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Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.


2012 Releases


By the National Strength and Conditioning Association
ISBN:   978-07360-8327-0
Binding: Paperback
Pages:   Approx. 296
Price: $19.95
Available: March 2012



Four steps to designing an endurance training program 

NSCA says recovery-based training should be a primary focus of program design


CHAMPAIGN, IL—Endurance athletes often believe the more they train, the better the results. But according to Ben Reuter, editor of Developing Endurance (Human Kinetics, March 2012), recovery time is just as important when developing an effective endurance training program. “Recovery-based training should be a primary focus of program design,” Reuter says. “Without adequate recovery, athletes will not optimally progress and reach their full potential.” He notes that recovery does not always mean days of rest; it can take many forms, including skill and technique practice, massage, high-quality sleep, aerobic cross-training, and proper nutrition.


In Developing Endurance, Reuter breaks down the four steps to designing a well-balanced training program for endurance athletes.


Step 1: Gather information. This includes determining the athlete’s short- and long-term goals, sport background and competitive history, overall focus for the competitive season, race priorities and objectives, sport-specific strengths and weaknesses, history of injury, muscular imbalances, and a variety of other contributing factors. Most important, though, athletes must determine how much time they can realistically devote to training on a daily basis. “Many new endurance athletes are a bit overzealous when it comes to taking on more than they can handle; thus, it is important to differentiate between realistic and idealistic time goals so that proper balance between sport and life is achieved,” Reuter says.


Step 2: Focus on the initial planning components. These include the type and frequency of recovery sessions that will be implemented, the type and frequency of high-quality training sessions, time between training sessions, the proper build-to-recover ratio of the periodization program and when it might fluctuate throughout the training year, and mental and nutritional training opportunities. According to Reuter, athletes and coaches must also discuss the type of feedback that will be provided by each to determine what method is most successful in delivering and receiving information.


Step 3: Look at the training program plan in detail. Included in this step is determining the specific techniques that should be included and at what times of the year and throughout the meso- and microcycle, the teaching of tactical skills in relation to race-specific scenarios, when and where specific training sessions should be placed throughout each training cycle, and the associated goals and outcomes of each workout. “It is very important for athletes to have and know their specific physical, mental, and nutritional goals for each training session throughout the training plan,” Reuter says. “Each training session, regardless of type, should have specific goals and objectives with recovery opportunities emphasized.”


Step 4: Plan each periodization cycle. A preparatory cycle lasts about 12 to 16 weeks; in a traditional periodization plan, the preparatory cycle provides the foundation of aerobic, strength, and flexibility skills needed for athletes to progress to the next cycle, which is more physically, mentally, and nutritionally challenging. “The precompetition build cycle is where the goals of improving speed, economy, power, and race-specific strength are normally implemented in 2- to 8-week cycles to provide optimal recovery time before the race season begins,” Reuter explains. “As the race season approaches, properly implemented tapers become crucial in getting to the start line feeling rested and ready to race.” Reuter notes that the actual competition season can be 9 to 36 weeks for some athletes, and he recommends that race blocks be separated into 1 to 4 weeks if competitions will take place each week. “This allows the body to recover well and, because most athletes can achieve only about two or three formal peaks in the competition season, it is best to separate important, top-priority competitions into two or three blocks throughout the season.”  


Developing Endurance is the latest entry in the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Sport Performance Series and provides endurance athletes and coaches with a research-based regimen for improving athletic stamina and minimizing chronic injuries. For more information, see Developing Endurance.


About the NSCA


The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is the world’s leading organization in the field of sport conditioning. Drawing on the resources and expertise of the most recognized professionals in strength training and conditioning, sport science, performance research, education, and sports medicine, the NSCA is the world’s trusted source of knowledge and training guidelines for coaches and athletes. The NSCA provides the crucial link between the lab and the field.




Chapter 1     Physiology of Endurance Sport Training

Chapter 2     Endurance Tests and Assessments

Chapter 3     Endurance Training Principles and Considerations
Chapter 4     Endurance Sport Nutrition and Hydration

Chapter 5     Aerobic Endurance Development

Chapter 6     Anaerobic and Muscle Endurance Development

Chapter 7     Resistance Training Programs for Endurance Sports

Chapter 8     Running

Chapter 9     Cycling

Chapter 10   Swimming

Chapter 11   Triathlon


Background Facts

  • The higher the lactate threshold (LT), the better the endurance performance. A triathlete can expect to see significant improvement in LT parameters as a result of execution of a well-designed endurance training program. An endurance athlete can certainly expect to see an improvement in the LT over the course of a single season and will probably also see improvements in the LT from season to season depending on how many years the athlete has been in training. 

  • A person’s ability to work and exercise in heat and humidity is significantly improved by endurance training. The body produces more plasma volume and total blood volume when engaging in endurance training on a consistent basis. Think of total blood volume as radiator coolant in a car or truck. Endurance training leads to an increase in total blood volume, which allows you to have more radiator coolant in your body. As a result, you are able to produce more sweat and dissipate heat more effectively from your body, particularly when you exercise in a hot and humid environment.

  • The benefit of high-quality workouts far exceeds the benefit of completing as many workouts as possible. The cultures of most endurance sports have deep traditions of focusing on completing as many miles or hours as possible, regardless of the quality of the workouts and even at the expense of workout quality. With many outside demands on an athlete’s time and energy, they need efficient ways to train that allow time to recover from a workout and grow stronger. High-quality workouts get the most from the time and energy put into them. Eliminate workouts that don’t focus on quality.
  • While aerobic training exerts a strong influence on both aerobic power and capacity, it does not have a great impact on an athlete’s anaerobic or neuromuscular abilities. Conversely, resistance training has a strong influence on the athlete’s neuromuscular function and a moderately strong influence on anaerobic power and capacity while having only a minimal influence on aerobic power and capacity. By influencing the athlete’s anaerobic abilities as well as neuromuscular function, resistance training can elevate the athlete’s lactate threshold, movement efficiency, and ability to engage in high-intensity activities. Collectively, improvements in these four factors can translate into an overall elevation in endurance performance. 
  • The use of a combination of free weights, weight machines, body-weight exercises, and plyometrics results in the greatest improvements in endurance performance.  Conversely, training on unstable surfaces or performing core stability training exercises has resulted in no improvements in endurance performance and generally mutes the ability to develop force rapidly. Total-body resistance training, such as squatting, results in a greater activation of the core muscles (lower back and abdomen) when directly compared to core stability exercise. Some modes, such as resistance bands, stability training, and balance training, may be better suited for rehabilitation from injury and should not serve as the main focus of any resistance training plan for endurance athletes.

    Facts taken from Developing Endurance.




"Developing Endurance will be a critical asset to any coach or athlete who aspires to apply the science of training to conditioning."

George Dallam, PhD

Author of Championship Triathlon Training

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