women performing strength training

You can’t go wrong with getting strong….. should I be carrying out strength & resistance training?

Blog produced by Jason Dodd Clinic Manager, Sports Therapist and member of the Physiotherapy and Musculo-Skeletal Team at Bodylogics The Sports Therapy Clinic.

The simple answer to this question is ‘YES, 100%!!”  Strength training is seen as somewhat of a paradox in many sports.  The quote ‘I don’t want to get big because it will affect my performance’ or ‘carrying extra weight will only slow me down’ sounds logical……..but is hugely assumptious.  Assumptious in the fact that you would conclude that any strength training would lead to huge muscle gains.  Strength training should not be viewed simply as ‘building mass’ but instead as a more global parameter designed to improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury.

1. If I carry out strength training it will affect my performance.

This is true.  However, it will have a positive effect as opposed to a negative one.  A common belief surrounding resistance training is that it will lead to fatigue which will ultimately lead to injury.  Of course this is true, but the same can be said for any training method or activity.  Without adequate rest then you will always increase the risk of injury.  Resistance training should not necessarily be seen as an ‘add-on’  to your current programme, instead it should be seen as a replacement for one session (obviously depending upon your current schedule). 

This study here showed the effects of a 20 week strength training programme on a group of cyclist’s.  The results were as follows;

The results showed significant changes in the intervention group (group performing strength training) for maximal strength, bike specific explosive strength, absolute V·O2max, body mass, overall leanness, and leg leanness at week 20.

This paper here is perfectly summarised by the image below.  Again, the effects of heavy and explosive strength training on endurance performance is shown to be positive;

And if you are still struggling to believe that what we are saying here is true then this paper here will help conclude our points for this particular section ;

We recommend that appreciably the same muscular strength and endurance adaptations can be attained by performing a single set of 8-12 repetitions to momentary muscular failure, at a repetition duration that maintains muscular tension throughout the entire range of motion, for most major muscle groups once or twice each week. All resistance types (e.g. free-weights, resistance machines, bodyweight, etc.) show potential for increases in strength, with no significant difference between them, although resistance machines appear to pose a lower risk of injury.

See our blog here on why the 3×10 rule is out-dated and not necessarily the best format to follow.

2. Carrying out strength training will only slow me down.

Another common held belief amongst those who avoid strength training is that they will gain muscle mass and therefore be slowed down in their sporting choice.  This simply is not true.  This study here looked at a set of randomised controlled research papers and concluded that;

The addition of two to three ST sessions per week, which include a variety of Strength Training modalities are likely to provide benefits to the performance of middle- and long-distance runners

Now this study here is focusing purely on distance running admittedly, but surely if it has no effect on ‘slowing down’ the distance runner, then it can be transferred to other sports and disciplines?  The paper also showed that running economy generally improved between 2-8% and that time trials (varying between 1.5km – 10km) improved too. 

3. I stretch all the time so that will help keep me injury free.

So….. here’s the thing….. stretching can help to prevent injury but not in the way you may think.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and behaviour in harmony and avoid disharmony (or dissonance). This is known as the principle of cognitive consistency.

When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviours (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance.

Why have I posted this quote?  It has been ingrained in us that stretching is the ultimate way to help avoid injury.  The belief of lengthening muscle fibres, etc….. will ‘loosen’ muscles, etc….  Whilst in part true, it does not have the lasting effect that we once believed.  Stretching has been shown to have a neurological impact on our sensory system and therefore the feeling of ‘stretching’ creates a chemical response in our brain which gives the sensation of ‘looseness’.  This feeling, however, is short lived.  True flexibility and elongation of muscles comes from building extra muscle cells.  The same way a house is built bigger, or extended if you like, is by using more bricks.  Let’s imagine our muscle cells are the bricks, by adding more of these to the muscle you will ultimately make it bigger or longer.  Therefore achieving the desired outcome of ‘lengthened’ muscles.

This paper here showed that performing regular bouts of strength training had a much more beneficial outcome on reducing the chances of injury.  In fact, there was found to be little or no benefit in those who performed stretching exercises in reducing risk of injury whereas those who performed strength training reduced sporting injury risk to less than a third whilst also concluding that almost 50% of all overuse injuries could be avoided with a strength training programme.

To conclude, strength training can add a huge amount of value to your current training programme.  It is almost naïve to think that you can get away without incorporating it into any cycle of training you are currently carrying out.  There is hard and concrete evidence to support the inclusion of this method of training and it is without doubt the number one intervention for helping to reduce injury risk.  Working within the Physiotherapy Department here at Bodylogics, the aftercare and advice always centres around one key topic.  Get stronger.  This can be a hard take home message at times as we all believe we are ‘strong’ for our sport, which I have no doubt that we are…..BUT, a global strengthening programme will help with specific muscle isolation, ligament and structure stability and stronger, healthier bones.

If you have any questions or require any further information about any of the information laid out above then please do not hesitate to contact us via our website page here.

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