Strength Endurance Development- Part 2

Strength Endurance continued.

Well, it seems like I’ve sparked some interest with the strength endurance idea. I’ll try and cover some of the specifics of how I have been implementing it into my training and to add to that I’ll talk a little about Canova’s approach.

To start with I’ll answer some of the questions I got on the topic:

“What exactly is strength endurance?”

I’ll go straight to my training guide notes for this one:

“Strength endurance- preserving a high percentage of your strength. Increasing the ability to use a certain percentage of your maximum strength over a longer period of time. Or increasing the percentage of max strength that can be used over X time.”

For simplicities sake, in terms of running think of it as combining exercises/runs that require a larger amount of strength with an element of endurance.

“How do you develop it?”

A quick guide to things that would increase strength endurance (again coming from my training guide notes):

Develop by doing exercises that require higher strength under fatigued situations.

    • Strength developed first via
      • Hill sprints
      • General strength exercises
    • Then Add endurance element to strength work
      • Long run after specific work
      • Longer hills after short hills
      • Hills in between intervals/reps
      • Hill circuits
      • Alternations (speed change workouts, i.e. Oregon's 40/30’s)
      • Bounding during running/reps
      • Runs immediately following strength workout sessions

“Where do you think it should fall into place in terms of periodization?”

I think it depends on the event and person. First off, you have to assess the person’s strength. If an athlete is not developed then obviously you have to develop some basic strength before developing strength endurance. Now, in no way am I talking about developing bulk. Do NOT think of strength in terms of that.

Besides that, I think strength endurance stuff can be done to varying degrees throughout the year. There will always be some aspect of it. For example, even during a full base period, runs through hilly areas still provide a strength endurance element. I don’t think you can pigeon hole strength endurance work into a specific time during the periodization. It can serve so many different purposes with slight alterations. Some of the places I think it work best are:

-As a transition to specific work.

-Combined with specific work during the latter part of periodization to create some speed+strength endurance.

“Do you believe that is should serve as a sort of transitional stage, ala Lydiard?”

As answered above, I think Lydiard used it right. It works very well as a transition stage. You can even do some higher lactate strength endurance work to prepare for lactic work. Canova did some work that showed that high lactate strength endurance hill circuits do NOT decrease the lactate threshold like similar lactate level track work does. I suspect this is because the lactate is nonspecific. You’re recruiting different fibers and different fibers are producing/accumulating lactate, so you don’t get the same decrease in aerobic abilities in the main fibers.

“Could it even be maintained to a certain extent year-round?”

As I alluded to earlier, it certainly can. I think spices of it year round could be a good idea. Hilly runs is one easy option. Getting even more specific, adding just a single longer hard rep (400+m) uphill after some hill sprints is a great way to introduce some strength endurance work. Hill sprints after a longer run, or some easy changes of speed during runs is another way. Be creative.

“Should it be in a brief block (as you seem to have done), or should it be interspersed throughout, or perhaps a little bit of both?”

I think a little of both. It shouldn’t be randomly done. There should be a point and something you are building towards. For example, start off with some simple strength endurance work and gradual increase the difficulty/amount as you progress. I think it’s best to work towards a specific block that can be the kind of accumulation of the work you’ve done. The special block is a way of putting the elements together.

”Also, how should one construct such a session? Please elaborate on your mentioning of Canova's progression of the workouts.”

Constructing one is just a matter of using your imagination. You combine strength elements with endurance elements. I listed some of the ways above and I’ll give some examples here:

      • Long run day after specific work
      • Longer hills after short hills
        • Ex: 8x8sec hill sprints + 500m at 90%
      • Hills in between intervals/reps
        • 4x800m at 10k pace, 6x8sec hill sprints, 4x800, 5x8sec hill sprints
      • Alternations
        • 6x800 at 10k with 800 recovery at marathon pace as recovery
      • Bounding during running/reps
        • 500m reps running 200m at 800 pace, 100m bounding, 200m at 800 pace
      • Runs immediately following strength workout sessions
        • Weight circuit followed by 8mile easy/moderate run
      • Hill Circuits

Below I’ve given Canova’s hill circuit progression which I’ve been using a modified version of. Lydiard’s is another one you can use.

Basically, if you follow the Canova circuit, you alternate exercises and runs going uphill. The total amount you want each rep to be depends on conditioning and your race. As a rule of thumb, you want each rep to last about the time you’d do for aerobic intervals for your event. So for a 1500m runner, 2-4min, 5k- 3-5min, etc. The hill reps would last longer at the beginning of the cycle and shorter at the end during the Specific Strength Endurance phase. So some of the exercises you can choose from are (be creative):

-plyometrics (squat jumps, tuck jumps, ankle hops, etc.)


-jumping jacks

-butt kicks, high knees


Canova’s progression of strength endurance circuits:

  • Strength Endurance circuits:
    • Extensive Strength Endurance
      • Exercises and runs at 70-80%
        • Develops general level of strength/endurance and begins to combine them.
    • High Intensity Strength
      • Exercises at max connected with running as recovery
      • Develops high intensity strength
    • Specific Strength Endurance
      • Learn to recruit fibers/strength under high acidity
        • Running at max, exercises at 75% or near max

So a simplistic example of a circuit:


-200m run

-10x squat jumps

-100m run

-50m bounding

- 70m running

-50m skipping

-200m running

During the first and 2nd phases (extensive strength endurance and high intensity strength) you would do this circuit. The only difference would be that the first one you do both exercises and runs at about 70%. During the High intensity strength you would do the exercises at max, and use the running in between as a sort of recovery at 70% or so. So exercises at max would mean you try and jump as high as you can for example.

The third phase you would change things up slightly to something like the following, with running at max and exercises used as recovery at 70% or so.

-200m run at 85%

-10x squat jumps

-80m sprint

-50m bounding

- 70m sprint

-50m skipping

-100m sprint

Depending on the athlete and the event he’s running you could run this circuit between 2-8 times. The recovery should be pretty long for the specific strength endurance because it is pretty high lactic.

That’s about enough for you to digest for now. If anyone has anymore questions feel free to ask. Next time I’ll try and outline how I put my strength endurance work in the big picture of my training periodization. As a recap and preview here’s what a general progression looks like:

1. general strength to

2. strength endurance to

3. high intensity strength

4. specific strength endurance

5. speed+strength endurance-(combines speed endurance work with strength endurance work.): ex: alternating 400 hard/400 medium for 2000m


  1. That's awesome, it's great to see some of the things you do. Where'd your running week go though? ;)

  2. Would having a strength session in the morning, and an endurance session in the afternoon work the same way or must they be brick workouts?

  3. Replies
    1. Anonymous12:00 PM

      (Part I)

      I read your blog on strength training and it really resonated with some conclusions I reached recently about my own training. I thought I would share with you and ask for your comments. First, I am 57 and started back running 35 years after a good D III career (4:11.9 mile, 14:12 three mile). Basically sat at a desk for 35 years and then started running again 3 years ago. Over the past 10 months I have been training for a marathon. Avgd 55 m/wk, plenty of 20 milers, tempo runs, marathon pace runs and so on. Based on recent 10K races, my predicted time was sub 3:07. That is not what happened so I wanted to figure out why.

      The following is a copy of my reflections post-marathon and before reading your article.
      _____________________ 

      The good news – I finished the marathon.

      The bad news – read on.

      Perfect conditions for the race. First 13 miles avgd 7:11 pace with splits ranging from 7:06 – 7:17 (about 3:07:00 pace) and felt like no effort at all – relaxed and easy. I was floating. Plenty of hydration and GU. I figured I had this thing nailed. Then, going up one of the few small rises on the course at mile 14 BOTH calves began to seize up, lock and cramp with each step. It felt like electrical impulses locking up with each step. Pace slowed to 7:35 for next two miles as I adjusted my stride to get past these cramps. I really thought this bad patch would pass and my calves would loosen up. But, as I adjusted my stride, my psoas and inside thighs/groin began to cramp from an unnatural gait and I adjusted more. That did not help. Splits went to low 8’s and from there it was all down hill. I was still on about 7:20+ pace as of mile 18 and hoped to get past the bad patch but it never went away. I had fantasies about being able to pick it up until I hit about mile 21 but my calves were locking and unlocking with cramps on every step and groin started to ache on both sides. Slipped to 9’s, then 10’s. Last two miles were a death shuffle at 13+ min/mile. Finish time 3:43:50 ish.

    2. Anonymous12:01 PM

      Part 2
      My conclusion? I attribute this to lack of shock absorption/tendon and muscle strength in key leg muscle groups. After sitting for too many years at a desk (instead of playing basketball, Frisbee, soccer), the springiness/strength of my tendons and muscles just could not sustain the effort needed to maintain 7:10 pace and when fatigued they finally cramped. To correct this, I think I need to do some plyometrics involving jumping, springing, lunging and so on to build back some shock absorption/power capacity. Springing up hill grades may also be good. Then again, what do I know.

      Not sure I will try another marathon. I think I am really suited to the 3-10K distance. I actually like running intervals and driving myself into severe oxygen debt way more than plowing 20 miles in the hills.
      While it won’t be a marathon, I think I learned a lot getting ready for and running at BayState over the past 10 months.

      On reflection, while I could easily put in 20 miles at 8:00 to 8:20 pace, I only trained myself to go 12-13 miles at 7:10 pace. And after those workouts, my log shows I questioned whether I had the elastic strength to maintain the required 7:10 stride bound for another 13 miles. There were no anaerobic/aerobic issues or concerns. Rather I expressed a concern about hip/quad/calve fatigue. To move from 8:10 to 7:10 requires a more explosive stride with each step. Not like a sprinter, but more bounding, more elastic, less ground contact time, and more shock absorption needed on landing. As a 25 year old, I had this from youth and other sports play. Sitting at a desk and running most workouts at 8 + min/mile is not going to build that strength. However, for those of you who have been running consistently for 10+ years, you have that residual strength built into your stride and may not need any specific muscle development.

      Further evidence of this is how badly I suck running up hills. My springing muscles are weak. I moved up hills like a slug. Thus, I really believe my limiting factor is not aerobic or even anaerobic fitness. Rather it is lack of neuromuscular conditioning.

      This link seems to cover all the pros and cons of plyometric/hill bounding training. Lots of good ideas.

      Thus, for me, I think that increasing and rebuilding explosive strength in my feet, calves, quads and hips should result in an ability to maintain a longer stride with less ground contact and, thus, ultimately with less effort. That in turn should translate into an ability to maintain that more efficient/springy longer stride at race pace (whether 5k or a marathon) for a longer period of time with less fatigue. This should avoid fatigue overload and cramping in muscles and tendons as experienced at BayState ----- and improve my uphill running and running efficiency.

      Just running at “race pace” or faster could do the same thing, but I think would inflict too much overall anaerobic/aerobic stress.

      Bottom line, after resting up from the marathon, I think I should incorporate a steady regimen of explosive strength building through some selected plyometric exercises and hill bounding -- “Lydiard Hills” during a base period, and then maintain that strength into a racing season with less volume but high intensity work.

      What do you think?

  4. Anonymous3:46 PM

    Hi Steve,

    Your insight into training is great. At the end of this blog, you mentioned that you'd show an overall logical/systematic approach to developing strength endurance throughout a season. Did you ever create that post?


Related Posts with Thumbnails
Related Posts with Thumbnails