Strength Training: Less is more!

What’s the optimum volume of strength training to ensure maximum sport-performance gains?

BFunctional emphasises the benefits that a properly constructed and implemented strength-training program can produce on athletic performance. An obvious benefit is that the increased resilience of stronger muscles can help reduce the risk of injury – both those arising from inherent weaknesses and those of strength imbalances.

If you’re still not convinced of the benefits of strength training, consider also that a large body of research has established that strength training can significantly boost endurance muscle efficiency – more technically known as ‘economy’(1-5). See the figure below on muscle economy and how to improve it. In plain English, this means that endurance athletes who strength train are able to run/cycle/swim at a sub-maximal pace for a reduced oxygen (and therefore energy) consumption, resulting in extended endurance capacity.

Summary of some recent findings on strength training and muscle economy(1-5)

Summary

Studies on men and women, old and young, trained and untrained all suggest that the sweet spot is around 5-10 sets per muscle per week. Less than that is insufficient to produce optimum results. More than 10 sets is likely to excessively overload muscle tissue, impairing recovery, in turn reducing strength and muscle mass gains.

For athletes, this is good news; a relatively low volume of training is much more easily accommodated into an existing programme. For example, six sets per muscle group per week could mean just two workouts per week employing three sets per muscle group per workout. With maybe three or four sport-specific muscle groups to target, this would entail just 9-12 sets per workout, enabling the athlete to complete a strength session in 20-30 minutes maximum –relatively easy to slot into a busy training schedule!

BFunctional Methods

Of course, the quality of the exercise movement and loading-reps combination is important as ever; this is where the expertise of a coach or strength and conditioning coach becomes invaluable.

BFunctional provides a 48 week Strength Program for Endurance Athletes, both remotely [Silver program] and 1-2-1 [Gold Program]. Throughout which the emphasis is on the lower volumes for strength gains [4-8 sets], translating to improved resilience and performance. If you wish to know more then please drop us a line here.

References

  1. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2002 Oct;12(5):288-95
  2. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Nov;19(4):826-30
  3. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Aug;24(8):2157-65
  4. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jun;40(6):1087-92
  5. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Nov;20(4):947-54
  6. PLoS One. 2017 Oct 20;12(10):e0186601
  7. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2019 Jun 12:1-23
  8. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Mar;51(3):515-52
  9. Sports Med. 2015 Dec;45(12):1693-720
  10. Peak Performance