Strength: Variable Load Training Combines Strength & Endurance

Strength: Variable Load Training Combines Strength & Endurance

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

Traditionally, there are two ways to improve strength-endurance, the ability to perform high-intensity movements over a long period of time.

Traditional Methods
The first method is to improve an athlete's maximum strength. Studies have shown that a stronger muscle has greater endurance capacity than a weaker muscle.

The other method is a program of high-repetition training, in which 30-50 repetition sets with light weights are performed. Rather than improve muscle-strength, this method enhances local muscle-endurance by improving blood circulation and the ability to withstand high levels of lactic acid.

High-rep work generally uses weights of 30-50% because heavier weights can't be lifted this many times (researchers believe that a load of more than 66% of maximum is required to improve maximal strength).

So, to optimize the development of strength-endurance, it makes sense to follow a program that combines maximum strength training and high-repetition training. This method, called Variable Load Training is currently the best method of developing strength-endurance.

Variable Load Training
Variable Load Training combines maximal strength work (employing heavier weights) with high-repetition endurance training. It does this by employing three sets of 10 repetitions each, using a high-load on the first set, and less weight on each subsequent set. As a result, max strength training with loads of over 70%, is combined with a high number of repetitions (30) for improved endurance.

  • 10 reps @ 70% of maximum
  • 10 reps @ 60% of maximum
  • 10 reps @ 50% of maximum

Athletes in longer events could add extra sets at 40% of maximum and even lower.

Who Needs Strength-Endurance?
Although any athlete benefits from improved strength endurance, athletes who require it the most include middle-distance runners, swimmers, cross-country skiers, rowers, cyclists and canoers.   

1. J. Bloomfield, T.R. Ackland & B.C. Elliot, Applied Anatomy and Biomechanics in Sport, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1994.
2. Frederick Delavier & Michael Gundill, The Strength Training Anatomy Workout, Human Kinetics, 2011.

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© 2011, Physical Education,

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