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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What BodyBuilders can teach Endurance Athletes

On the face of things Body Builders and Endurance Athletes couldn't be further apart.  But at a fundamental level a number of their goals are identical.

1.  Increase muscular strength
2.  Increase power
3.  Reduce body fat

If your average Endurance Athlete explained some of their training principles to a Body Builder the BB would laugh at their 'logic'.  So what can a Body Builder teach an Endurance Athlete ?

1. Training to Failure
Endurance Athlete:  That was a great set.  I completed all reps and held pace on every one.

Body Builder 1:  That set was a bit of a waste.  I could lift the weight for all 10 reps.  I need to increase the weight next time.

Body Builder 2:  That was a great set.  I wanted to do 10 reps - got to 8 and was really struggling.  Had to get some help to finish

What a Body Builder can teach the Endurance Athlete
The goal of a set - whether it be a track set, a swim set or a strength set is not to comfortably complete the set.  It is to stress the body so that is adapts and grows.  A good set is one that challenges you.

2.  Recover to get stronger.
A typical Body Builder works a muscle once or twice a week.  If they want to get stronger they dont add more sessions for the muscle.  Imagine telling a Body Builder they had to do heavy squats 7 days a week.  Conversely an Endurance Athlete thinks that in order to improve their run they have to run more.

What a Body Builder can teach the Endurance Athlete
Quality trumps quantity.  A muscle gets stronger as it recovers therefore doing more can actually make the muscle weaker as it negates recovery.  Focus on the quality within the set.

3.  Fuel the Training.
Body Builders often walk around the gym with a protein shake in each hand and drink products with names like Mega Mass 2000 (yes - it was a real product and contained 2000 calories per serve)  but are typically quite lean.  Endurance Athletes are typically more focussed on 'energy' and consume lots of high sugar products making them 'skinny fat'

What a Body Builder can teach the Endurance Athlete
Fuel for the session and for recovery.  For sessions like wattage, swimming and functional strength ensure appropriate amounts of proteins and 'worker' carbs are consumed.

So if your training has hit a bit of a plateau maybe it is worth 'Training like a Body Builder" for a while.

Note:  The 'Body Builder' in the photo went 9:35 at Hawaiian Ironman last year..


  1. Remember that you're not just a triathlon coach. You can teach swimming, cycling, running, resistance training, and maybe even nutrition too. Be sure to offer these services in addition to triathlon coach.

    triathlon coaching

  2. Thanks Matthew. I actually do teach all of those things. Check out

  3. Graeme... what are 'worker' carbs?
    What ratio of protein / Worker carbs would you recommend post workout?

    1. Trying to build muscle with just protein is like trying to build a wall with just the bricks and no brick-layers. 'Worker' carbs assist in the rebuilding of the muscle - the recommended ratio is 4:1 (in grams) or 2:1 if using fat as the energy source.

      Note there is no value in consuming more than 30g on protein in a single serve and in fact excess protein can negate the utilisation of protein