The hybrid athlete: how to balance strength and endurance training (2023)

What is a hybrid athlete?

Popularized by people likeNick BareAndAlex Viada, the hybrid athlete approach has gained serious popularity in recent years. To put it simply, these guys are mean robbers. They can run sub-5-minute miles, deadlift 700 pounds, and have competed in ultramarathons, ironmans, and bodybuilding shows. To say they have been successful everywhere would be an understatement.

At its core, the hybrid athlete approach is about balancing endurance training and strength training. It goes a step further than balancing itself. It is about being successful in both disciplines.

It seems counterintuitive. All conventional training wisdom says that if you want to be successful at an activity, all of your training should focus on that activity. And cardio and strength training are completely different disciplines. Just think about how different body types are for each style of exercise.

Strength training certainly wouldn't help you prepare for a marathon. And endurance training is completely useless if all you're doing in the gym is trying to get bigger and stronger. When you have a goal, that's what you need to focus on and all other training is a waste of time, right?

Well, not quite. You should never give up strength trainingorEndurance training, regardless of your current goals. When done correctly, both support each other and actually increase performance. On the other hand, poor execution can quickly lead to overtraining, injury and burnout. The key is to find the right balance.

Why you should strength train

When I say strength training, I don't just mean the calisthenics and core work that many endurance athletes are used to. I mean full blown weight lifting. The kind that powerlifters, bodybuilders and Olympic lifters do. The benefits may seem minimal, but in endurance competitions, they can shave minutes to a full hour off your time.

The hybrid athlete: how to balance strength and endurance training (1)

Strength training isn't just for the dimwits you see at the gym eating protein straight out of the tub. It should be a fundamental part of any training program for everyone, from the elite endurance athlete to the weekend athlete who just wants to shed a few pounds.

The benefits of strength training for endurance athletes arenumerous:

  • injury prevention
  • Increased stride length and cadence (the two components that determine running speed)
  • Improved running economy (less oxygen is burned and fewer carbohydrates are broken down for energy for each kilometer run)
  • Increased bone density

Aside from the general benefits of strength training (injury prevention, increased bone density, increased muscle mass, increased metabolism, etc.), strength training can directly benefit the endurance athlete by actually improving their running mechanics.

Strength training can also compensate for muscular imbalances, stabilize joints, improve coordination and much moremere.

In addition, by training specific movement patterns, you can increase strength and endurance in your sport. For example, if you are a runner, partial movement training that puts you in a position that mimics running will help you build strength in your sport. Over time, running will make you feel stronger and more capable.

This is especially important in sports such as sprinting, where maximum power is essential for success. But strength and performance are also important in distance running. Together, they help increase running speed and increase the efficiency of your strides.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, increased bone density is critical to the long-term health of runners. Because it is a sport where stress fractures are all too common, developing stronger bones can increase life expectancy and improve performance.

Why you should train endurance

Like strength training, endurance training is suitable for everyone. Children, adults, strength athletes and of course endurance athletes.

Endurance training has as many mental benefits as it does physically. If not more. Strength training certainly has mental benefits as well, but I have personally found much more profound mental benefits from endurance training. And when I say mental, I don't mean releasing endorphins, uplifting mood and reducing stress. Strength training does more for me than endurance training.

I mean mental toughness. resilience. determination. Grit.

Lose yourself in your own thoughts. It's just you against you out there on the empty road or the empty road. You find new heights in what you are capable of. You draw out a part of yourself that you didn't know existed. And you can teach yourself so many life lessons that you can apply elsewhere.

That's why I train endurance.

Thephysical adaptationsgoes pretty fast:

  • strengthen your heart
  • Development of fatigue resistance muscles
  • Improve joint health
  • to increase metabolism
  • Improvement of respiratory function
  • Better sleep

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Endurance training has a number of physical benefits.

And for all you fitness fans, these physical adaptations can also help with weightlifting. I have spent periods of my training completely neglecting cardio. And every time I do, my lifts suffer. At 1-5 reps, your strength is incredible. But once you get into the 8 to 12 range, you'll notice how hard you start breathing. Your muscles are not a limiting factor. That's your cardiovascular conditioning.

It is therefore not about concentrating on a training activity with the laser. As we shall see later, it is all about findingbalance. Identify what your primary goal is and prioritize that type of training. But never neglect the other.

In addition to the physical adaptations, you will see some of the biggest improvements of your life in mental toughness with endurance training. Overcoming your exhaustion, overcoming limitations and exceeding your goals will affect the rest of your life. You realize what you are capable of and that consistent, hard work pays off.

Why the hybrid athlete approach?

In itself, strength training and cardio training provide a number of physical and mental benefits. Wouldn't it be great if you could combine the two into one kind of super program?

This is where the hybrid athlete approach comes in.

It combines strength and hypertrophy training with endurance training, so you can get the best of both worlds and increase your performance. There are a number of pitfalls you may encounter when embarking on a hybrid training program for athletes. It is therefore important that you understand from the start how to structure your training.

A good program will determine your success with this style of training. Let's take a look at how hybrid athletes approach their training.

The hybrid athlete: how to balance strength and endurance training (2)

The hybrid athlete: how to balance strength and endurance training (3)

How to train as a hybrid athlete

Training as a hybrid athlete is all about finding balance and prioritizing yourself. It's incredibly easy to overexert yourself, burn out, and injure yourself with this type of training.

You are often asked whether you should do strength training or cardio training. The question should not be, "Should I do one or the other?" It should be: "How much of each should I do?"

Everyone should train as a hybrid athlete. But not to the same extent. Overtraining is common, even in well-trained individuals. Sowork with a coachif you are serious about starting a competitive hybrid athlete program.

But if you just want to use the hybrid athlete approach to getting in better shape, it's still a great program.

To get started, consider the following goals:

1. Determine your top priority

To get the most out of this training style, it's important to identify your main priority when using a hybrid athlete approach. Are you primarily an endurance athlete or a strength athlete?

Depending on your answer, your training will look completely different.

When preparing for a marathon, only lift weights twice a week and even less as the marathon approaches. If your main goal is to build size and strength instead, you'll probably want to train 4-5 times a week and reduce cardio to 3 times a week.

Others will split strength training and cardio equally. That's the beauty of the hybrid athlete approach. It is very easy to customize it to suit your own preferences, time constraints and goals.

2. Measure training volume

This is possibly the most important part of a successful hybrid athlete training block. Too much training volume will actually be counterproductive to your goals. Your performance will suffer, you will be mentally and physically exhausted, your body will not respond to adjustments, and you increase your risk of injury if the training volume is too high.

For strength training, we define total volume as weight lifted x repetitions completed x sets completed.

In endurance training, we define volume as the total number of kilometers driven in a week.

To get the most out of a hybrid training program for athletes, measure both your strength training volume and your cardio volume. Observe how your body feels at the end of each week and adjust the volume accordingly.

3. Recovery is king

I said it once and I'll say it until I dierecreationis when the physical adaptation takes place. Hybrid athletes put an incredible amount of stress on their bodies during the training week, so proper recovery is key to longevity with this program.

Make sure you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep (if not more), eat plenty (especially carbs before longer endurance days), and stretch every night.

These three things alone will give a huge boost to your recovery. But each one is a commitment. That brings us to number 4.

4. Commit to being a hybrid athlete

Training to become a hybrid athlete is a commitment. Yes, the training is hard, but that's the easy part. Everything else you do outside of your training makes the difference with this type of training.

It is important to take care of your body, get enough rest and monitor training volume. For this approach to be sustainable, you need to make sacrifices and commit to taking care of your body.

If you want to be less committed, simply reduce your training volume, but even if you only do the bare minimum for your strength and conditioning training, you still need to continue outside of your training.

This is why I love the hybrid athlete approach so much. It makes fitness a lifestyle. Everything you do every day revolves around getting enough rest and preparing for your next training session.

The beginning is difficult. I like to call it the transition phase. If you've been primarily an endurance athlete and just started strength training, your muscles are going to be sore as hell for the first few weeks. If you were primarily a strength athlete, the first few weeks of endurance will also be brutal.

So make yourself comfortable. Over time, slowly build up your volume in the discipline you are unfamiliar with. The worst thing you can do is burn yourself to the ground right out of the gate. Be aware that after the transition period, the benefits you will gain from a balanced approach to training will surpass anything you have experienced before.

What should be prioritized

It can be difficult to see what to prioritize when you first begin your journey as a hybrid athlete. There is no one right way to structure a hybrid training program for athletes because they are so unique and individual.

Which priorities must be set ultimately depends on the goals. If your main focus is endurance, don't train as often. And be careful where you strength train. For example, if you have to run 20 kilometers on Thursday, you should strength train your lower body by Monday at the latest.

If your primary focus is strength training, you shouldn't run a 15-mile run a day before doing a heavy squat workout. Your performance will suffer.

With the hybrid athlete approach, you will also likely have days where you train multiple times. Again, what type of exercise you do first depends largely on your goals. If your focus is on strength, complete your strength training before doing cardio.

On the other hand, if you are an endurance athlete, finish your runs before lifting weights.

Being predominantly strength oriented, I'm a little biased, but I always put my strength training before my cardio, even though cardio is my primary focus. It's mostly just my personal preference and the way I do my best, which again is the beauty of the Hybrid Athlete program.

Experiment with what works best for you. Try different training times and locations throughout the week and monitor how you feel so you can become the best hybrid athlete possible.

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