Is it possible to build muscle and train for a marathon at the same time? Today we are going to explore the subtle art of hybrid training with 8 tips for balancing bodybuilding and endurance training.
For those that have taken the fitness pill, it’s difficult to separate goals and focus on one thing at a time.
We all want to be the strongest, leanest, fastest, and fittest, but is it really possible to achieve a mixture of contrasting goals that do not complement each other?
In terms of endurance and bodybuilding, you won’t see two goals on two ends of the fitness spectrum.
One is focused on short, intensive movement patterns, whilst the other is a steady-state cardiovascular exercise that requires you to clock up lots of mileage.
The truth is that both goals can be accomplished at the same, albeit with a few caveats that we’ll explore.
Follow these 8 hybrid training tips and smash your muscle and stamina goals out of the park.
1. Define Your Goals And Prioritize Between A Primary And Secondary Focus
This is the most important step and without this, you’re going to run the risk of failing at both goals.
What you need to do is define which goal you are going to focus on, and which goal is going to be placed on maintenance.
As long as you have one primary focus, whilst the other is maintained, you’ll be able to train for both disciplines. Without this, you’re going to get nowhere at both of our goals.
Trying to compete in a bodybuilding contest and training for a marathon at the same time is not a good idea.
However, training for a photo shoot and trying to improve your 10km time is achievable.
Be honest with what you can complete and find solace that sometimes maintaining is better than nothing.
2. Stay On Top Of Your Calories
As an athlete that commits to both resistance training and endurance training, you must stay on top of your daily calorie intake.
If your calories are too low, you’ll have less energy for your workouts and risk losing muscle mass because your body is using your muscle stores for energy.
And if your calories are too high, you risk carrying around too much weight for your endurance sessions which will dramatically slow you down.
If your goal is to gain muscle, make sure you are in a small calorie surplus of around 5-10% on top of your maintenance calories.
If your goal is to lose weight, then a small 5-10% deficit is recommended. And if you want to improve your stamina and maintain your weight, eat around maintenance calories so that your scale weight stays the same.
3. Resistance Training Frequency
How often should you lift weights if you complete endurance training? This will ultimately depend on your goals (which you should have clearly defined by now, right?)
The exact number will depend on your primary sport, but the goal should remain to improve strength, improve body composition and reduce the risk of injury.
We recommend that you look to train anywhere from 2-4 times per week inside of a strength training block, with the option for this to be reduced to 2-3 times per week during an endurance block.
And the closer you get to an endurance competition, you can taper back your weights to 1-2 times per week
4. Use The Principle Of Specificity
This will revolve around your endurance goals and the type of cardio you do. Bodybuilding is simply a case of progressive overload where you need to increase the amount of weight you lift or rep and sets you complete over a period of time.
For example, if your goal is to cycle for 30 miles nonstop, you’re going to want to commit to lots of cycling over long distances and avoid a lot of short sprint workouts such as high-intensity interval training.
Perhaps your goal is to swim 10 miles, therefore the majority of your endurance training should be swimming focused with a range of distances that worlds towards this distance.
5. Use The Balance Principle
This is a useful tip for those that are struggling to find the ideal balance between weights and endurance and will help you visualize what you need to be focusing on.
Imagine you have a set of scales, with resistance training on the left and endurance training on the right.
Your goal is to find the best balance for your current primary and secondary goals without the scales tipping too much to one side.
If you’re in racing season and have lots of events coming up, your focus might go to 70/30 in favor of endurance.
Or perhaps you are in the middle of a contest prep, which might tip the scales towards 80/20.
As long as you don’t go beyond this point and emphasize one goal, you’ll be able to manage your primary and secondary goals without sacrificing either.
6. Include Bilateral Work In Your Workouts
Managing injury prevention should be one of your top priorities as a hybrid athlete, and making sure your training supports your goals in this way is vital to long-term success.
Bilateral work is crucial because it allows you to train body parts individually as opposed to unilaterally like a barbell bench press or barbell back squat.
This is important because when you jump, run, cycle, or swim, you are using individual body parts rather than a fixed plane of motion.
Make sure to include exercises such as single-arm dumbbell rows, Bulgarian split squats, alternate dumbbell shoulder press, and single-arm deadlifts.
This will ensure each part of your body is trained individually, which will help to reduce injury.
7. Space Out Your Workouts
In an ideal world, you’ll save plenty of time in between workouts and make them as productive and efficient as possible.
Training for cardio at 3 pm, and then immediately following this up with a 60-minute weights session will likely impact your performance as you’ll likely be tired from the cardiovascular session.
If you have the flexibility in your schedule, make sure to leave at least 4 hours in between sessions. Even longer is better.
Completing your cardio session first thing in the morning and doing resistance training in the evening is one way to do it, or you could save your endurance work for the weekends and stick with weights during the week.
8. Manage Your Recovery
As a hybrid athlete, you’re going to be burning a lot of calories and pushing your body through stressful situations.
It’s imperative that you manage your recovery to ensure you can perform at the top of your game in any given week.
To accomplish this, make sure to manage your total weekly mileage and break down sessions into short, medium, and long sessions.
Take consistent rest weeks and deload weeks every 4-6 weeks.
You should also focus on getting a good night’s sleep and taking plenty of time to look after other aspects of your life.
Whilst acting like Superman is one thing, we’re only as good as our ability to recover, and exercise is a physical form of stress that must be managed.
As long as you train sensibly and focus on the aspects we have listed above, there’s nothing to say you cannot commit to more than one fitness goal.
Remember, the key is to plan ahead and make sure you know exactly what you’re going to be training and which goal is going to be your primary focus for your next training block.