Stewart Athletic Development

A beginners guide to Hybrid training part 3: Resistance training & Programming considerations

In part 2 we covered aerobic training and conditioning for Hybrid athlete’s. It covered some practical applications and considerations for maximising results. If you haven’t already checked it out, it can be found here ( https://stewartathleticdevelopment.com/a-beginners-guide-to-hybrid-training-part-2-aerobic-cardiovascular-training-for-hybrid-athletes/  ). Leading in to todays article. You will need to have read it (and instalment 1), as there is considerable crossover.

Resistance training recommendations for hybrid athletes

Todays article will cover  resistance training (yay) for hybrid (and endurance) athlete’s. This section is not going to be “what is the best exercise for x”, more it will give you framework in which you can build from. If you are a hybrid athlete and actively partaking / competing in strength sports, your exercise selection is going to be based around your phase of training and proximity to competing, as the exercises selected will be to varying levels of competition “specificity”. If you are just an endurance athlete reading this, but want to maximise both your strength and endurance training, you have much more variation to choose from.

First up, we will look at a traditional approach to resistance training. If you have partaken in resistance training before, this is probably what you have done in some capacity or another. As a rough overview, a traditional approach may typically look like this.  

Strength: Typically 1-7 reps over 3-10 sets. Usually between 77-100% of 1rm

Hypertrophy:  8-15 reps over 3-6 sets ranging from 55-80% of 1rm

Within that. Rest periods are generally shorter for hypertrophy work, and longer for strength work. For shorter rest periods, there is an accumulation of by products associated with hypertrophy, and longer rest periods allow for higher quality movement and outputs. Fairly straightforward, and not too ground breaking.

Strength training for hybrid athletes using a traditional approach

From a strength training perspective, a traditional approach will involve working at relatively high intensities for lower reps and higher sets. This will mean repeated exposure to specific movement patterns, thus developing more efficient neural pathways. You will also get stronger (duh). But a common question is, “What has strength training got to do with endurance training?”

Well, quite a bit. If you want to be good at endurance training. To put it bluntly, if you are an endurance athlete and not doing strength training, you’re seriously limiting your own performance.

Strength as a quality, has an impact on movement economy (runners will be familiar with the term running economy) for endurance athletes. In that, increased strength levels are strongly associated with improved movement economy.

Got your attention now, huh?

Movement economy is simply put, the relative demand in which the body requires for locomotion. So if you had two people, both running at 6km per hour, but one was a distance runner and one was sedentary. The movement economy is going to be poor for the sedentary person, because the effort (both physical exertion and energy supply) for them to maintain that speed is going to be much higher, than the distance runner. Now movement economy isn’t just strength / power (it is also your aerobic / anaerobic conditioning as well – previous article will help with that) but in this article, we will just be looking at the resistance training side of things.

When you are moving in your endurance training / events, it is repeated muscle contractions & relaxations over a period of time. If you need to speed up, the demand becomes higher, and if you need to slow down, the effort is lessened. During these actions, you will be recruiting a certain amount of motor units and muscle fibres to allow movement. When moving at competition or race velocity, this will remain fairly constant from an energy perspective. However, that velocity will be different from person to person (as state above). By increasing your strength levels (i.e maximal strength), submaximal work becomes easier, and the relative intensity of what is actually submaximal changes (I know it can become confusing, stick with it).

Say for examples sake, your squat 1 rep maximum (heaviest weight you can lift for 1 rep) is 100kg. 60kg would be 60% of your 1rm. But if you increased your squat1rm to 120kg, 60kg is now only 50% of 1rm. So if you were to squat 60kg, the relative effort is now less. This will (or should, as long as your training programme is appropriate) have a positive impact on movement economy.

In terms more meaningful to you, Your 60% of race speed or effort, would now be at a higher velocity. I.e you would be moving faster at 60% after strength training, than before strength training (e.g old 60% was 3.5 m/s and new is 4 m/s -please note, these are arbitrary made up speeds). Or, if you were to match your old 60% velocity (3.5 m/) you would do so with less effort, as it now only 50% effort vs 60.

So how does this happen?

Strength training underpins something known as rate of force development (RFD) and is underpinned by maximal strength training (to a point). Rate of force development, is simply how quickly you can apply maximal, or close to maximal force. This is achieved through quickly recruiting motor units and muscle fibres to allow muscles to relax and contract.

Top end sprinters are excellent for producing high RFD levels. As they can apply tremendous amounts of force, very quickly. Powerlifters are fantastic at producing force, but the velocity is low. Something like a javelin throw is high in velocity, but doesn’t produce as much force (relatively speaking). To help with understanding, I have attached a force / velocity relationship diagram

However, to have a relatively high RFD, you have to be able to produce the force in the first place. You simply cannot produce force which doesn’t exist. And strength training helps with force production. So there, that is how strength training helps to improve endurance performance. Hybrid athlete’s will still need relatively high RFD to be successful in aerobic training and any power training they do.

(Worth noting – there are limitations with the force / velocity diagram & relationship discussion. It implies that things which are high in speed, are low in force e.g sprinting. This is not the case – but is a separate discussion. This will help with some illustration however)

Hypertrophy training for Hybrid athlete’s using a traditional approach

Going back to hypertrophy training, in a traditional approach it is typically higher number of reps per set, and shorter recovery sets. Now some of the hypertrophy crew may come forward with “wElL AkShuAlLy… research has been shown that hypertrophy can occur from 30-85%+ 1rm” and reps ranging from 3-20. I do not dispute this. I never have. But there are caveats with these findings (which are often overlooked when people fail to remember life exists outside of P= <0.05 values..) which I have previously discussed in an article dedicated to hypertrophy (which is found here –  https://stewartathleticdevelopment.com/a-beginners-guide-to-winning-the-hyper-trophy-the-keys-to-getting-jacked-and-tanned/  )… so read that. Please. Back to the main point…

From a hypertrophy perspective, a traditional approach utilises a higher number of reps (duh) which in turn increases the TUT that the body is exposed to. TUT, is a mechanical factor (not the only one) in eliciting hypertrophy. There is also a greater demand on muscles from an energy standpoint. This can help with developing a greater local muscular endurance (LME) effect, whilst still working with relatively high loads.

LME is important, particularly for endurance focused sports. The longer you can “endure” the more efficient your movement comes from both a biomechanical and substrate (energy) usage perspective. You may hear of runners discussing “running economy” and by improving running economy, the relative effort of a given task decreases. The same principle applies to other movements when you develop the capacity and efficiency of the joint actions and tissues related to said joints. Consequentially, you can maintain a higher power output during propulsion. i.e. you can travel further, faster and for longer. 

We know that increasing the height of the ceiling (i.e improving maximal strength) will help with LME, so you don’t need to do any of the stupidly high rep sets that are typically associated with LME training. Traditional LME training ranges between 30-50% of 1rm, but if you increase your overall 1rm, that relative 30-50% also increases. This is what is meant by “increasing the height of the ceiling”. Simply put, it is increasing your strength potential. This is very much related to the above points on strength training. Revisit if needs be.

You may think this is a support for cluster training (discussed below), as during clusters you are working at a higher relative intensity. But cluster training is not taken overly close to failure. As a result there is no exposure to what it’s like for muscle fatigue feels like, nor the ability to adapt to this fatigue sensation (both from a physiological perspective and psychologically speaking). Anyone who has competed in a long-distance event (which may surprise some of the readers but this does include me – highland cross finisher 2011 #humblebrag) will testify how bloody awful that jelly leg, depleted and just generally gassed feeling is. A traditional approach, and training taken close to failure does give some similar sensations here

Do you want bigger muscles as a hybrid athlete?

The answer to this question is highly individual to you. So I will give you some considerations for being jacked whilst a hybrid athlete.

  1. A bigger muscle has the capacity to produce more force, however, bigger muscles also require more O2 to be oxygenated. Thus, the energy demand for contraction can increase
  2. Increased muscle = increased total mass. This means there is more mass to move which again, has an energy cost
  3. However, if you compete in strength sports as well, you may need to fill out your weight class

Now, these aren’t the only considerations for whether you should or shouldn’t be looking to gain muscle as a hybrid (or endurance) athlete. But these are some things you might want to consider.

Concluding a traditional approach

Overall, a more “traditional” approach encompasses the best of both worlds. You are getting exposure to training closer to failure (which also has hypertrophy & strength benefits), a greater oxidative stress & the ability to oxygenate muscles during exercise (again, important for performance) whilst still developing strength and hypertrophy. Which ultimately is the goal. You can still use a traditional approach to build power and explosive contractile qualities as well. It (like everything) takes experience and application to do so effectively, from an experienced coach.

So what about a non-traditional approach? Cluster training has joined the chat

The use of Cluster sets can be very useful for concurrent training. Particularly when applied to lower / full body exercises which demand a high level of Central Nervous System (CNS) Activity (Squats, deadlifts etc) and there are a few reasons for this, which we will look at. For those unsure about cluster training, there are 2 main ways in which you can perform clusters, and we will look at both below. In this context, both the benefits of strength and hypertrophy will be discussed. Rather than rehashing what strength and hypertrophy are, and why they help performance. Whilst eh application of how, is different with cluster training, the end results are theoretically the same in principle.

Cluster type 1 

Cluster training is when you “Cluster” multiple subsets into 1 big set. For arguments sake, we will use simple numbers. Your target no reps for your big set is 9, so you’ll do 3 repetitions, rest 10-15s do another 3 reps, rest 10-15s and perform the final 3 reps, totalling 3 “clustered” subsets into 1 big set of 9 reps. This is then repeated for the prescribed number of sets. In between the “clustered” sets you take adequate recovery based on the desired training adaptation, and the load being lifted. Typically subsets are made up of 1-5 reps. 3 seems to be a bit of a sweet spot for most. 

Cluster type 2

These clusters are performed over a longer period of time, and are also a variation on density training. This method uses a technique called EMOM (Every minute on the minute) repetitions, over a prescribed timeframe. These can also be  E2MOM in which it is every 2 minutes on the minute you go. For example, you could perform 3 repetitions EMOM over a 10 minute time frame, giving you a total of 30 working repetitions in a short time frame.

Cluster type 1 can be progressed by increasing the number of sets, and by increasing the number of reps, which will increase the no of clusters done. Cluster type 2 can be progressed by either changing the number of reps done EMOM / E2MOM, lowering the reps but increasing intensity (Weight lifted) or by simply extending the length of your work set. E.G 3 EMOM’s over a 12 minute period, not 10.

Regardless of using option 1 or 2, the goal is the same. To maintain a higher bar speed velocity (How fast the bar moves measured in metres (m) / seconds (s)) and high movement quality. In traditional sets we will see a decrease in bar speed in the later reps. Depending on the training status of the individual, there may also be a decrease in movement quality. This decrease in movement quality 1) Reduces the efficiency of movement & can engrain poor movement patterns and 2) may increase the risk of injury. In theory (And practise), clusters can improve strength whilst maintaining high velocities, which may transfer more effectively into sport for athletes

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There is also an argument for using cluster training to elicit hypertrophy in athletic populations vs traditional hypertrophy training. The argument comes back to functional vs non-functional hypertrophy (There are various definitions of what this is). The proposed argument (In the context of this article) of functional vs non-functional hypertrophy, is that hypertrophy elicited via mechanisms which can maintain high velocity in contraction are going to be more “functional” vs more traditional hypertrophy training. The theory is that muscles elicited via cluster training produce more force, thus more “functional”. Some will agree, some will call bullshit. I’m not here to dispute it either way, just laying out information for readers to do with as they please

“Traditional” hypertrophy & Strength training typically has a greater mechanical stress from a greater time under tension (TUT) but a significant drop in barbell velocity as fatigue sets in and muscle contraction is impeded. We know that whilst 10×3 and 3×10 equals the same total reps, they don’t necessarily cause the same adaptation. The actual volume load (Total work completed) is likely to be far higher on 10×3, as you can lift more weight for less repetitions, even with a far higher number of sets. We also know that volume & volume load is a far bigger driver for hypertrophy than TUT.

Logically speaking, there is some merit to this theory. We know a larger muscle has a greater potential to produce and express force than a smaller muscle (Yes there are caveats here, but the potential is higher). However, in a sporting context, what use is it if the muscle can’t do it quickly?. Because most sports (Out with powerlifting and some strongman events) don’t happen slowly. They happen fast!. And if you could get a bigger muscle that can also produce force quickly, and repeat this then.. you are onto a winner

Resistance training conclusions

I will wrap up the lifting recommendations here. I’m not saying you have to do clusters. You can absolutely build strength, power & hypertrophy with more traditional training whilst still having explosive contractile qualities. This has been done by many coaches (myself included). I am just saying, these are another tool in your toolbox. I (personally) tend to favour a more traditional approach, but clusters absolutely have their purpose within a training programme for definite. One may be better suited to you, depending on your desired adaptations etc. Use what you feel is more suitable for your current needs (or hire a coach)

Structuring concurrent & endurance training

Finally, we will look at waysin which you can structure your training blocks. Programme structure is very important for concurrent athlete’s, so get your notepad an pen at the ready. If you try and wing it, you are most likely going to fail. Concurrent training is absolutely possible, but it does require a greater level of planning and structure. So the first recommendation…

Consolidate your high days

Consolidatecombine (a number of things) into a single more effective or coherent whole.

This is something I have talked about in a video on Structuring your training week (https://www.instagram.com/p/CMANHRwHs8L/ ). This video will be particularly useful for concurrent training, if you haven’t already, I would recommend you check it out. There is however a couple of specific points made in that video which I will address here, as they are pretty useful. The next points are incredibly important for all types of athlete’s. However, I am going to predominantly focus on hybrid athlete’s here. But it still applies to you, irrespective of sport and  / or goals.

In the context of training, “high” days are training days in the week where they are particularly high in stress. This can be high in CNS demand, physiological strain, biomechanical strain, volume etc. Essentially within a training week, you should have some High days, some low days and some moderate days. One of the reasons that consolidating your high sessions into a “high day” is to reduce the overall impact on training and recovery throughout the week. If you have 2 hard endurance sessions a week, and 2 hard resistance training sessions per week, all on separate days, that is 4/7 days of the week as high. And that is 1) disgusting and 2) not ideal. Why?

All stress and fatigue is related to the CNS. The more it is stressed, the more fatigue starts to play a part. Overshooting on fatigue leads to non-functional over-reaching. If this is is left unchecked it can lead to overtraining syndrome. If you reach a point of overtraining (And I mean true over training) it will take months, possibly even years to recover from depending on how badly you overcooked yourself.

By consolidating your high days you are reducing frequency in the number of high days the CNS is exposed to, which will help to manage fatigue and also allow effective medium and low days. Remember, not all training needs to be super hard to be effective. Whilst the high days are going to be tough, in the long run (no pun intended) consolidating them may be effective. In terms of structuring high approaches, there are 2 particularly effective ways of doing this. I will explain both, and also the pros and cons of each option.

Option 1

You cycle the “high” based on the training. What do I mean by this? ,If you are pushing for improving resistance training focused adaptations, and endurance focused adaptations then you are going to need high days. But strength training and aerobic capacity both have long training residuals i.e how long it takes for each quality to begin to detrain. Which is helpful for option 1.

I am going to use a 4 week training block as an example. In week 1, on the high days you will push the intensity and really try to improve on your endurance training, whilst maintaining the resistance training adaptations. In week 2, you will push the resistance training adaptations, and maintain the cardiovascular training adaptations. Week 3, you repeat the same idea as week 1, but a little more (Going back to the G.A.S theory). Week 4… yup, you guessed it. Repeat the same idea as week 2 but again, a little more.

With this approach, you can then adjust your medium & low days accordingly, and deload whilst necessary. This is still consolidating your high days, but a little easier on the body and mind.

Option 2

Now this option is a good bit tougher from both a physical and psychological perspective, but it might improve the rate of adaptation (Assuming that training is structured in a sensible fashion and not full on YOLO). The principle is the same in that you are consolidating your high days, but you are not undulating the focus week in week out. You really drop the hammer on both cardiovascular training and resistance training on your high days. So rather than maintenance on 1, and pushing on 2, you push on 1 & 2.

For fairly obvious reasons, you can see why this would be the tougher of the two options. But it means you are never running on maintenance (Out with structured deloads) hence why adaptation is theoretically going to be faster. If you opt for option 2, you are going to have to pay much closer attention to detail on recovery, performance etc. Think of option 2 as higher risk higher reward. The gains might be faster, but it will be much easier to overcook yourself. You will need to keep a very close eye on recovery, and have solid recovery metrics in place such as RHR, Sleep, nutrition tracking etc. I will be discussing recovery in another article.

Another important thing to remember, is how you consolidate your high days. In a high day, if you choose a high-volume session for 1 training mode, but high intensity for another, you are likely to have a pretty terrible time regardless of which way round it is. When consolidating your highs, try and make it the same type of high. Got a high intensity Cardiovascular session? Pair it with a high intensity resistance training session not a high-volume resistance training session. And in terms of what will be worse to consolidate, volume vs intensity? Volume is gonna win that round easily.

You also want to think about how you are going to separate out these sessions. Higher volume or intensity Cardiovascular sessions are more likely to have a negative impact than a higher intensity resistance training session. Higher volume resistance training sessions might be a little trickier, but as long as you aren’t training your legs like a bro / bodybuilder you should be ok. In an Ideal world you’ll have between 6-10 hours between sessions, but we know the ideal world and the real world don’t always coincide..

Training splits

Firstly you wanna look at how you are actually training in terms of structure. This is what is known as a training split. How you structure your splits will have an influencing factor on overall structure of your programme. If you are an athlete you are most likely to be following full body splits, the exception to this may be powerlifters (However full body splits are not uncommon). If you are gen pop its likely to be either 1) Full body split 2) Lower body split or 3) body part split / bro split such as chest day, leg day etc (Screams internally). For the purposes of this article, I will cover full body & upper / lower. I’m not covering a bro split because I think they are fucking woeful.

Full body training splits

Full body splits / full body training sessions = Working your whole body (Anterior & posterior, upper and lower) in the same session

If your training split (I.e how you organise your training) is made up of full body sessions, you would look to do your resistance training first, followed by your cardiovascular training. The reason being, the cardiovascular training is likely to have a greater negative effect on your lifting session, than if performed in a reverse order. Particularly if you are including power work (squat jumps, Olympic lifts, plyos etc) within your lifting session. Which you probably would be. Your lifting session is unlikely to have too much of an effect on your cardiovascular training, unless you are training like a moron. Ideally, you would space them out a bit (am & pm), however, this is not always feasible.

Upper / lower splits

Training sessions are split into upper and lower days. Typically 2x lower & 2x upper per week. Emphasis on these sessions can be manipulated depending on exercise selection, intensity etc.

If your training is broken into an upper / lower, you have even more scope for manipulation. Depending how many cardiovascular sessions you are planning, you can either add them on to your resistance training sessions or as separate days. However, going back to consolidating your high days, I would recommend you perform them on the same days and take some proper recovery days.

Another option is to perform them after upper body sessions. Arguably, this may be the better option depending on the mode of cardiovascular training you go for. If you opt for running or cycling options, your legs will be fresher, therefore you can produce higher outputs and get more out of your session. If you opt for the rower, ski erg or swimming, you may want to consider when you do your cardiovascular training based on your sessions and mode. Either way, I would still recommend consolidating your days. If you are looking at more than 2 cardiovascular sessions per week on an upper / lower split, I would look to utilise SIT after your lower body sessions, and longer intervals or continuous cardiovascular training after your upper body sessions. SIT has the lowest interference effect, and also it is over the quickest. On the longer intervals / continuous training, you will be fresher on your upper body days. 

And a final point. There may be times where you have to perform your cardiovascular training before your resistance training on the same day, whilst not ideal, there are ways to mitigate the effects of this.

One way to do this is by separating your cardiovascular session from your resistance training by a good chunk of time, ideally by 6-8 hours. Within that time, you will be looking to really dial in on recovering and refuelling. You will be wanting to consume a good amount of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores, to ensure you have some energy moving into the session. In terms of recovery, this is about as much as I would recommend doing between sessions. You may be tempted by ice baths, electrotherapy and other fancy recovery modalities. However, they usually come at a cost. Whilst they may mitigate short term DOMS and feeling better, the often suppress the physiological pathways that are needed for adaptation. So they may “feel good” but in reality you are just slowing progress down considerably. Part 3 of the concurrent training articles will look at recovery in greater detail.

So that concludes part 2 of the concurrent training article (s). Next week we will look at monitoring training and recovery. Both are crucial in success for a hybrid athlete, so don’t miss it!  If you have any questions about concurrent training, then shoot me a message! Or if you want to become a hybrid athlete, get in touch and we can discuss some hybrid athlete coaching!

Until next time

Stay strong

Callum

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