Harder, bigger, faster, stronger… you could easily count these as typical fitness goals. But how do you work on growing your muscles while also managing to build your stamina and endurance? Finding a balance between the two can be difficult — but it’s certainly not impossible.
One of the most common concerns is that, by focusing on both strength and endurance, you’re diluting your ability to excel at either. While this is a valid concern, plenty of recent research has suggested that concurrent training regimes (i.e, those that involve a combination of cardio and weight/strength training) can actually be highly beneficial to training goals.
To get the benefits, it’s worth taking note of these important tips:
1. Avoid overtraining.
When a concurrent training program is unintentionally sabotaged, you can bet it’s because of overtraining. Don’t let your enthusiasm for getting big and strong lead you to undo your own hard work. The number one thing to remember when training for both muscle gains and endurance is that you shouldn’t overdo it, as this is when negative impacts start to occur. If, for example, you want to build leg muscle mass, it will be difficult to work the muscles to their maximum if they’re already tired from lots of running. On the other hand, you could combine upper body workouts with running to optimize your workout schedule, while still avoiding overtraining.
2. Listen to your body.
On a related note, it’s highly important that you listen to your body and its signals when embarking on a concurrent training program. If you’re fatigued, it’s better to rest than to continue burning yourself out with sub-par workouts. If you’re stuck on a plateau, it can be worth dropping your cardio down a notch or giving it a few days rest and starting again once you’re better recovered.
3. Carb up.
If you’re already accustomed to body building and want to add more endurance training to your workout routine, be aware that you will be burning more calories than you were before. Aerobic training — be it running or cycling or some other form — uses more energy expenditure than anaerobic (or resistance) training. The best way to replace this energy is by adding more carbohydrates to your diet. A good rule of thumb is to add around 75 percent carbs, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent fat, while being careful to only eat as many extra calories as you need. While your body will require extra energy, doing endurance training isn’t a free pass to eat as many extra carbs as you want — unless your goal is to gain weight rather than to lose it.
4. Perform HIIT early in the day.
One type of endurance training you can engage in is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) — though it’s best to intersperse this with other sessions of low-to-moderate intensity endurance training. HIIT and strength training can be carried out on the same day, which gives you more flexibility with your training program. However, if you do this, schedule the high intensity training for early in the day, and allow at least three hours of recovery and refueling time before you hit the gym again for your resistance training session.
5. Adapt based on your own goals.
While we’re all aiming for fitness, our specific goals are unique. You might be training for a specific event or for a particular aesthetic. If you’re training for hypertrophy (muscle size) you might have a different program than if you are training ultimately for strength or power. If you’re training mostly for endurance, but wish to add in some strength training, your focus will be different again. For example, someone training specifically for a long-distance endurance event should almost always do their resistance training after endurance training to prevent being pre-fatigued. If, on the other hand, your main focus is training for power, the opposite is true. Always consider what your own goals are and adapt your program accordingly.