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Resistance Training Programs – Endurance

by | August 3, 2019

In the past, resistance training programs for endurance athletes have not been embraced as part of their overall training plan. One reason is that athletes are not sure what to do or how to incorporate resistance training programs into their endurance sport. Another is because people have the false belief that strength training will result in too much hypertrophy. This weight gain would lead to a decreased level of performance would slow them down or tire them out. Fortunately, science has the answer for both of these problems because there are researched methods to increase a person strength without really getting bigger. Science shows that resistance training is vital to the development of endurance athletes. The basic concepts of periodization that are used by endurance athletes are more well studied in resistance training.

Exercises can be broken down in so many different ways but in order to make things simple we are to break them down into just five types of exercises: Gait (walking/running), pushing, pulling, squats and hip hinges. Language is not universal on the Internet so when I talk about pushing and pulling, I am talking about upper body exercises, whereas others may talk about upper body pushing, lower body pushing (squats), upper body pulling and lower body pulling (hip hinge). You can add resistance to any of these exercises including gait (speed training with a parachute).  

When it comes to some of these exercises, it can be a good idea to have somebody who knows what they’re doing show you how to perform the exercise. It is not a bad idea to have a personal trainer show you how to do some of these moves in order to make sure that you’re safe. There are some books that can help you by explaining how to do the movements like Starting Strength. There are a significant number of people who are unable to squat correctly and they need to be taught how to do it safely. There are even more people who are unable to do it hip hinge properly. The hip hinge is one of the most important motions for people to know how to do because it is literally the motion that you should use when you’re picking up something off of the floor. The problem is is that people have the tendency to use too much movement in their spine and not quite enough movement in their hips. Repeated rounding of the back while doing hip hinges like deadlifts or kettle bell swings can directly lead to herniated discs.The exercises listed below are not intended to be a complete list, but they are a good start for beginners. 

Push (Upper Body)

  • Push-up (bodyweight)
  • Bench Press (barbell, dumbbells)
  • Chest Press (machine)
  • Overhead Press (barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells)
  • Incline Press (barbell, dumbbells)
  • Handstand Push-Ups (bodyweight)

Pull (Upper Body)

  • Chin-up (bodyweight)
  • Pull-Up (bodyweight)
  • Bent-Over Row (barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells)
  • Seated Row (machine)
  • Lat Pulldown (machine)
  • Inverted Row (bodyweight)
  • Renegade Row (dumbbell, kettlebell)


  • Goblet Squat (kettlebell, dumbbells)
  • Back Squat (barbell)
  • Front Squats (barbell, kettlebell)
  • Leg Press (machine)
  • Bulgarian Split Squat (dumbbell, kettlebell)
  • Forward Lunge (barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell)

Hip Hinge

  • Kettlebell Deadlift
  • Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
  • Barbell Deadlift (Conventional, Sumo)
  • Kettlebell Clean
  • Barbell Clean (Power, Hang, Muscle, etc.)
  • Kettlebell Snatch
  • Barbell Snatch (Power, Hang, Muscle, etc.)
  • Kettlebell Swing
  • Barbell Good Morning

Resistance exercises can also be broken down into the goals that you have for the exercise, this would include building maximal strength, power (explosive movement), hypertrophy and endurance strength. Each of these different goals means that the number of sets, reps and rest time differs in order to build towards the specific goal. An inexperienced lifter is going to improve in all of these aspects when they initially start lifting. Once a person has some experience, it is hard to build toward more than one of these goals at a time.

The body also has the tendency to adapt to what you are challenging it with over time, so while people have the tendency to make significant progress when they start working towards one of these goals, but then they start to Get diminishing returns. Because of this one of the things that people can try to do is cycle the goals that they are trying to work towards every 8 to 12 weeks. So during the beginning of the off-season, an endurance athlete can work towards increasing the amount of maximal strength that they have. During the preseason, the endurance athlete can switch their focus towards developing more endurance strength. An athlete can switch towards maintaining endurance strength while they are in-season.

Maximal strength means that you are trying to lift as much as possible. This movement doesn’t typically happen quickly. In order to lift more weight you have to lift a lot of weight, but because you’re lifting a lot of weight you won’t be able to lift it very many times. People also typically need a decent amount of rest in between sets in order to recuperate. This would be the focus of a power lifter who works to improve their bench press, back squat and deadlift.

Hypertrophy means that a person is trying to build up the size of their muscles. This is going to be the main focus of somebody who is doing bodybuilding.

Lifting for power means that you are trying to generate force quickly. These are explosive types of movements but caution needs to be used because they can be problematic for beginners. The muscles and the tendons need to be extremely strong and resilient before really attempting to do these types of exercises. Someone who is not conditioned to do them can definitely cause tendinopathies, so they are not the best idea for beginners. For example, if a beginner is joining a CrossFit box, that beginner should build up some strength over several months before they start doing box jumps. The classic examples of power exercises are at the Olympic lifts. The explosive force and flexibility needed to get a gold medal in a  snatch or a clean and jerk is immense. You will note that powerlifting is actually a misnomer because the main goal in powerlifting is to develop maximal strength. Powerlifting exercises typically move extremely slowly and they are not about explosive force.

Strength endurance is about maintaining force production during fatigue. When we get tired, it is harder to develop intensity in the muscle. If you do resistance training for muscular endurance, you are trying to increase your ability to use a certain amount of your muscle over an extended interval of time. This is obviously of great importance to runners and triathletes. The amount needed by a endurance athlete depends on the sport and is the resistance encountered when cutting their way through the water or wind at their desired speed.  


Type Sets Reps Rest
Strength 2-6 <6 2-5 min
Hypertrophy 3-6 6-12 0.5-1.5 min
Power 3-5 1-5 2-5 min
Endurance 2-3 >12 <30 sec

The goal of all of this is for a person to perform at a higher level. Increasing your maximal strength, power and strength endurance will improve your times and with help you PR. Those who win races have a better power output than the average participant. So how do we apply these concepts to improve your strength and conditioning?

The first thing to do is to go to the list of different exercises and choose one exercise from underneath the Push, Pull, Squat and Hip Hinge categories. If you’re not sure how to do them, Google and YouTube can help you. The next thing that you need to do is decide what type of strength that you want to develop and choose the appropriate row under the types of resistance training in order to determine the general number of sets, reps and rest in between sets that you should start with. It can take a while but tried to choose a weight or intensity that will allow you to do the number of sets/reps listed comfortably. There are ways to modify the body weight exercises to make them either easier or harder depending on your needs.

A quick calculation shows that there are over 2000 variations to this exercise program without taking into account the variations between using barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells.

For example, let’s go through and pick the first exercise in each category above. It would give us the push-up, the chin-up, the goblet squat and the kettlebell single-leg deadlift. Because our goal is going to be strength endurance, we will choose that which gives us 2 to 3 sets of more than 12 reps with less than 30 seconds rest in between sets. With endurance training, the only thing that we would need to decide here would be whether or not we would want to do these four exercises sequentially with the proper rest time in between sets or to do them as a circuit and do exercises back to back. If we decided to do it as a circuit, we would have to choose whether we wanted to do one circuit or split them up into two circuits. If we decided you to circuits, we could group them into one upper body exercise and one lower body exercise for each circuit. For more specific examples, look below.

 Traditional Workout

  • Goblet Squat                      3 sets of 15 reps with a 20 lbs. Dumbbell
  • Push-Up                              3 sets of 15 reps (Modified on Knees)
  • Chin up                                3 sets of 15 reps (Assisted with pull-up bands)
  • KB Single Leg Deadlift       3 sets of 15 reps with a 26 lbs. Kettlebell 

Circuit Option #1 

Goblet Squat, Push-Up, Chin up & KB Single Leg Deadlift

  • Using weights or modifications from Traditional Workout
  • Rest ten seconds between exercises
  • Rest 20 seconds between sets
  • Complete Three times

Circuit Option #2 

Circuit A: Push-Up & Goblet Squat

Circuit B: Chin-ups & KB Single Leg Deadlift

  • Using weights or modifications from Traditional Workout
  • Rest ten seconds between exercises
  • Rest 20 seconds between sets
  • Complete Circuit A 3 times, then complete Circuit B three times

These exercises can also be converted over into CrossFit style workouts by changing the focus from completing 3 sets of 15 reps of each exercise to doing the exercises for time. In the situation you set a time limit like 10 minutes and see how many reps that you can get in that timeframe. CrossFit calls this AMRAP for “As Many Reps As Possible”.

  • Goblet Squats
  • Kettlebell Swings 
  • Overhead Presses 
  • Renegade Rows


  • Handstand Push-Up
  • Inverted Row
  • Air Squat
  • Back Bridge
    • Not pure Hip Hinge exercise


  • Leg Press
  • Chest Press
  • Seated Row
  • Good Morning


  • KB Press
  • KB Bent over Row
  • KB Overhead Squat
  • KB Snatch


  • DB Bulgarian Split Squat
  • DB Renegade Row
  • DB Incline Press
  • DB Romanian Deadlift


  • Low Bar Back Squat
  • Incline Press
  • Bent-Over Row
  • Power Clean

These are just a few of the examples of programming that is available for resistance training. For many books to use as resources, take a look at our Recommended Reading page under the “Strength & Conditioning” Heading

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