The best way to get into the strength training habit is to start strength training: especially if you haven’t done much in the past, you’ll start seeing results quickly, which will likely feed your desire to stick with it. Strength training is addictive when you start to see the progression from week to week.
To maximize your ability to stick with your habit and to continue to grow as an athlete, especially if you want to gain versus maintain strength, you’ll want to record and track your progress, which leads to the question of ‘but how much weight should I be lifting?”
Here are a few of the commonly asked questions around strength training and setting your goals that we shared in our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete, which includes a whole section about why strength training is important for everyone, plus a simple routine that’s ideal for endurance athletes.
How do I set a strength goal?
Yours may not be ‘squat 200 pounds,’ you might be more focused on doing 10 pushups without strain, or executing a single pull-up or chin-up. Start thinking about a couple of goals that would make you ‘feel’ strong: Don’t stress yet on how each relates to your actual sport, just think to yourself, ‘I would feel really badass if I could…” This can help motivate and dictate the way that your training progresses. If doing a pull-up would feel badass, you may want to start with planks and hanging from the pull-up bar to get started, and slowly progress from there.
How much should I be able to squat?
Goals for weights and reps are highly specific to the athlete and their goals. In our experience most athletes are best setting goals first in the routine and habit of strength training. Focusing on completing it consistently and letting the loads come over time. As you become consistent with strength work, you can start looking at goal loads to lift. For many adult athletes, goals around completing or regaining a certain movement (e.g. pullups or overhead work) and body weight motions like full-depth pistols, handstands and tumbling can augment a consistent strength routine with low risk of injury and minimal impact on your goal sport program.
Seriously though, how much should I lift?
If you are in a strength training-focused block, aiming to build to squatting or deadlifting your body weight, doing 20 pushups, and 3+ dead-hang pull-ups are good goals for any endurance athlete.
Should I do specific exercises for specific sports?
It is contentious and highly debatable if strength training needs to be (or should be, or can be) specific to the sport. There was a period in the early aughts where ‘functional movement’ was all the rage and cyclists would hold handlebars and only train to exactly 35 degrees of hip flexion (The theory being ‘Why train more if the cycling motion doesn’t require more hip flexion as you come through the top of the pedal stroke?) Well, Peter’s client’s story in the last chapter explaining his issues with squatting to the depth of the toilet should give you some indicator of what we think of that. If you’re a Pro Tour rider, then maybe there’s some specific strength training to be done. But if you’re a dad of four who loves to play with your kids and enjoys the ability to comfortably poop on the toilet (sorry!), then you’ll want to strength train more generally for health rather than for your exact discipline. And we promise that your discipline will benefit anyway.
We talk more about all these habits in our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete. For tons of easy habits to add to your life to make big changes, check it out or book a call with us to talk through some changes you could make that will make the biggest impact on your health and fitness!
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