Endurance Athletes: Choosing your Rep Range
Athletes beginning a Strength Training program will likely be working with sets of 10-15 repetitions. This is a Conditioning range, used to initiate familiarity and neuromuscular recruitment.
Once you are feeling comfortable with this range, it has been reported that working for 8 repetitions (providing the weight is optimal) will work on developing the structural strength and stability around a joint...a key factor for any endurance athlete.
As our Training-Age develops we will move on to programs requiring 5 sets of 5 repetitions, this will now develop our Strength and Power, correlating to around 85% effort.
By looking at the table below we can see how these numbers correlate with the % of our maximum.
So now we are able to work out our 1RM (or as close to as possible) e.g. If someone’s back squat 5RM is 60kg, we can see that this is approximately 85% of their 1RM, suggesting that their 1RM is 70kg.
Using this type of training formula eliminates the need for frequent testing and allows the coach or athlete to train at significant intensities throughout the season (maintenance phase) without having the athlete to exert themselves maximally.
Because of the nature of endurance training and its highly repetitive training protocols, many endurance athletes believe that they should always perform high-repetition resistance training. What we must realise is that performing exercises at these intensities will only maintain the condition of the muscle and never reach a training stimulus required to elicit greater physiological adaptations. Improved performance occurs when we target and train the weak areas within an athlete via strength, power and explosiveness, generally done by increasing the load and decreasing the repetitions.
“Your weights shouldn’t be set in stone, be conscious and allow for flexibility”
Once we have established these numbers we must remember that they are not set in stone. As the athlete gets stronger their 1RM will inevitably increase but equally if in a fatigued state or returning from injury you need to adjust the 1RM by reducing any load associated with that session.
Similar to overtraining in swim, bike or run disciplines, periods of high volume load that are encountered on a regular basis can result in a drop in performance through accumulated fatigue. Therefore it is vitally important to be selective with the loads and exercises that we choose, again ensuring ‘quality over quantity’. As an athlete, coach or trainer we must always consider the relationship between fatigue, performance and volume when integrating a resistance program into a training schedule.