Strong but not fit & fit but not strong

Posted on: Apr 23rd, 2017 by The Physio Movement | Categories: Sports Medicine & Nutrition

It is always an interesting point I found when discussing training with other friends or clients who either are strength athletes who forgo aerobic training or endurance athletes who forgo strength training.

Before we start, if you believe that doing aerobic activity hurts muscle hypertrophy/recovery that is in-fact quite untrue, unless you pile too much stimuli without proper recovery and then a negative impact make occur. Also if you include both forms of training and do not get adequate fuel this also will impact muscle hypertrophy.

In fact being more aerobically fit indirectly will improve your strength gains, without getting overly wordy most people can accept that aerobic training increases mitochondrial density.

Mitochondrial are the little fella’s within the body that convert fat lipids and carbohydrates into energy through the use of oxygen and it’s the system that is used predominantly at rest and during most activity’s, baring those of short bursts of high intensity.

This becomes important when you look at how much energy is needed for muscle protein synthesis, which can at times be around 20% of resting energy expenditure, so the more mitochondrial the merrier which is why every strength athlete should be more aerobically fit as it benefits recovery.

On the other end of the spectrum are the endurance athletes who don’t do strength work or even muscular endurance. I use the term endurance athlete because in my personal experience every sprinter or power based athlete do plenty of strength work and it’s established fact in the general population I believe that improving maximal strength helps with sports such as sprinting, long-jump and other explosive sports.

An interesting question I have personally looked into is, what is the most important factor for endurance performance?

Popular opinion is Vo2Max being the major determinant for performance. V02max is your maximal oxygen and it can be expressed as ml/(kg.min) or millilitres per kilograms by minute or in a term I’ve heard and liked is the “aerobic ceiling”. I found that specifically to running it was a close tie between aerobic threshold (how much of that ceiling you can sustain) and running economy (energy used for set speed) being more importance for endurance performance especially as the events get longer.

Strength training helps endurance performance through neuromuscular capacity, better motor unit recruitment (correct number and stronger response of muscle fibres to a work load) and better muscle coordination which leads to improved economy which as discussed before is a significant part of endurance performance.

So at the end of the day doing aerobic work can assist with recovery and not ruin protein synthesis and strength training can assist with running economy which in turn leads to greater performance, so we can all live happily together.

Callum Morrison

Exercise Physiologist
(The Physio Movement)

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