Endurance athletes such as marathon runners, bikers, ultra-distance runners, Ironman athletes, etc. are known for avoiding strength training as part of their training programs. The common excuse always seem to be that “my legs get enough training during my running/cycling”. These athletes are short changing themselves from hitting their full potential in their beloved sport (and it is a sport…not an exercise program) because they are avoiding resistance training!
Endurance athletes that perform strength training regularly as part of their conditioning program can have the potential to increase their performance due to increases in anaerobic power, increases in lactate threshold, as well as increased movement efficiency. Another type of training that appears to show some benefit to the endurance athlete is explosive training. The improvement in endurance from explosive training appears to be due to increased motor control, increased motor unit recruitment, as well as an increase in muscle density (not size). This is well covered by Olympic Lifting, Throws, KettleBell work, etc. The utilization of the much neglected fast twitch muscles is what is shown to provide quite a bit of the benefit.
In order to take advantage of the benefits that strength training has to offer, athletes that compete in endurance sports need to divide their training up to include a variety of energy systems and have a more well rounded approach. This is where CrossFit comes into play. Concurrent (CrossFit) training has been shown to be effective for increasing maximal strength, endurance and overall performance.
Bastiaans JJ, van Diemen AB, Veneberg T, Jeukendrup AE., The effects of replacing a portion of endurance training by explosive strength training on performance in trained cyclists., European Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 86, no. 1, pg 79-84, 2001. Paton CD, Hopkins WG., Combining explosive and high-resistance training improves performance in competitive cyclists., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 19, no. 4, pg. 826-30, 2005.