

Despite much evidence supporting the profound benefits of strength training for endurance athletes, year-round strength training is not commonplace in many athletes’ programs. Outlined below are just a few of the reasons why you definitely should go to the gym year-round.

Cyclists Are More Than Their VO2 max

Early research found that the fastest runners did, indeed, have the highest VO2 max values. However, if everyone on the start line has been training for many years and has similar VO2 max values, what really sets them apart? What has become clear is that it is not just how much oxygen you can consume, but how effectively you can use that oxygen during exercise. For this reason, economy has been shown to be a very important metric for performance.

Strength And Economy Equals Performance For Strength Training

Why Economy is Important

Economy is your ability to sustain a given velocity or power output with a certain VO2 value (i.e., how effectively you turn oxygen into watts). The athlete with the lower VO2 value at a given power/velocity will be the more successful athlete, because a lower VO2 value means a lower energy cost and less fatigue. This was elegantly shown in a study by Costill and Winrow in which one runner — who had a slightly lower VO2 max than his competitor — had a 13-minute advantage in his marathon PR. The difference? Running economy.

Here’s another way to look at it: you do threshold intervals at 300w at 70% of your VO2 max. If you improve your economy without increasing your VO2 max, you may do 300w at 67% VO2 max. The result is that your relative effort for the given power is lower, resulting in a threshold increase without any change to your VO2 max.

Economy can be improved by teaching your muscles to work together in the most, well, economic way possible. The more your muscle fibers adapt, the better you will be able to use oxygen to maintain your power/velocity.

5 Ways Strength Training Improves Cycling

More and more cyclists are embracing strength training to improve their ride performance and overall experience. Most do it because they know that they “should,” but many don’t actually know “why.” So much information is being tossed around that it can become unclear, and if you don’t understand the reason behind your training, you’re probably less likely to follow through with it.

It’s my goal for those spending time and energy training off the bike to have these answers in a digestible way because it will serve as motivation to stay consistent and resilient, or maybe even convince a friend who’s hesitant to start.

5 Benefits of Strength Training for Cyclists

Strength training for cycling Mobile

1. You Literally Get Stronger

We had to get the obvious out of the way. You get stronger by building bigger muscle fibers and/or improving neural adaptations (how the brain communicates with the muscles).  What’s great about the latter is that you can feel strength improvements almost instantly because it doesn’t require rest/repair the way that building muscle does.  A nice boost for your power-to-weight ratio.

2. Your Cycling Efficiency Improves

Cycling efficiency, often referred to as your “cycling economy,” includes metrics like lactate threshold, anaerobic capacity, and time to fatigue. Heavy terminology aside, all you really need to know (in layman’s terms) is that getting stronger improves just about every relevant metric besides your VO2 Max.  This means that you can go faster for longer with a lower perceived exertion.

3. Prevents Overuse Injuries

Certain muscles can become dormant after time in the saddle (primarily the ones on the backside of your body). Keeping those activated with a balanced strength training program helps the primary muscles not become overused.

For example, it’s common for the primary mover during knee flexion (your quads during the pedal stroke) to start relying on your hamstrings less and less for support. Slowly your muscles develop disproportionately and lead to excessive strain on your knee (in this case your knee cap resulting in patella-tendonitis). Doing an exercise such as RDLs once or twice a week can prevent an overuse injury like this from happening.

4. Acute Injuries Are Less Likely

Because it’s a non-weight-bearing sport, cycling doesn’t put strain on your bones, which is needed for bone growth. It also mostly works in the sagittal plane, not side-to-side. Strength training in multiple planes of motion increases your bone density and tendon strength. This gives you a more stable body that tolerates impact and reduces unwanted twisting/tearing while you’re on the bike or hitting the ground (which unfortunately is inevitable in this sport).

The hardest part of this “metric” is to quantify it. The best example I can give is walking away from an accident thinking “I can’t believe I didn’t get injured.” Is it pure luck or because your body is actually more durable? Probably a combination of both.

5. Enhances Your Riding Experience

Activated muscles lead to better skeletal alignment and more comfort while riding. It can make your rides “feel easier” which means that the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is lower. Back, neck, or knee pain can affect your ability to put down power and lower the quality of your ride experience, making the same performance “feel harder” and probably less enjoyable.

Putting It All Together

Strength training allows your muscles to fire properly across your body without pain, instability, or unused muscles holding you back. This allows you to truly ride at your best and have the most fun. That last point is purely anecdotal, but as someone whose primary sport/hobby has been cycling for 20+ years, I can say having fun is probably the most important.

Building Bone Density: Why Cyclists Are At Risk

Because cycling is a non-weight bearing activity, many cyclists run the risk of low bone density. One study found that adult road cyclists who train regularly have a significantly low bone mineral density in key regions, including the lumbar spine, femoral neck, and pelvic and hip regions. This puts you at a greater risk for a fracture or osteoporosis, especially as you age.

Strength training and putting impact forces on your bones is the number one thing you can do to promote bone health and bone density. When muscles contract, they pull on the bones to which they are connected. These forces provide the stimulus your bones need to grow both thicker and denser. Performing compound movements (like deadlifts and squats) as little as twice a week can help you build bone strength in key areas typically associated with low bone density in cyclists.

Key Muscles Used in Cycling

Excerpted from The Primary Muscles Used in Cycling and How to Train Them by Mike Schultz

Every sport has its own set of primary muscles responsible for the majority of work of the sport’s specific motion. Primary muscles, or movers, are the first muscles called upon when there is a need for increased speed or force. For a cyclist, these muscles are located in the hips and legs. Sometimes referred to as pistons, the legs, revolving at 80 to 100 reps per minute, are responsible for producing power and speed.

Anatomy of the Pedal Stroke

For a road cyclist pedaling while in the saddle, most of the power happens between the 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock position of the pedal stroke. This is when a majority of the primary muscles are activated. Hip flexion, along with hip and knee extension are the primary movements of a pedal stroke.

Back And Front Muscle Groups In Strength Training

Between the 6 and 12 o’clock position in the pedal revolution is some knee flexion to help bring the pedal back to the top, but helping that flexion is the greater downward force being placed on the opposite pedal by the opposite leg.

The muscles that help return the foot to the top include your hamstrings and calves at the bottom of the stroke (pulling the foot backwards) and your quadriceps at the top (lifting the foot and knee back to the 12 o’clock position). It should be noted that you don’t need to actively try to create more power by pulling at the bottom/back of the pedal stroke. It’s been shown that doing so can decrease efficiency.

The power phase happens while the hip and knee extends, pressing downward on the pedal. This action starts with a combination of the gluteus and quadriceps muscles, but then is joined by the hamstrings and calf muscles a quarter ways through the revolution. This shows the need for equally strong hamstrings, hips, and quadriceps. These groups of muscle make up the largest volume of muscles used in a pedal revolution.

Training for Movement: Key Strength Exercises for Cyclists

Created in Collaboration With Derek Teel From Dialed Health 

As a cyclist, how do you get the results from strength training you actually want? While there are a myriad of complex strength exercises that cyclists can benefit from, following a “meat and potatoes” approach can help keep workouts simple, approachable, and effective. 

You can ensure you’re training for total body strength by incorporating the following seven effective movement patterns into your strength workouts.

1. Knee Dominant 

Key movements: lunge or step up

Knee extension is the primary force producer of a pedal stroke. Movements that target knee extension (such as lunges or step-ups) are great for cyclists looking to produce more power.

2. Hip Dominant

Key movements: squat or deadlift

Hip-dominant movements like squats or deadlifts minimize leg and low back compensations.

3. Core

Key movements: plank or Russian twist

Planks, Russian twists, and other core exercises give you a stable center to transfer power and stabilize your bike.

4. Horizontal Push

Key movements: push up or bench press

Push movements help you hold your weight up and handle impact through the bars. Give movements like push-ups or bench press a try.

5. Horizontal Pull

Key movements: dumbbell row or inverted row

Pulling on the bars helps you push harder on the pedals during sprints. Dumbbell rows and inverted rows are great pull exercises for cyclists.

6. Vertical Push

Key movements: dumbbell shoulder press or overhead plate carry

Build well-rounded shoulders that are less prone to injury with vertical push movements like shoulder press or overhead plate carries.

7. Vertical Pull

Key movements: pull up or lat pull down

Pull-ups and lat pull-downs are excellent vertical pull movements that improve your overhead range of motion and grip strength.

Additional Tips

  • Use primarily free weights. These require your body to stabilize the weight with smaller muscle groups while still using your primary movers. This will translate the strength to your bike more easily.
  • Include mobility work in every workout. Start each session with dynamic stretches (constant movement) and include them between strength sets when you start to feel “tight.” Finish each workout with some static stretching, which means holding a stretch for 30-90 seconds.
  • Seek out professional advice. For more information about how many sets and reps you should be doing, and how much weight you should be lifting, seek out the opinion of a professional coach, or find a training plan that aligns with your current fitness level and goals.
  • Don’t miss, just modify. Consistency wins — not only in your physical results but also in your mental gains. Ingraining the habit of showing up for your strength workouts under less-than-ideal circumstances will make for long-term success.

Risks and Additional Considerations

Excerpted from Risks of Concurrent Training by Kolie Moore.

Simultaneously undertaking endurance and strength training is known as concurrent training. Concurrent training helps you improve your FTP, VO2 max, endurance, and other aspects of aerobic fitness while also programming in heavy squats and other leg strength exercises.

Balancing the two different types of training can be challenging. Frequent issues with concurrent training include where to fit strength training into a normal week of endurance training, what order to place endurance and strength training during the same day, and how to balance fatigue from each modality. The best solution for you may not be the same as for another athlete, depending on the goals to be achieved. Let’s look at different ways to assess your needs and how to adjust training accordingly.

Balancing Strength and Aerobic Training

One aspect of concurrent training that has seldom been explored is the impact that strength training can have on endurance training. However, in my coaching and training experience, the fatigue experienced from lifting heavy weights, or moderate weights at high volume, can significantly impede aerobic improvements in key metrics like VO2 max or FTP. The first time I saw this effect was early in my coaching career when an elite female cyclist was lifting on Tuesdays, alternating deadlifts and squats each week, followed by single leg press. Thursday through Sunday were her endurance workouts. After several weeks, we didn’t see the expected aerobic improvements, and workout progression had stalled. Even though she enjoyed the strength work, I cut out the strength training in favor of specific intervals for her approaching races, and shortly thereafter we saw improvements in FTP.

The exact cause is unclear to me, but there may be some clues in modern research. A recent publication looked at glycogen depletion in elite power and Olympic weightlifters who performed a lower body strength session that might look like a hard strength training session for cyclists. The workout was 4 sets of 5 squats, 4 sets of 5 deadlifts, and 4 sets of 12 rear foot elevated split squats. Muscle biopsies were taken before and after the workout in order to assess glycogen depletion. Muscle glycogen was depleted by 38% on average, but could be greater in some specific locations inside the muscle fiber.

Muscle glycogen is a limited resource in muscle, and can take days, rather than hours, to fully replenish. Glycogen depletion after a strength workout can greatly affect endurance training workouts, to nearly the same degree as one would see in an exhaustive endurance workout.

This data agrees with my coaching experience that some (but not all) cyclists experience significant reductions in performance for several days after heavy or high-volume strength training. Particularly with extensive threshold work like FTP, sweetspot, and tempo, the intensity or duration is often difficult or impossible to maintain. Further research shows that muscle glycogen content is significantly correlated with endurance capacity. For cyclists, maintaining endurance capacity means doing high-quality aerobic workouts.

The easiest way to see this fatigue is by observing a large discrepancy between power output and expected rating of perceived exertion (RPE) on a 1-10 scale. For instance, if within 2 or 3 days an athlete’s workout is 3×20 minutes at 100% FTP at an expected 7/10 RPE, but it ends up as a 9/10 RPE (and other factors are well controlled for), this can be a sign of fatigue, and in the next weeks I would begin to go through the options below to reduce this effect.


Sometimes simple solutions are best. For instance, a cyclist I coach wanted to perform strength training to improve his sprint while also improving aerobic fitness and Zwift racing on Thursdays. After his long weekend rides, he took Monday off, lifted Tuesday after a short and easy ride, and rode recovery on Wednesday. He was going into his Zwift race on Thursday with enough fatigue from lifting that it warranted a change. I moved his strength session to Monday and his day off to Tuesday. He recovered enough to do a moderate-intensity threshold workout on Wednesday and raced well on Thursday. The week after moving his strength workout to Monday, he had set his all-time best power numbers from about 10 to 45 minutes two weeks in a row.

Generally speaking, if maximum strength improvements and muscle hypertrophy are desired, hard strength workouts should be followed by rest or active recovery for 24-48 hours. If performing strength and hard endurance training on the same day, do the endurance workout first and allow at least 3 hours between workouts.

In conclusion, let’s take a brief moment to set up realistic expectations. The reality is that there is some evidence that personal training history as a strength or endurance athlete can change the above outline of adaptation interference from concurrent training effects. This means that despite the recommendations that can be made from the scientific literature, they may not provide exactly the right solutions for each individual. Experiment with the timing of your training sessions and see what works best for your personal needs. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion from a coach or experienced athlete you trust.


Strength Training for Triathletes

6 Minute Read

If you’re a triathlete who justifies skipping strength work by pointing to your busy calendar, it might be time to reassess what you’re prioritizing. Strength training is key to maximizing power and efficiency while minimizing injury risk. The following deep dive will help you understand why incorporating strength into your training schedule will help you optimize your performance on race day.

Benefits of Strength Training for Triathletes

Adapted from Strength and Power Training for Triathletes by Kelly Fillnow

Until recently, it was considered taboo for endurance athletes to lift weights, as it was associated with adding extra bulk. However, the plethora of research available shows that muscle mass is a usable component that endurance athletes should access and build. While fat mass offers energy storage, muscle mass performs the work required to race long distances.

Increased Energy Availability and Metabolism

With this in mind, an obvious way to add more muscle mass is through strength training. Strength training further improves aerobic and anaerobic capacity by the addition of more glycolytic and oxidative enzymes. The addition of more of these enzymes means that our metabolism works more efficiently at higher workloads, giving us greater means of using our energy stores. Put simply, strength training for triathletes leads to more available energy during endurance exercise.

Additionally, strength training can serve as a great supplement to endurance training in its effects on resting metabolic rate (RMR), or the amount of calories burned when doing nothing. This baseline is the bare minimum needed to maintain the human body. If an individual possesses more muscle mass, more calories are burned for body maintenance. In other words, at rest, a muscular body will burn more calories than one that does not have much muscle. More muscle also generally means better body composition.

Correct Imbalances for Injury Prevention

Another benefit of strength training includes correcting muscle and joint imbalances. Highly repetitive movements take a toll on the body, causing many imbalances. For instance, runners often have highly underdeveloped glutes and cyclists often have highly developed quadriceps yet neglected hamstrings. Correcting these issues through strength training allows for improved performance as well as prolonged performance through injury prevention.

Additionally, joint and muscle balance is key to preventing soft tissue injuries such as muscle tears and strains as well as reducing the likelihood of injuries to connective tissue. Improved ligament and tendon strength results in improved joint integrity. The forces exerted on the joints during strength training put stress on connective tissue, causing increased bone formation. The end result is improved strength and resistance to injury.

Improved Power and Economy

As discussed in previous chapters, both power and economy can be improved by strength training (see Chapter 5 for cycling-specific information).

When it comes to running, studies have shown that strength training has a direct correlation with leg stiffness, which can positively impact both running economy and mechanics. A research review published in Strength and Conditioning Journal eloquently explains this process: “Lower extremity stiffness is considered to be a key attribute in the enhancement of running activities. An athlete who can appropriately use greater stiffness characteristics will potentially store more elastic energy at landing and generate more concentric force output at push-off, possibly reducing the onset of fatigue and increasing running speed. Consequently, if a strength and conditioning coach is able to advance their athletes’ ability to act like a ‘stiff spring’ across an array of sporting movement patterns, performance enhancement may occur.”

Project Katie: Triathlon Strength Training Case Study

Adapted from Triathlon Strength Training Case Study

This case study demonstrates the positive impact of a balanced, holistic, and well-targeted strength and conditioning program.

Before and After Interventions Chart

Before and After Interventions Chart - Mobile

Top Strength Exercises for Triathletes

Adapted from Functional Strength Training for Triathletes by Allie Burdick

What exactly is functional training and why is it a great option for triathletes? Functional training, as the name implies, is based on strengthening movement patterns used in everyday movements. Every discipline in triathlon necessitates movement in all three planes of motion (i.e., frontal, sagittal, and transverse). Let’s break down each facet of triathlon and show why and how you can start training for movement, not muscle.

Strength Guide Training Example

Strength Training for the Swim

The swim is a very different animal than the bike or run. The most glaring difference is not being able to use the ground to generate power and momentum. The swim is usually executed in the prone position with your core being the single biggest propellant for all your movements in the water. The keys to a strong, fast swim are core strength coupled with hip and shoulder stability. Together, these two strength components can streamline rotational forces and lessen incorrect movement patterns. 

Some exercises that offer these benefits include:

Strength Training for the Run

While running is most obviously performed in the sagittal plane (forward motion), we know there is a frontal plane movement due to weight shifting from one side to the other, as well as transverse movement through the torso when your shoulder and opposite hip link up. Since strength and stability through all three planes of motion are clearly present, it makes sense to train them equally. This will help your body endure the stress of weekly workouts, create efficient and strong movement patterns, and lessen any imbalances that may lead to injury.

Here are some key exercises that can help you improve your run:

Strength Training for the Bike

Excerpted from The Primary Muscles Used in Cycling and How to Train Them by Mike Schultz

When it comes to strength training for the bike, there is not one group of muscle that is more important to focus on than the other. Additionally, one area of strength that is not the focus of this article but is crucial to strength on the bike is core strength. So the most productive strength training off the bike will incorporate the muscles of the legs and the core at the same time as often as possible.

Try the following exercises to get stronger on the bike:

Risks and Additional Considerations

Excerpted from Risks of Concurrent Training by Kolie Moore


Strength Training for Runners

22 Minute Read

As a runner, you know you probably should strength train, but you don’t know how, why, or where to begin. Don’t worry – we got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know from the benefits, key muscles used, ways to implement a strength program, and some tried-and-true, runner-specific exercises to start.

Because Sore Doesn’t Always Mean Stronger

Excerpted from Should You Do More Strength Training During the Off-Season? by Phil White

Although your legs might get sore from putting in the miles, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re getting stronger. Runners often experience an accumulation of chronic load from foot strikes, but that’s not the same as what you get from squats, deadlifts, plyometrics, and other kinds of strength-focused work.

Tim DiFrancesco, DPT and founder of TD Athletes Edge, wrote in an article that “the acute loads (during runs) are actually fairly low and do not provide a sufficient stimulus to produce beneficial structural changes in your muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. This is where resistance training comes in. The higher your total mileage, the more you compete, and the longer, harder, and more frequently you train, the more essential this load tolerance becomes.

Just because you’ve been able to get away with infrequent gym sessions (or skipping them entirely) doesn’t mean that this will be the case forever. Without resilient muscles and connective tissues, springy fascia, and durable joints and bones, your body will eventually break down, whether you suffer an acute injury or start to struggle with a chronic condition like plantar fasciitis, shin splits, Achilles tendonitis, and so on.”

Put simply, strength training is a must if you want to be a more resilient, powerful, and efficient runner year after year. And it’ll probably make you faster, too!

Runner-Specific Benefits of Strength Training

Excerpted from Strength Training for Runners by Fred Ormerod

If you want to be the best, most resilient runner you can be, you need to focus on three factors: VO2 max, lactate threshold, and running economy. Runners tend to focus most of their energy on improving their VO2 and lactate threshold, and running economy often gets neglected. This is also where strength training can give you the biggest boost.

Why Running Economy Matters

Excerpted from Strength Training: Why All Endurance Athletes Should Go to the Gym by Landry Bobo

Running economy is your ability to sustain a given velocity or power output with a certain VO2 value. For example, an athlete with a lower VO2 value at a given power/velocity will be more successful because the lower VO2 value means a lower energy cost and less fatigue. This was shown in a study by Costill and Winrow when two runners with the exact same VO2 max had a 13-minute difference in their marathon PR. So why the big difference? Running economy.

There is conclusive evidence that strength training improves your running economy. This is because it works your muscles in ways that are simply not possible by running alone. When you lift heavy things or do explosive plyometrics, you maximally recruit all of your muscle fibers. Over time, this results in enhanced neuromuscular recruitment, which is essentially the connection between your brain and muscles.

After even just a few strength training sessions, your body will learn to recruit your muscles more synchronously. All of the muscle fibers will learn to work in unison. Your body will also learn to send stronger signals to your muscles, producing greater force.

For runners in particular, strength training can increase the stiffness of your muscles, which helps you store elastic energy. Basically, strength training gives your legs a bungee cord effect that helps propel you without with less wasted energy.

Finding the Time: A Case Study

Excerpted and edited from Should You Do More Strength Training During the Off-Season? by Phil White

It’s hard enough to find the time to hit your weekly mileage. So how are you supposed to find even more time for strength training? Don’t worry – as it turns out, you don’t need more time. Studies show that spending a little less time on the road and a little more time in the gym, there’s a good chance you’ll see some big improvements. 

One study replaced 32% of the study’s runners’ normal training with gym work, while the other group spent 3% of their normal training in the gym. The 32% group improved 5k times, running economy, and anaerobic capacity — no change was observed in the 3% group. This occurred without any change in VO2-max between groups.

Additional Considerations Icon

Helpful Considerations: Get a Coach

Running is up to three times your body weight in terms of force being applied to the body. The issue we often see on social media is basing strength programs for runners solely around bodyweight movements, resistance bands, and high-intensity interval training. 

Finding a coach who knows how to naturally progress lifts to being more specific to running is key. Finding a coach who can meet you at your current skill level/familiarity with lifting weights is equally important. 

Get a Gait Analysis

Excerpted and edited from Do You Need a Running Gait Analysis? By Jesse Riley

Doing a running gait analysis allows you to see where your body is distributing forces during your running gait cycle. This can give you a lens into answering the question, “Why might I have pain here?”

Getting a gait analysis done (in conjunction with functional movement testing) can help you and/or your coach design a personalized strength program that not only helps you stay healthy but also improves your performance. It allows a coach to customize your programming to address specific issues in your running gait that might be causing pain or discomfort.

Key Muscles Used While Running

Excerpted and edited from Strength Training for Runners by Fred Ormerod

While running is primarily lower-body dominant, it’s important to keep in mind it’s still a full-body movement. It engages your entire posterior chain and core and requires a good amount of balance and coordination. Here’s a quick look at some of those muscles in more detail.

The muscles in your quads (vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris) are involved in extending your knee and flexing your leg at the hip.

Your hamstring muscles – the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus –  flex your knee and support it through the entire running motion.

All of the muscles in your glutes (the gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius) and the piriformis support your hips and assist in applying force to the ground, propelling you forward.

Your calf muscles (the gastrocnemius, soleus, and tibialis anterior) are responsible for flexing and extending your foot at the ankle.

And we of course can’t forget the core muscles. Your diaphragm, spinal erectors, obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis are all heavily involved when running. They help you breathe, stay upright, and stabilize your trunk.

Muscles Used While Running For Strength Training

Suggested Exercises for Runners

Excerpted and edited from The 3 Most Important Parts of Strength Training by Caitlin Glenn Sapp

To get the most out of your time in the weight room, you need to include stability, strength, and power-based movements in your workouts. If you’re not training these three critical components, you’re leaving potential performance gains on the table.

Stability Exercises

To be an efficient runner, you need to maintain core control, posture, and the ability to generate hip strength under a load. The goal of stability training is to teach your body to move smarter. Remember, it takes more energy to move if our form falls apart mid-race.

It’s best to start stability training early in the season when the overall stress is low. Do them for about 15-20 minutes, one to three days/week. If you’ve never done stability training before, it might be wise to put a little extra focus here. Once you have mastered precise movement, continue with these exercises throughout the season at least once weekly. After building a solid foundation of movement control and stability exercises, it’s time to progress to strength training.

Any dynamic core work, postural exercises, hip control, and foot control exercises count as stability work. Some examples include:

  • Swiss Ball Pike
  • Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl
  • Suspension Trainer Single Leg Squat
  • Marching Bridges
  • Single-Leg Twists with a Band

Strength Exercises

Most runners go to the gym and perform low-weight/high-repetition exercises. But to increase strength, muscle and tendon stiffness, and running economy, the forces need to be high. This is why lifting heavy is more beneficial than low-weight/high-repetition weight training, as supported by research.

Perform three to four sets of five to eight repetitions. The exercise should be taxing by the end of each set. The speed is less important than moving the weight in a controlled motion.

Examples of strength-building exercises include:

It’s best to do heavy lifting two to three times a week.

Power Exercises/Plyometrics

Running is a time-dependent sport. If you aren’t performing time-dependent activities in the weight room, you are missing an important piece of the running puzzle.

Power workouts help to promote skill development that stands alone — in contrast, running does not. Running alone won’t develop the force production or skill set needed to improve running mechanics.

Stair workouts, Olympic lifts, box jumps, and jumping rope fall into the category of plyometrics or neuromuscular training. These kinds of exercises have demonstrated excellent results, including decreased injury rates, improvements in speed and agility, improved vertical jump, and improved ground contact times — all elements that benefit runners.

With any sort of hopping or jumping drill (like box jumps), don’t start with the height of the object greater than mid-shin height. Develop good clearance and soft landing at this height before progressing.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to jump higher and higher and higher. Focus on efficiency when loading the body. Instead of progressing by adding height, adjust the ground contact time. Do this by focusing on a soft landing. Here is a good progression to try:

  • Jump up on a box softly and step down.
  • Jump up softly and then jump down and quickly back up.
  • Start on top of the box, jump down, and quickly up and over five shorter barriers.
  • Barriers can be cones, dumbbells, or speed hurdles.

These kinds of sessions work to develop skill, technique, and force. They need to be performed using good, explosive form. If at any point you begin to feel your form falter, call it a day. Incorporate plyometrics as 30-45 reps, two to three times per week.

Running puts a lot of stress on your body, and strength training is a great way to help your body handle the demands of the sport. You must be stable, strong, and powerful to reach your full potential. Any athlete who is serious about results and longevity will find a way to invest time in the weight room.


Considerations for Masters Athletes

7 Minute Read

Maintaining strong muscles and bone density is key to riding, running and swimming well into your nineties. That’s why strength training is a must, not just a “maybe when I have time.”

The impact of strength training on the physiological and biomechanical aspects of performance is profound. Working with resistance preserves muscle mass and bone health, improves neuromuscular function and maintains connective tissue integrity — all of which are critical for sustained endurance performance as we age.

It’s also worthwhile to consider the functional aspects of strength training. Chasing the grandkids around the yard, picking up your dog and carrying him, or pulling a birthday gift down from a high shelf are all movements we can work on in strength training. Being able to do these kinds of things with ease is a hallmark of healthy aging.

Well-structured strength training cannot only mitigate age-related decline, but also propel us towards higher levels of athletic achievement in our later years.

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The Endurance Athlete’s Body and Aging

Excepted and edited from Why Masters Cyclists Need Strength Training By Landry Bobo

Muscle Maintenance

Chronic muscle loss due to aging (aka, sarcopenia) can begin as early as your 30s, though the rate at which this muscle loss occurs is highly dependent upon your lifestyle. If you’re physically inactive and have a poor diet, you’ll likely lose muscle much faster than someone who frequently runs, bikes, or swims. But endurance training alone will not preserve all of your precious muscle. Fortunately, strength training can help counteract muscle loss in the following ways:

  • Two important hormones that are key to maintaining youthfulness — growth hormone and testosterone — have actually been shown to decrease with chronic endurance training. These hormones are not only essential to building and maintaining muscle, but also enhance your ability to recover and adapt from training. While synthetic testosterone is on the banned substance list, you can legally enhance your testosterone levels by going to the gym!
  • Your explosive fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones you need for a good finishing kick) are the most susceptible to sarcopenia. Strength training will help protect your race-winning muscles and give you an edge over your competition.
  • VO2 max declines with age due to a number of reasons, muscle loss being one of them. With less active muscle to pedal your bike or power your stride, your body will not consume as much oxygen to contract your muscles. Therefore, maintaining strong muscle mass can combat a decline in VO2max.
  • Having a few extra pounds of muscle improves your power-to-weight ratio and gives you a buffer when gradual muscle loss starts to happen. With a little extra muscle, you’re starting in a better place.

Brittle Bones Be Gone

Throughout puberty and into adulthood, bone mass gradually increases until it reaches its peak in your 20s. After that, you should do everything you can to keep what you’ve got. Age makes you susceptible to low bone density, which can predispose you to fractures caused by frail bones — a disease known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis affects approximately one in three women and one in five men in the United States over the age of 50.

Endurance training alone without any supplemental exercise can predispose you to developing osteoporosis. There are several reasons for this:

  • You must place stress on your bones to stimulate growth. Non-weight-bearing activities such as cycling and swimming will not stimulate bone growth.
  • Endurance training expends large amounts of energy. Combine that with a restrictive diet or inadvertent under-fueling (both common in endurance sports), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a decline in bone mass.
  • Loss of calcium through frequent sweating also contributes to low bone density.

These reasons, in addition to the high risk of falls as you age, create the perfect storm for bone fractures. strength training will benefit your performance more than aerobic cross-training and also gives you the bone-building benefits of other modes of activity.

Tips for Strength Training as a Master’s Athlete

Adapted from Training Hacks for the Masters Athlete 

1. Keep Lifting Heavy

Muscle mass decline begins in the mid to late thirties, progressing at a rate of 3-5% per decade and accelerating to 7-8% per decade in the mid to late 50s. This decline primarily impacts fast-twitch fibers, resulting in a loss of power and speed rather than endurance. Traditional endurance activities like swimming, cycling, or running aren’t enough to preserve fast-twitch fibers. You need some heavy resistance training.

Dr. Stacy Sims recommends exercises such as deadlifts, squats, and rows with heavier load and low reps. Some aging athletes worry about the potential for injury with heavy lifting, but using proper technique will pay dividends. Training heavy with good form will improve your strength, power, and resilience in connective tissues, which slows down muscle mass loss.

2. Maintain Good Range of Motion

As we age, joint tightness reduces the range of movement (ROM) around your joints, particularly impacting swimming and running in triathlons. The decrease in ROM, combined with the earlier loss of speed and power, leads to a slowdown in performance. Reduced mobility also raises the risk of injury, which is crucial to avoid in older age, considering the difficulty in regaining lost fitness.

Dr. Kelly Starrett advises athletes, especially older ones, to prioritize mobility by dedicating at least 15 minutes of mobility work for every 60 minutes of weekly training. For instance, if aiming for 10 hours of swimming, cycling, and running, a minimum of 2.5 hours should be dedicated to mobility work. See this chapter for more mobility tips!

3. Don’t Avoid High Intensity Training

As you age, the emphasis on long, slow distance diminishes, making room for high-intensity training as a priority. It seems counter-intuitive to older athletes, but incorporating high-intensity interval workouts is extremely effective, provided you are healthy and injury-free.

Aim for an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of 8-10 for approximately 10% of your total weekly training duration, adjusting based on your history, schedule, and recovery factors. Work at a similar percentage above FTP or CSS as younger athletes, focusing on quality and not hesitating to take longer recovery intervals between repetitions if needed.

4. Listen to Your Body (and Mind!)

As your personal athletic wisdom might foretell, adjustments in your recovery become essential with time and aging. In your thirties, a track and Vo2 max bike workout might have been manageable within 48 hours. Your 60s may require 72 or even 96 hours between sessions. And more recovery time with mobility work is necessary as you incorporate strength training into your routine.

Ned Overend says that the ability remains, but tasks take longer. The key is to show compassion to your body, which has served you well for decades. Attend to tired muscles, aching joints, and your well-used heart. Listening to your body is crucial, and if in doubt about a workout or your health, opt for rest or take it easy. As a seasoned athlete, exercising control over your ego helps you prioritize long-term consistency.

What to Do in the Gym

Large Muscle Group Exercises

Select exercises that give you the greatest benefit for both your performance and your health in as little time as possible. Large muscle group exercises are the way to go.

Large muscle group exercises provide a lot of bang for your buck as they work multiple muscles at the same time. They also allow for heavy loads to be used, which encourages bone adaptation. Additionally, they’re likely to transfer to everyday life as much as they do to your sport. This is also why movements like squats are a quintessential exercise for many athletes. They target the muscles you need for both cycling and running and also place load on some of the most common areas for fractures.

You need to do some exercises that strengthen your upper body, too. Bench press, shoulder press, and rows are excellent time-efficient exercises that help prevent injury and target parts of the body at risk.

Inexperienced lifters should take caution, as more complex lifts present a high risk of injury if not performed properly. You’ll still reap plenty of benefits from selecting safer exercises, such as lunges and leg presses. Finding an experienced coach will help you select exercises specific to you,  your sport, and your familiarity with the weight room. A coach will also help you periodize your strength training so it doesn’t interfere with your race performance.


Excepted and edited from How to Strengthen Tendons and Ligaments With Strength Training By William Ritter

Explosive movements like plyometrics — such as squat jumps, single leg hops, depth jumps, box jumps, and quick feet step-ups — help build tendon strength and make your legs feel a little more snappy, as long as you don’t overdo it. They’re also great for stimulating bone adaptation.

Plyometrics use the tendon’s recoil response to execute explosive movements. Take a single-leg jump, for example. The Achilles tendon lengthens and then releases energy as it recoils or shortens. Over time, this action becomes more efficient.  This 14-week study determined that there was less energy dissipating as heat and more energy being applied to the recoil of the tendon, allowing for an increase in the rate of our movements.

Plyometrics should be phased in and applied gradually to your strength training program. It’s best to have a strength base before starting plyometric work. Some studies suggest that before you begin training plyometrics, you should be able to perform a squat at 60% of your body mass five times within five seconds. Working with a coach can help you establish a solid strength foundation before you (literally) jump into plyometric work.

Examples of plyometric leg exercises that can reduce your risk of injury can be found here.

Plyometric training can have a significant impact on performance and injury resistance, but due to the high loads and sometimes complex movements associated with plyometric training, it is critical to develop a deliberate progression plan based on your sport and your experience with this type of training. It’s best to work with a coach to develop a plan of action.


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Aerobic capacity (aka, VO2 max): The maximum amount of oxygen that a subject can use per unit of time and body weight (source).

Anaerobic Capacity: The total amount of energy obtainable from the anaerobic energy systems (the combined capacity of the ATP-PCr system and lactic acid system) (source).

Ballistic: Characterized by the intention to perform a movement at maximal velocity (source).

Bodybuilding: The practice of progressively loading resistance exercises to develop one’s muscular size, striation, and density; aims to meet specific aesthetic symmetry goals through isolation exercises and a strict diet.

Calisthenics: A category of basic bodyweight exercises that create the foundation for gymnastics; includes movements like pull-ups, push-ups, dips, and L-sits.

Catabolic: The state in which the body breaks down overall mass, including fat and muscle (source).

Compound Movement: An exercise movement that works multiple muscle groups and uses multiple joints simultaneously (e.g, squat, deadlift, bench press).

Compression therapy: Helps increase blood circulation in the lower legs, ankles, and feet; considered an effective treatment for pain and swelling caused by conditions associated with poor circulation.

Concentric: The phase of an exercise in which muscles are contracted or shortened.

Concurrent Training: Simultaneously undertaking both strength and endurance training.

Eccentric: The phase of an exercise in which muscles are lengthened.

Economy: The energy required for a specific power output or velocity obtained (source).

Extension: Increases the angle between the bones and straightens the joint (source).

Fascia: A sheet of connective tissue covering or binding together body structures (source).

Fast-twitch muscle fiber: A type of skeletal muscle fiber that provides bigger and more powerful forces (compared to slow-twitch fibers) (source.)

Flexion: Decreases the angle between the bones and bends the joint (source).

Force: The amount of energy you can transfer into an object, as calculated by mass multiplied by acceleration.

Frontal Plane: A vertical plane running from side to side. Divides the body or any of its parts into anterior and posterior portions; aka, coronal plane (source).

Functional Fitness/Training: The practice of improving your overall health based on competence in the 10 components of fitness: (1) cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, (2) stamina, (3) strength, (4) flexibility, (5) power, (6) speed, (7) coordination, (8) agility, (9) balance, and (10) accuracy.

Functional Threshold Power: The greatest mean maximal power you can currently produce for one hour (source).

Glycogen: The stored form of glucose, which is a main source of energy that your body stores primarily in your liver and muscles (source).

Gymnastics: A type of training that combines strength, flexibility, agility, and dynamic power, often incorporating advanced bodyweight movements and static holds.

HIIT: High-intensity interval training is a type of interval training exercise. It incorporates several rounds that alternate between several minutes of high-intensity movements to significantly increase the heart rate to at least 80% of one’s maximum heart rate, followed by short periods of lower-intensity movements (source).

Hybrid Athlete: An athlete who practices both endurance and strength training concurrently.

Hypertrophy: Increase in muscle.

Hypotrophy: Decrease in muscle.

Isolation Movements: An exercise movement that targets specific muscles or muscle groups and uses only one joint.

Isometric: Exercise that is defined as muscle contraction without movement of the joint(s) crossed by the active muscle(s) (source).

Lactate Threshold: The exercise intensity or blood lactate concentration at which we can sustain a high-intensity effort for a specific period of time (source).

Macronutrient (aka, macros): The nutrients that your body needs in large amounts, which include fat, carbohydrates, and protein. They’re the nutrients that give you energy and are often called “macros” (source).

Motor Control: The learning and performance of motor skills, which are tasks that require voluntary control over movements of the joints and body segments to achieve a goal (e.g., riding a bicycle, walking, surfing, jumping, running, and weightlifting) (source).

Myofascial Release: An alternative medicine therapy that focuses on relieving pain in your myofascial tissues, which are the thick connective tissues that support your muscles (source).

Neuromuscular: Relating to nerves and muscles.

Olympic Weightlifting: A type of strength training that centers on two lifts: the clean and jerk, and the snatch.

Plyometrics: A type of strength training that focuses on explosive movements (like box jumps), using the stretch-shortening cycle to improve power and speed.

Powerlifting: A subculture of weight training that focuses on absolute strength in three main lifts: squat, deadlift, and bench press.

Prone Position: The position of lying flat on one’s stomach.

Rating of Perceived Exertion: A TrainingPeaks feature that translates an athlete’s perception of effort (from ‘very easy’ to ‘all out’) into a numerical score (source).

Rep: A single repetition of an exercise.

Resistance Training: Exercises that involve moving external weight against gravity to increase the size and strength of your muscles.

Resting Metabolic Rate: The amount of energy that your body needs to function while at rest (source).

Sagittal Plane: A vertical plane running from front to back; divides the body or any of its parts into right and left sides; aka, lateral plane (source).

Set: multiple repetitions of an exercise.

Strongman: Strength training that is related to powerlifting, but using odd objects like giant stones, logs, and tractor tires.

Superset: A form of exercise that focuses on working opposing muscle groups back to back with little rest in between (source).

Supine Position: The position of lying flat on one’s back.

Tempo Training: The practice of modifying the speed of movement for an exercise (source).

Time Under Tension (TUT): The length of time that the muscle fibers are straining during a given movement.

Transverse Plane: A horizontal plane. Divides the body or any of its parts into upper and lower parts; aka, axial plane (source).

Unilateral Movement: A movement that focuses on one half of the body at a time (e.g., single leg squat).

VO2 Max: The maximum volume of oxygen per minute that an athlete can capture from the air, fix at the pulmonary level, transport and utilize (source).