The desire to excel in both strength and endurance at the same time is a pretty common goal nowadays, especially as #hybridathlete seems to be a growing trend. Practically, though, balancing strength and endurance can be tricky, as they both have very distinct physiological demands.

If you’re new here, I’ve spent the last 10+ years as a professional strength and conditioning coach, I make my living by providing an online coaching service where I guarantee athletes and lifters measurable improvements in their performance (or they don’t pay) so I literally put my money where my mouth is when it comes to topics like this.

Meet Coach Alex: Your Friendly Neighbourhood S&C Coach

If you’ve not read or watched my content before, I’m Coach Alex, a professional strength and conditioning coach with over a decade of experience. Additionally, I’m a tutor and educator for British Weightlifting and an assistant lecturer at the University of Hull, where I am also completing my PhD in strength coach-athlete relationships.

I’ve written guide based on my 10+ years of real-world coaching experience, so I can give you some practical strategies for training strength and endurance simultaneously, and you can trust that they’ll actually work.

Combining Strength and Endurance Training: A Reader’s Query

Recently, I received an email from Nick, a dedicated follower of my content, who posed a question that I think a lot athletes grapple with:

“Hi Alex, I’ve been following your content online for a few years now. I’ve been strength training for multiple years and recently started getting interested in Triathlons. However, I found the demands of both are quite difficult to balance. How do I go about balancing strength training and triathlon training in the same week?”

Nick’s question is a perfect entry point to discuss the fundamental differences between strength and endurance training and how to effectively train both biomotor abilities at the same time.

Understanding the Differences: Strength Training vs. Endurance Training

First things first, let’s get really clear on WHY strength and endurance are different to train…

The Nature of Strength Training

Strength training focuses on exercises that allow you to express maximal forces. Typical exercises include:

Training is usually conducted with low reps (1-6) and high weights. Even hypertrophy work, aiming to increase muscle size, falls within a similar spectrum, although with slightly higher reps (8-12).

The Essence of Endurance Training

On the other hand, endurance training targets the body’s capacity to sustain prolonged physical activity at much, much lower intensity levels. Activities can range from:

  • Half Marathons
  • Marathons
  • Triathlons (including Sprint, Olympic, and Ironman distances)

These events are characterised by long-duration, continuous effort, requiring a significant cardiovascular and muscular endurance base.

The Interference Effect

Real talk, we have to start by recognising that maximising performance in one area often undermines progress in the other. This phenomenon is known as the “interference effect.” For instance, extensive endurance training can inhibit muscle growth and strength gains, while high volumes of strength training can hinder endurance performance. This happens for two reasons:

  1. Strength and endurance ask your body to create very different types of physiological adaptations in terms of muscle recruitment, fibre types, energy systems development etc
  2. Practically, training one thing really hard takes time and recovery energy away from training another thing really hard.

Coach’s Thought: You Can Absolutely Train and Develop Strength and Endurance

Listen up, all the above might sound a bit doom and gloom, but in my experience coaching hundreds of athletes, the interference effect is often overstated.

It all comes down to relative levels. Yes, you’re VERY UNLIKELY to reach reach world-class levels in both simultaneously, but you can VERY LIKELY still achieve pretty high proficiency in both strength and endurance with the right approach.

Me, Coach Alex, Spoken from years of experience

So yeah, you probably won’t squat 300+kg and run a sub 2:10hr marathon at the same time.

But with the right training you might squat 180kg+ and run a sub 3hr marathon – which is still pretty darn cool.

Beginner Strategies: Balancing Strength and Endurance Training

For my beginner athletes (and for athlete’s who are rebuilding conditioning but are already fairly strong) my approach to balancing strength and endurance is straightforward. At this stage, the body adapts well to varied stimuli, allowing you to combine both training types in the same session.

Combined Sessions

You can perform a combined workout where you allocate time to both strength and conditioning exercises. For example:

  • Strength Training (30-40 minutes): Perform main lifts such as squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.
  • Endurance Training (15-20 minutes): Follow up with conditioning, such as circuit training, a short jog, cycling, or swimming.

Honestly, you’ll probably be able to get multiple months of great progress from this simple approach. This will allow you to build a solid foundation in both domains without overwhelming your body.

Intermediate Approaches: Structuring Your Training Week

As you progress, the logistical demands of combining both types of training in a single session can become challenging. Or, put another way, doing both in the same session takes too long / is way too tiring.

So at the intermediate level what i like to have my athletes do is split their training into dedicated strength and endurance days.

Alternating Days for Strength and Endurance

A practical approach involves alternating training days within the week:

  • Monday: Strength Training
  • Tuesday: Endurance Training
  • Thursday: Strength Training
  • Friday: Endurance Training

This schedule allows adequate recovery between sessions targeting similar muscle groups, promoting balanced adaptations with minimal interference. I’ve literally used this approach whilst running sub 40 min 10k’s and squatting 150+kg (and I’m a VERY mediocre athlete)

alex parry weightlifting coach

Advanced Techniques: Prioritisation and Periodisation

This is where I tend to need to work far more closely with my athletes. Advanced athletes or those significantly strong or highly proficient in endurance will require more refined strategies incorporating prioritisation and periodisation.

Prioritisation & Periodisation

Prioritisation involves focusing on one domain while maintaining the other. For instance, if you’re preparing for a triathlon, you might temporarily prioritise endurance training whilst maintaining strength.

Endurance-Focused Block (4-8 Weeks)

  • Endurance Training (3-4 times a week): Include dedicated sessions for cycling, swimming, running, and a combined triathlon-specific workout.
  • Strength Maintenance (1 session a week): Conduct a full-body strength workout with low volume (2-3 sets per exercise) to maintain muscle mass and strength.

Alternatively if you’re preparing for a strength competition you might prioritise strength and only maintain endurance

Strength-Focused Block (4-8 Weeks)

  • Strength Training (3-4 times a week): Perform high-intensity strength sessions focusing on major lifts.
  • Endurance Maintenance (1 session a week): Include a moderate-intensity endurance workout to sustain aerobic capacity.

Long Term Periodisation

By alternating these blocks, or planning how you use them around competitions, you can substantially improve both strength and endurance over time even at an advanced level.

My Note as a Coach – Refining the Plan

The exact number of sessions, volume, and intensity must be tailored based on your performance data and individual response to training. At this level personalisation is key to achieving the best results without overtraining or just getting stuck.

Training Strength and Endurance At The Same Time: My Summary

Balancing strength and endurance training is entirely feasible with thoughtful planning and execution. Remember these guidelines:

  • Beginners: Combine sessions for simultaneous development.
  • Intermediates: Alternate strength and endurance days for balanced progress.
  • Advanced: Use prioritisation and periodisation to focus on specific goals while maintaining overall performance.

Next Steps

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To Your Performance!

Alex Parry

FAQ: Strength and Endurance Training

Can I train for strength and endurance simultaneously?

Yes, it’s possible to train for both. Integrate compound movements like squats and deadlifts for strength, and complement with cardio exercises such as running or cycling for endurance. Organise your training based on whether you are beginner, intermediate or advanced.

How often should I train each aspect?

How often you train each aspect depends on your time available to train, and your focus. I recommend 1-3 strength sessions plus 1-3 endurance sessions is a good guidelines for most people. Ensure rest days are included to allow for recovery.

Should strength or endurance come first in a workout?

If you have to combine both strength and endurance into the same workout, then do your strength work first. I’ve found that you can still get a decent endurance session in after strength work, but strength training after endurance work is often poor quality.

How long should my workouts be?

I’d say that strength sessions typically last 45-60 minutes, while endurance workouts can range from 30-90 minutes. Adjust based on your fitness level and goals.

What types of exercises are best for combined training?

A huge range of exercises work for combined training. For simplicity I like to focus on multi-joint exercises like bench presses, pull-ups, and lunges, paired with running, swimming, cycling or rowing for endurance.

How can I avoid overtraining with combined training?

I’ve found that the main things you can do are to make sure you Incorporate rest days, listen to your body, and ensure adequate nutrition and sleep. I’ve also found that taking a deliberate deload week every 4-6 weeks is very useful too.

How do I track progress in both areas?

Keep it simple, use weightlifting logs for strength to track sets, reps and weights. Track cardio metrics like distance and time. Regularly reassess your goals and adjust your regimen accordingly.

Can combining training types impede progress?

If not managed properly, yes it can. I’ve found that ensure adequate recovery and proper periodisation to balance strength and endurance will help to limit these issues.