To an inflationary extend it has been discussed that extra muscle mass makes endurance athletes heavier and slower and that endurance athletes won't need fast twitch muscle fibers at all. Coaches and athletes alike agreed on the strategy to rather use the valuable time of training to sit on the bike or swim another kilometer rather than hitting the gym.
I therefore address directly the pro arguments for strength training and put it as clear as possible right away: strength training for endurance athletes is a MUST not an option. I add another important note: I am not talking about stability training with some 30 second planks on all sides. I am talking about heavy-tough-iron-sweaty-screamwhenyousquat150kg-#nobullshit-strength training!
To stay healthy is the number one goal of any athlete. Building up performance constantly can only be achieved with a strong immune system and with strong bones, cartilages, tendons and ligaments. Ever suffered a fatigue fracture? Ever experienced an achilles tendon rupture? Of course these injuries have a variety of grounds such as a lack of calcium, defective positions, etc. But it is also clear that heavy lifting - real strength training - builds bone density as well as tendon and ligament fibroblasts.
Your body needs to digest an immense load of stimuli on all levels. As training for an Ironman athletes run an entire marathon each week in some periods of the season. The impact on bones, muscles and cartilages is huge. But also the neuromuscular system gets challenged quite heavily. Ever heard that Maximal Strength Training close to your 1 RM is exactly how you train your neural pathways? Here we go - another reason to hit the gym.
When it comes to performance itself, let's speak about of your FTP. Besides a well built cardiovascular and metabolic system you need muscular endurance. Lots of that. The basis of all strength training methods from muscle endurance over hypertrophy to power is your 1 Repetition Maximum. The higher your maximal strength the higher your power and endurance weights.
The stronger your glutes the faster you run. The stronger your quads the faster you bike. The stronger your lat the faster you swim. And when I am talking STRONG I am not talking BIG. So rather than worrying about your muscle weight - let's work on your muscle strength!
WHEN? Through the entire off season into pre season until very close to your main race. Heavy lifting is metabolically manageable. It works with your ATP and CP - your phosphate - system. This brings me to the HOW?
How often and how much? Definitely a minimum of two times per week. The key is the number of sets (high) and repetitions (low) combined with enough rest (lots) in between. Still not sure? Don't hesitate to ask me!
Here is an important note for women in their menopause: Estrogen and progesterone declines in women in their menopause which leads to a decrease in muscle protein as this is a catabolic state. To counteract women need to hit the gym and grab the barbell. Seriously.