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How to Stay Strong While Training for an Endurance Sport

May 24, 2006 10:00 AM

There are sacrifices we all make to train for a chosen sport. We set goals for ourselves and chart out our course for our practice to hopefully ensure success. This practice becomes our priority in our training.

Girevoy Sport or GS is my sport. I have used that sport as a tool to stay motivated in my training and to take myself out of my ??training?? comfort zone since I am more of a strength athlete. For those that don??t know GS is a Kettlebell sport that consists of several lifts. Women typically focus on snatches with the 16kg, while men do Jerks and Snatches with the 32kg. I will reference GS throughout the article, but please ??substitute?? your chosen sport anytime you see GS because I feel this article can apply to many sports.

I know a sport like GS is not attractive to many individuals because the training is demanding and is very specific. Moreover, it just simply isn??t appealing to everybody. I can certainly understand this.

Training specifically for anything can have an adverse affect on certain strength attributes. However, I??m here to tell you that I believe you can at the very least maintain strength if not add a little while training or participating in your chosen sport. That strength training and strength maintenance can be beneficial to your performance in your sport.

We probably all agree that if you participate in a sport, then that skill must be practiced. Sometimes, that leaves very little time or energy for other exercise endeavors. However, I am of the opinion that it doesn??t take much time or energy to maintain strength especially if you have developed the necessary strength skills.

Currently, I am in the midst of training for GS. I started my training in February 2006 with my eye on the May 27th Nationals in San Diego. I started working 6 minute snatch sets and executed around 100 total reps. These 6 minute sets didn??t expend much energy. So, I had the luxury of doing strength training in the same workout as my GS training without any adverse affects.

As my training intensified and progressed my Snatch set duration increased as did the repetitions. Training became much more physically demanding, i.e. recovery time increased. As of May 1st, my GS Snatch sets are typically 10 minutes in duration and go from 170 to 200 total reps. Time permitting and depending on the health of my hands, I throw in high reps swings with the 32kg and the 24kg bells during the same workouts. I??ll occasionally throw in circuit work with rowing, jerks and my new powerrope for conditioning.

At this stage in my GS training, what I can??t or won??t do now is significant strength training in the same workout as my GS training. I won??t do anything that will jeopardize the quality of that snatch set at this point. It??s my priority. However, that doesn??t mean I can??t do strength training. It just means that I need to be careful as to when I do it and how much of it I do?K.

So, how do I maintain strength and other skills? While training for GS this season, I??ve recently become a fan of 2 a day workouts. Now, I know most people don??t have enough time for one workout. ?? I have found 2 workouts a day to be beneficial. These are 2 short workouts, e.g. 15-25 minutes each, and combined will have a shorter duration than most peoples daily workouts.

I will perform GS training in the morning, and later in the evening I will do a strength training session. I will perform 2-4 sets of exercises like the Double Military Press, Front Squats, and Renegade Rows usually with 2-24kg bells. I will sometimes complete these in a circuit, I will also practice jerks and double swings with 32 kg bells. I always keep the reps in the range of 5-7 for the grinds, and will go a little higher for single 32kg jerks. My advice is that you do something that you can do for 3-7 reps, and that will be your ??maintenance weight??.

I typically won??t do 2 a day workouts more than once or twice a week. Other days when I??m not GS training, I will take the opportunity to do a lower rep explosive workout. I may also practice a skill like low rep double snatches with 2-24kg bells, or very low rep jerks with 2-32kg bells. I always treat this as skill practice and will stop plenty short of failure before my form deteriorates. At no point will I do something that will jeopardize that next GS snatch set. I have found that a strength training session once or twice a week is a refreshing break from the grueling GS training.

How do I know I??ve maintained strength while GS training? I like to use my 32kg pressing ability as a gauge and my ability to knock off 5+ reps in the front squat with 2-24kg.. On several occasions recently, I??ve knocked out 2-3 reps on my right and 1-2 reps on my left with the 32kg. I know it??s not earth shattering, but my PR in the MP is 3 reps with my right and 2 with my left. So, I don??t think I have lost strength. I also have done GTG assisted pull-ups and pull-ups in my strength workouts. I can finally do a bodyweight pullup. I pulled 275 in the deadlift a couple of months ago even though I had not done any significant deadlifting in 18 months.

I believe you can maintain strength while training specifically for a sport. You just have to be smart about when you do it and how much do. You also have to know when to taper it as your season or competition approaches. The most valuable thing I??ve learned in reading Power to the People! and in the RKC workshops is to treat strength as a skill. So, it is imperative you have developed those skills and have confidence in them before you can expect to successfully maintain strength while training for a specific sport.

Only time and the next competition will tell if doing strength training while GS training was beneficial. Based on the fact that my GS numbers far exceed my training and competition numbers from last year, I would say that it hasn??t hurt. While I want to maintain strength for strength sake, I also know that being as strong as I can be is going to help my numbers on the GS platform.
Here is a quick strength training workout that I have been doing a couple of times per week while in the midst of intense GS Training:

2-4 Rounds of the following Circuit (the order and weight can be varied):

5 to 7 Front Squats with 2/24kg
5 to 7 Renegade Rows with 2/24kg
5 to 7 Double Military Presses with 2/24kg
5 Pullups(in my case some assistance is used and varied)

While I don??t rush through it, this workout has yet to take me longer than 20 minutes. It??s a great way to get in a full body workout, and it doesn??t have any adverse impact on the next GS practice session.

Catherine Imes is a full time IT Professional in St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently GS Competitor who not only is training for Nationals in the USA but plans to compete in the International GS competition in Latvia later this fall. She is a RKC Instructor who is available for Private Lessons and Workshops. She keeps her training log at Dragondoor under the ??stlcate?? user name. Feel free to contact her at