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Benefits of Combining Strength and Endurance Training

If you want to gain maximum benefit from an exercise program, you should combine endurance heart-lung training with resistance muscle strength training. The safest way to do this is to:
• do your endurance training with your legs such as running, walking or cycling, and
• aim your resistance training on your upper body and core in your belly and back.

Researchers in Australia showed that adding a weight lifting program to cycling or running will help to improve performance only if you know that when your muscles are sore, you have to take the day off or go slow and easy (Sports Medicine, July 2017;1–14).
• After running or cycling very intensely, you need to go slow and easy for more than 24 hours.
• After lifting weights intensely, you should go easy for several days with the same muscle groups.
If you want to train the same muscle groups for both endurance and strength, you need to use long recovery periods of less intense exercise after each intense workout or you will be at high risk for an over-training syndrome of chronic fatigue and muscle damage. You should not exercise at a fast pace or lift very heavy weights when your muscles are still sore from a previous workout.

How to Combine Strength and Endurance Training
You can develop larger and stronger leg muscles just by cycling or running and not lifting weights (Int J Exerc Sci, Jan 1, 2017;10(1):137-145). However, you can become faster and stronger by combining strength and endurance in your training program (Eur J Appl Physiol, Mar 2003;89(1):42-52), but you have to back off any program when your muscles feel sore. For example, inexperienced, out-of-shape middle-aged men were stronger with just cycling than those combining cycling and leg weight lifting (Eur J Appl Physiol, May 2005;94(1-2):70-5). High-intensity interval cycling done after heavy-resistance exercise can decrease strength gains because of the soreness it causes (Scand J Med Sci Sports, Sept 23, 2016).

You need to back off from intense workouts when your muscles feel sore. You can set up a schedule for lifting weights every other day and alternate running intensely on one day and easy on the next, but always listen to your body and back off if your muscles hurt. One study showed that in just six days of this training, your muscles will be so sore that you won't be able to exercise intensely and you will have a significant decrease in strength (Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Aug 2015;86(4):387-396).

My Program (82-Year-Old Man)
Strength Training: I try to go to the gym every day and use the upper-body weight machines. I do only one set with a comfortable weight until my muscles start to fatigue. On most of the machines I do a set of 50 to 100 repetitions. This type of training does not give me large muscles, but it does help me to avoid injuries.
Endurance: On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, I ride a recumbent tandem with Diana in our tandem bike group for 25 to 30 miles. We do not go flat out but we do pick up the pace at the end of each ride. On the other four days, I attempt to do intervals on my upright bike. My legs are usually stiff in the morning. If they do not recover after a 5 to 10-minute warmup, I take the day off. I usually have to take a day off every sixth to tenth day because of muscle soreness.

My intervals are done fast enough to make me short of breath, but they are not done at my maximum effort. I do 50 pedal strokes and do not start my next interval until I feel that I have recovered completely from my previous interval. I stop my workout when my legs do not recover a few seconds after I finish an interval. I usually do between 21 to 24 repeat intervals. See Principles of Training.

Caution: Intense exercise can cause a heart attack in a person who has blocked arteries or heart damage. Check with your doctor before you start a new exercise program or make a sudden increase in the intensity of your existing program.

Checked 7/22/18

August 6th, 2017
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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