Program Application Series: Strength Endurance in The Sport of Fitness

by Evan Peikon


Dmitry Klokov + Haile Gebrsellasie = Strength Endurance ?
As we’ve already discussed in our article on the ATP-CP Battery, its not always the strongest athlete that wins in the sport of fitness. What we didn’t discuss in that article though is how important Strength-Endurance is in our sport and how to train it effectively to optimize performance.

Before we get started though I want to throw out the caveat that my intention for writing this article is simply to get you (the reader) thinking and to spark some inner dialect. Why you ask? I believe that the best way to learn (as a coach or athlete) is through self-realization. So, by writing this article I’m simply giving you a set of ideas/ constructs from which you can formulate your own views as it relates to applying these concepts to your training.

What is Strength Endurance
Strength Endurance as defined by Mel Stiff in Supertraining is “The Specific form of strength displayed in activities which require a relatively long duration of muscle tension with minimal decrease in efficiency.” In other, more simplified, terms Strength-Endurance is the ability to produce force under fatigue.

Why is This Important
Well, the goal for increasing strength endurance is to be as strong as possible for as long as possible. So, if an athlete can resist fatigue while under load longer than an opponent it becomes quite obvious that they have the upper hand. That being said it is also easy to see why this attribute is important in our sport where one of the fundamental concepts is to get as much work done in the shortest time frame possible.

Goals of Strength-Endurance Training
-Recruit fast twitch (FT) muscle fibers during endurance type modalities
-Increase muscle fiber recruitment.
-Increase slow twice (ST) & fast twitch (FT) muscle fiber endurance (and all fiber types in between).

In order to achieve the aforementioned goals we use the following protocols… Realize though that these are just examples to get you thinking and are in no way the end all be all to increasing Strength Endurance.

Heavy bottle necks during MAP (maximum aerobic power) training.
Usually during endurance type activities the majority of muscles fibers being recruited are slow twitch. Which makes our goal of recruiting fast twitch fibers during endurance training difficult. However, it becomes possible when implementing bottle necks into MAP training. A bottle neck (as it relates here) would be when you force an athlete to use a high force muscle contraction in order to move past a given obstacle in a workout. For Example….

For Time:
100 Cal Airdyne
5 Squat Clean @225  (max clean of 250)
100 Cal Airdyne

In this instance the athlete must recruit fast twitch fibers during an aerobic workout in order to lift a 90% maximal load and finish the training session. Which accomplishes our goal of recruiting FT fibers during endurance training.

Alactic-Aerobic Training
This method of training is a mixture between the Anaerobic Alactic and Aerobic energy systems due to the fact that an athlete must produce high force contraptions over an extended period of time (AKA- CP Battery Training). One way we accomplish this is through Heavy EMOM’s @70-90% of an athletes one reps Max. For those unfamiliar with this style of training we will give an example…

On the Minute For 12 Minutes:
2 Power Clean @85% (1RM)
*Complete 2 PC on the top of each minute, resting the remainder of the minute.

Gymnastic Density (Gymnastic Based IWT)
Gymnastic Density training is a form of CP work aimed at increasing strength endurance in self-loaded movements. The goal in this type of session is to perform a high volume of contractions under fatigue. However, the volume must be relative to the athlete,
An example of this type of session may be….

3 Sets:
20 Unbroken Pullups
2 Minute Airdyne @85%
rest 90 sec b/w sets
3 Sets:
30 Pushups
2 Minute Row @85%
Rest 90 sec b/w sets
*note the amount of contractions performed must be relative to the athlete such that they can accomplish the task.
*also note that this type of session is similar to IWT, though it is self loaded.

High rep strength training
This one is pretty straightforward, and since there is so much information about it already ill skip right to the programming application.
For multi joint movements I choose to do 8-12 reps, and sets are varied based on the tempo of the movement (however the range can be anywhere from 3-5 sets depending on the level of the athlete).

So for Example:
Back Squat; 8-12 reps x3 sets; rest 2 min b/w sets

For single joint movements I choose to do 12-15 reps (once again this is my preference, and would be relative to the athlete).
So for Example:
DB Skull Crusher; 12-15 reps x3 sets; rest 90 seconds

Hopefully this article has given you a foundation from which you can begin to construct your own ideas in regards to programming for strength endurance. As always feel free to ask questions/ discuss in the comments section below 


2 thoughts on “Program Application Series: Strength Endurance in The Sport of Fitness

    • Since writing this article my views have changed a bit, but here are some general thoughts….
      The current research does show that volume (irregardless of reps/ sets/ time between sets) plays the biggest role in muscle hypertrophy. So in this regard higher sets makes a lot more sense than higher reps as you will be able to tolerate more volume with less fatigue, thus creating a larger stimulus. However, when trying to elicit gains in strength capacity reps per set, time between sets, and total volume are all variables which have large magnitudes of effect. So while higher sets is important you absolutely need a longer time under tension and shortened (incomplete) rest periods as well to get the desired effect. Ie- the point I’m trying to make is that the variables we manipulate are relative to the goal we are trying to achieve.

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