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For Top Athletes, Strength and Endurance Training May Clash

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Leveritt says that most of this advice applies to trained, high-performance athletes and does not mean that average, everyday people should not try to improve their strength and endurance. "While this may be a big issue for a finely tuned athlete needing to have maximum levels of both strength and endurance," Leveritt tells WebMD, "it may not be of great consequence to an average member of the public seeking to improve general health and well-being by undertaking an exercise program involving both strength and endurance training."

The American College of Sports Medicine agrees. According to a recent position paper they published, it's important that individuals do both cardiovascular (endurance) training to improve the heart and lungs and resistance training to improve muscular strength. No expert would disagree that both muscular development and cardiovascular health are important.

"Resistance and endurance training both improve physical capacity and health ... depending on the goals of the person, but current guidelines for exercise prescription suggest that both be done to improve physical capacity," Donna Terbizan, PhD, tells WebMD. Terbizan is a research scientist in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

According to Terbizan, endurance training improves the functions of the heart and lungs and decreases a person's risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and death.

Resistance training helps make improvements such as increased skeletal muscle bulk, increased connective tissue amount and strength, increased bone density, and increased muscle attachment size. Strength training can also increase fat-free weight and decrease body-fat levels. Having additional muscle mass may increase resting metabolism, which plays an important role in increasing energy expenditure. All of these changes are beneficial in decreasing the chance for obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and, in older people, the number of falls.

Vital Information

  • The muscles adapt to strength and endurance training differently.
  • The most effective method of developing strength or endurance is to train for one or the other, but not both.
  • At less than maximum levels of performance, people can engage in both strength and endurance training without negative effects.
  • Don't train at high levels for both strength and endurance at the same time.

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