We finally return to the topic of training factors and wrap up the article series covering the last of the training factors: force, power, speed, muscular endurance and anaerobic endurance.
We started this journey through training factors in the first article introducing you to the Romanian sports scientist Dr. Tudor Bompa and his schema called “The Training Factors Pyramid”. I covered one of the most important training factors in the first article, endurance and have since covered balance, flexibility and agility.
I have attempted to simply explain what each training factor is, why they are important and how to improve these factors if you find one or more lacking in your training regimen.
Lets get started…
*Force is simply the ability to over come resistance.
Force, AKA Strength, is what gets endurance athletes to run over hills, climb mountains on their bikes or swim through surf. Force development is often one of the top limiters when athletes set up their top 3 training objectives in their respective off-season.
Force development training can take many forms. Strength training lifting free weights, core training, sports specific strength training all play a roll in in improving an athlete’s ability to provide more force in a given sport.
Testing for this limiter is probably one of the easiest. If you are regularly getting beat to the top of the hills you need to work on force development! Using a combination of weight training, core training and sport’s specific drills during the off-season you can improve your force! Sports specific drills such as pulling sleds, lifting heavier weights or even doing hill repeats are usually what most coaches prescribe.
*Power is the ability to apply maximum force in the shortest amount of time possible.
Power is what allows for stronger sprints, surges and dealing with the inevitable head winds during tough competitive events. Like the training factor force, power is usually one of the top 3 limiters of your average endurance athlete. Athletes that just focus on improving their power could make major improvements in the off-season. Testing and development for power has become much easier in the last decade due to the advent of power meters for cyclists. I will not be covering all aspects of power training and power development as this is covered in several excellent books.
Testing to see if power is a limiter as a cyclist is a pretty straightforward affair. I have cyclists perform a 30 minute Time Trial and then measure their power for the last 20 minutes to determine what the athlete’s Functional Threshold Power is and compare these numbers to their age groups, experience and or racing category to determine if their FTP needs improvement. While you can see that we can objectively measure power output of cyclists there is currently not a good method of measuring power performance in most other endurance sports. Runners, swimmers and other endurance athletes can still recognize when they are lacking in power due to not being able to hold harder paces and surges.
Most methods that cyclists use to increase power can be applied to other endurance sports. Training intervals usually include workouts that are 5-10% above and below FTP. Where as other endurance athletes would use their Lactate Threshold using a Heart Rate Monitor to potentially do the same kinds of training.
*Speed is the ability to move efficiently and quickly
In the case of speed I am not talking about how fast you can swim, run or bike but how fast we can get your legs or arms to turn over. Think of this training factor as what it takes to improve neuromuscular response (Fast Twitch Muscle Training). Lots of first year cyclists make the mistake of thinking that this training factor is all about riding fast and mark it as a top limiter when more than likely what is holding them back is a lack of power, force, and either muscular endurance and or anaerobic endurance. Even though I do address speed as limiter in some athletes, all athletes I coach will do some speed development work.
With cyclists we do high cadence intervals with easy gearing in an effort to improve our pedaling efficiency. This comes in handy when it comes time to develop power, as you want to be able to produce the most amount of power with the least amount of work you will need leg speed! Runners have the same concerns of being able to quickly turn over the legs in an effort to delay muscle fatigue and run efficiently.
Just like all training factors there are specific workouts that can be prescribed to improve speed. These workouts can be done any time of the year but are most often prescribed during the beginning of the off-season prior to power development.
*Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance for an extended period of time.
I like to think of muscular endurance when I am in the last few miles of race and just not sure if I can hang on to a pace or wonder if I will get gapped because I can just no longer contract my muscles as quickly.
I think this is sometimes one of the most over looked of training factors by endurance athletes. We will usually blow off this type of training as only being able to run, swim or ride longer miles.
When I recognize this as limiter in my athletes or myself I will prescribe several different types of strength training methods and sports specific drills to improve muscular endurance.
Workouts include several sets and high rep counts in the gym with lightweights, hill repeats on the bike or even muscle tension intervals on the bike or tempo runs. These types of workouts are often prescribed through both the off-season and event season.
Anaerobic Endurance is maximum efforts that lead to oxygen and fuel requirements to exceed the rate of supply and the muscles must rely on stored glycogen fuel reserves.
Anaerobic Endurance training I think is often one of the least enjoyed training factors and all endurance athletes can benefit from improved Anaerobic Endurance. Depending on which coach you are working with you will find that this work falls into the Zones 5-6 in heart rate and power training. These training efforts will be incredibly intense and short with short recovery periods.
High intensity intervals with short recovery periods, sprint training and motor pacing offer great opportunities to improve anaerobic endurance.
Anaerobic Endurance like Muscular Endurance and Power are the top go to training factors tackled by athletes looking to make big gains in the off season! I hope you may have noticed that I have only mentioned tackling 3 training factors at a time in the off season. Why? The off-season represents 18-24 weeks of training and usually when we tackle our weaknesses not our strengths. So to give the athlete time to make the necessary adaptations we can only cover 2-3 training factors intensely and still make gains.
If you are not sure what training factors to tackle seek out a coaches services and he or she can test you and look over your training and race logs to make suggestions where you can improve. These suggestions will lead to prescribed workouts that will help you adapt the fastest to training stress.
As before I hope you found this article helpful and welcome questions and feedback. Any questions you pose will be answered in the next article!
Until then have a great week and do something different to improve your fitness.
* Definitions adapted from “The Cyclists Training Bible 4th Ed.; Author Joe Friel”