Strength Without Bulk?

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Question: I am a marathoner and triathlete and feel like I need to be stronger but I really don’t want to get bigger or bulkier. Should I train with weights because even though I do what I do very well I feel weak and think I would do better if I was stronger? Can I do this without getting bigger?
Answer: Stronger muscles don’t necessarily mean bigger muscles although getting bigger does mean growing stronger. The very immense bodybuilders are indeed strong, some are as strong as elite powerlifters, but they train in a manner to grow larger as they grow stronger. Strength is not their goal. Bodybuilders move weight with as much effort as possible to get larger muscles while powerlifters train to move as much weight as possible with as little effort as possible. The rep schemes for bodybuilders typically runs from 6 to 12 reps per set while strength trainers maintain a 3 to 6 rep pattern for their sets. Weightlifters have to make weight classes and hypertrophy, massive expansion of muscle cells, is not their focus.
As an endurance athlete you would benefit immensely from weight training. Lower back and core are essential for both marathons and triathlons. Greater leg strength for running and cycling and a stronger upper body for your swims would reap huge benefits in decreasing race time and recovery. Get stronger by doing your big three exercises, bench press, squat, deadlift by first learning the proper technique. Practice these lifts three times a week for the first two weeks and use light weight for sets of 10 reps. What you are trying to do here is to imprint movement patterns before trying to load the muscles. Your should be able to complete this routine in 20 to 30 minutes. After that begin adding weight on each lift to get an estimate of your one rep max. Then you can set up your main routine based on those numbers.
With your One Rep Max info, start with a 5 to 10 minute warm-up of abdominal exercises then move to bench press. Do five sets beginning with a set of 10 reps using 40% of your one rep max. Then your sets go like this: 6 reps at 60% ORM, 3 at 75% ORM, 2-3 at 85% ORM, Repeat the last set, then decrease the weight by 30% and drive out an additional 3 to 5 reps without resting. You can repeat this set sequence for all three exercises training this way two times a week. At about 4 to 5 weeks from your race or event drop to one day of weights a week. This will maintain your strength and you should be pleasantly surprised by the results in your racing ability and recovery.
God bless and keep training,
Daryl

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