What is More Important, Strength or Endurance Training?


If we consider the 5 components of health, cardio-respiratory endurance, strength, flexibility, proper nutrition, and restful sleep, our overall health is about the balance of these 5 aspects.

Exercise as such is generally divided into two types: aerobic (or endurance) and strength or power, although I also include flexibility. Endurance exercise is performed with low loads over a long period, while strength exercise is performed with high loads over a short period.

However, most activities combine endurance and strength, which is known as concurrent exercise. If we take a survey, we will see that some people are more inclined to endurance training, while others could not conceive of life without weights and all the wonderful results that come from this type of training.


Strength and Endurance Training Work as a Two-way Street

It has been found that the brevity of high-intensity exercise can generate endurance adaptations, while low-load exercise that pushes you closer to your limits can elicit strength adaptations. 

Classical endurance training has also been shown to increase cardiac output, maximal oxygen consumption and mitochondrial biogenesis.  All tremendously positive things for your body.

Both cardiorespiratory endurance and strength training have significant health and performance benefits. Endurance training improves cardiovascular capacity and muscular endurance, which allows the body to function more efficiently during long-duration activities. Strength training, on the other hand, increases muscle strength and lean mass, which will enhance strength and power.


Endurance training, in my case, athletics, is very engaging for the beginner, but as the duration increases or the workouts become more intense, one also becomes more vulnerable to altering posture and technique, which can easily lead to injury.  In this sense, strength training comes to the rescue because it requires you to maintain good posture while strengthening the muscles directly involved in cardio training.


More is Not Better and Success Lies in a Well-structured Training Programme and the Right Loads

For some years now, studies in exercise physiology have begun to look at the effects of exercise intensity versus volume on mitochondrial content and function (study)(study)(study).  In this study, training protocols known as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training, which combines weight and cardio-respiratory exercise), SLD (Slow Long-Distance Training, which generally refers to cardiovascular endurance) and SIT (Spike or Speed Interval Training, which generally refers to cardio-respiratory endurance) were used.  After 4 weeks of training, the researchers observed a 25% increase in maximal mitochondrial respiration in the SIT group only, with no change observed in the SLD or HIIT groups. The increased level of mitochondrial respiration in the SIT group was accompanied by changes in PGC-1α, p53 and PHF20 protein content. PHF20 is important in both stabilising and up regulating p53 (Cui et al. 2012; Park et al. 2012), while p53 is a tumour suppressor and is involved in the regulation of mitochondrial function (Matoba et al. 2006; Park et al. 2009).


Adaptation is the Ultimate Goal

Both strength training and cardio-respiratory endurance training provide important adaptations to the body.

PGC-1α has generally been considered the "master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis" and a key component of exercise-induced adaptations with resistance training (Study). In recent years, another protein, p53, has emerged as a key player in substrate metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis (Study). p53 was the first tumour suppressor protein to be discovered (Study). In this role, p53 regulates cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, angiogenesis, DNA repair and cellular senescence (Study).

In addition to muscular and metabolic adaptations, neural adaptations also occur with strength training. These adaptations include more efficient recruitment of motor units, increased synchronisation of motor units and improved intermuscular coordination (Aagaard et al. 2002; Duchateau and Baudry 2014). These neural changes allow for more effective maximal force production and increased muscle power.

Another important adaptation of strength training is the increase in muscle fibre size, known as cross-sectional area. This is due to increased muscle protein synthesis and recruitment of new muscle fibres (Fry et al. 2003; Mitchell et al. 2012). The increased cross-sectional area of muscle fibres translates into a greater ability to generate muscular strength and endurance.


Ideally, Incorporate Both Types of Training into Your Routine

The combination of endurance and strength training can also have positive effects on the biomechanics of walking and running. This also applies to other sports such as cycling and swimming, for example.  A study by Barnes and Kilding (2015) revealed that strength training in runners improved the absorption of forces generated during ground impact and force generation during the propulsion phase.

In conclusion, in addition to adaptations in oxygen supply and substrate metabolism, factors such as muscle-tendon unit stiffness, neural adaptations, muscle biomass and gait and running biomechanics also play an important role in improving performance and running economy. Integrating endurance and strength training, along with a proper focus on running technique, can maximise these benefits and contribute to optimal performance in sporting activities.



It is important to note that the impact of stretching on running economy can vary from individual to individual. Some people may experience improvements in economy with regular stretching, while for others it may not have a significant effect or may even have a negative effect.  I am PRO-STRETCHING.

There are factors to consider, such as the stretching technique used, the duration and intensity of the stretches, as well as how they are incorporated into the overall training programme.  Each person is different, and it is advisable to individualise the stretching approach and consider the specific needs and characteristics of your body and the exercise you do.

In summary, while runners with a longer and stiffer muscle-tendon system appear to have lower oxygen consumption at sub-maximal speeds, the impact of stretching on running economy can vary. It is important to make an individualised assessment and consider other factors such as neural adaptation, biomechanics and the type of training performed to maximise the benefits on performance and running economy.


How to Include Strength Training in Your Weekly Routine

Strength is acquired by adding weight, resistance bands and/or body weight exercises.  In principle, yoga would not provide what you need to gain strength unless you practice Ashtanga yoga which is yoga in motion and requires postures and transitions involving your body weight which is very valid.

  1. First consult your doctor before starting any sports practice, especially if you are a beginner, have not trained for a long time or suffer from hypertension, arrhythmias, or other cardiovascular conditions.
  2. Frequency: Experiments indicate that including two weight training sessions per week increases markers of longevity and quality of life. However, if you can fit in three 30-minute sessions, so much the better!
  3. You can synchronize both workouts on the same day if you want to. The order in which you do them at first does not matter.  The advantage is that by doing your cardio workout at the beginning of the workout, it serves as a warm-up before you get into the weights zone.  Another option is to do the workouts on different days, i.e. on the day you don't walk, run, or cycle, you do your weight training.
  4. Organise your exercise routine. There are many apps that offer strength training.  But if you have the possibility, it is better to hire the services of a personal trainer, at least at the beginning, to teach you the proper technique that is very important to avoid injuries and to help you organise a basic routine.


The Five Basic Movements that Should be Present in Your Weekly Strength Routine

  1. A push exercise (push-ups or chest press lying down)
  2. A pulling exercise (one-arm rowing or the pull down)
  3. Leg exercise (squat or leg press)
  4. A lower body exercise with emphasis on the back (deadlift or lower back extension)
  5. An abdominal exercise (plank or V-up where you lie on your back with your legs and arms extended forward. Keeping your knees and elbows locked, simultaneously lift your upper and lower body while trying to touch your toes with your hands.


How to Know Which Weight to Use

According to a study published in 2023, sets of few reps but heavy weights and sets of many reps with lighter weights are effective.  The key is to make the last three reps of each set hard work.

As you adapt, you can start with 2-3 sets of 15 and 12 reps.  As you progress, increase the weight slightly (2-10%).


How to Incorporate Cardiovascular Training

You can walk outdoors or in the gym.  To increase your capacity, you can include 30-second to 1-minute speed sprints.  For example, 

Your workout is for 20-25 minutes. Start by walking at a brisk walking speed (about 6 km per hour) for 2-3 minutes.  Then speed up and jog for two minutes.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Repeat 4 or 5 times.

As you progress, decrease the walking time while increasing the jogging time as a result of your body’s adaptation to this training.

In summary, both endurance and strength training have important adaptations at both the muscular and neural levels. Endurance training improves cardiovascular capacity and muscular endurance, while strength training increases muscular strength and power. Integrating both types of training into your exercise routine can maximise the benefits to your performance and quality of life.

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