- The Tempo
- Lifting weights? You Won't Gain Weight
Lifting weights? You Won't Gain Weight
New research on strength training, how to improve your catch, and massive motivation
Good morning everyone,
I’ve touched down in Pucón, Chile ahead of this weekend’s half-Ironman. It is known as one of the most beautiful races in the world and I’m definitely discovering why. Lush forests, a beautiful lakefront setting, and of course, an active volcano (you can see the magma at night! 😲🌋).
According to the folks here, it is in the controlled stage, so no need to worry. The energy around this event feels special, so I’m planning on channeling it for Sunday’s race. Here’s to hoping there are no explosions on or off the course! 😂
In today’s edition:
🏋️ New research says strength work won’t make you gain weight.
🎣 How to improve the catch phase of your stroke.
📽️ Ironman drops dreamy World Championships documentary.
Thanks for being here.
-Matt Sharpe, newsletter editor
Have a triathlete in your life who can't stop swimming, biking, or running? Fire this off to them. Forwarded from a friend? Sign-up for free.
Will You Gain Weight From Strength Training? Probably Not!
As long as I can remember, endurance coaches across sports, myself included, have proselytized about the benefits of strength training for their athletes as a means of improving resilience, decreasing injury risk, and bettering performance. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence backing up these assertions has been hard to come by.
While it is true that you don’t need research studies to prove everything (I haven’t seen a single study that PROVES jumping out of a plane with a parachute is safer than jumping without one) it would be nice to see some studies that support the benefits of lifting.
Now a paper has been published that suggests strength training can impact measurable physiologic metrics that can impact endurance performance.
The questions that researchers in Norway wanted to answer in this paper were:
Does strength training increase lean body mass and does that in turn lead to an increase in red cell mass in the blood that would improve VO2 max in rowers?
Would higher volume lifting have a more significant impact on these metrics and performance than lower volume lifting?
The short answer:
Strength training led to improvements in red cell mass and VO2 max in both men and women without increases in lean body mass regardless of which strength training regimen was used.
The long answer:
The researchers undertook this study based on previous analyses that had shown a strong correlation between blood volume, red cell mass, and oxygen-carrying capacity with lean body mass. They hypothesized that strength training undertaken by elite rowers would result in an increase in lean body mass and that this would result in a further increase in blood volume, red cell mass, and hemoglobin which together would improve oxygen-carrying capacity.
When oxygen carrying capacity is improved then so too is VO2 max and so the study was undertaken to determine if indeed strength training could accomplish these ends.
Do you need to lift a lot? How many sets?
A secondary question related to the specific strength training regimen. The researchers wanted to compare a lower volume program in which athletes performed individual exercises at 3 sets of 10 repetitions to one in which all exercises were done with 10 sets of 10 repetitions.
In both programs, the exercises were designed so that athletes performed them with sufficient weight so that the final set was performed to exhaustion. Strength training was done in both programs three times per week over the 10-week experiment.
Of note: Athletes continued their endurance training at the same time as the strength training regimen.
No matter how much they lifted, athletes did not gain muscle, just strength
At the end of the study, it was found to the surprise of the researchers that in fact, athletes in both groups had not increased their lean body mass. Despite this, both red blood cell mass and VO2 max had increased. In both cases, there was no difference between strength training regimens suggesting that lifting fewer sets was just as good as lifting more.
The authors of the study were surprised by the results but satisfied that this is one of the first studies that showed solid evidence that strength training can positively impact endurance performance.
They posited that even though lean body mass had not increased as they had predicted it would, other mechanisms related to increased strength and muscle performance must play a role in the development of increased red cell production.
The take-home message? Lift heavy to go faster!
The take-home message for triathletes is that lifting heavy weights for fewer sets is not something to be feared but rather something to be embraced as it seems to have benefits not just for making us stronger but for potentially making us faster.
Train hard, train healthy.
Are you incorporating strength work into your training?
🎣 Change your catch: Are you dealing with a dropped elbow during swimming? Or just don’t feel like you’re getting the most out of your catch? This video has great visuals on what it looks like to have a strong catch phase of the stroke. [Effortless Swimming]
📽️ Motivation station: Looking for motivation to get you through a long indoor ride? Or if you just need a spark to sign up for that next race - Ironman just dropped its 2023 World Championship documentary which is full of incredible visuals, performances, and stories. [Outside Watch]
🏋️ Gym soreness: Some of us may be getting back in the gym and trying to build strength for race season. But with the awesome gains usually comes the sting of DOMs - delayed onset muscle soreness. So why are we so sore after lifting for the first time? Microscopic tears. [Triathlete]
🏁 Olympic bound: We’re about seven months out from when the eyes of the world will be on triathlon at the Paris Olympics? So which triathletes have already qualified for the games? [220 Triathlon]
😊 Feel good tri tales: A 75-year-old Ironman Champion, an incredible comeback from a car crash, and an athlete who competed at Kona with one kidney. Just a few of the feel-good stories from last year. [Triathlon Magazine Canada]
Sometimes you just have to go for it!
Girl power: A Kerry woman fulfilled her sporting dream when she competed at last year’s 2023 Ironman World Championship. Her motto — you can achieve anything you put your mind to! [Independent]
Triathlon for sale: Looking to buy yourself a triathlon? The iconic Memphis in May Triathlon is up for sale. [Endurance Sportswire]
New training center: A triathlon training center — with glamping? Looks like the case for a new resort planned near Doncaster. [Doncaster Free Press]
WHAT YOU SAID
Here’s what Tempo readers said about whether they use training zones for their triathlon training.
Reader: As a masters athlete, we often over train our lower zones. So it is essential to stay in the lower zones when prescribed so that I can complete the higher zones when prescribed.
Reader: I am a coached athlete and my coach is ALWAYS prescribing my training based on my zones. We "re-test" every so often to make sure the training is still productive in the various zones and so they are calibrated accurately.
Reader: I use the less-than-scientific method of 220 minus my age (66) to determine my maximum HR, (154). Then break down zones from there. I find the values to be to low. My primary cardio is an In line trainer, bicycling and rowing. I can maintain 95% for 30 to 45 minutes. I'm always concerned if that's to high but I believe the zones are to low. Am I wrong?
Reader: Using defined zones allows control of your workouts therefore achieve your workout objectives. It also allows you to optimize your training time and. Who has time for junk training right? We use the zones described here for training and it works. The challenge is the metrics measurements for the zones (power, heart rates, pace, LT1, LT2, etc...).
Reader: Sometimes it feels like too much so I just run or just ride, etc.
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