Developing Special Endurance

Louie Simmons
Sat Mar 20, 2021

Tags: Plan, Strength, Explosive Strength

Time to Read: 5mins

Westside Barbell would seem like the last place to talk about special endurance. Our powerlifters must increase all muscles’ working capacity when doing large barbell lifts, including the smaller muscles and the body’s soft tissue. Here is an example of how we do this: heavy triceps with a bar or dumbbells for six to 10 reps. Then, in between sets with the heavy extension barbell or dumbbells, we would do 15 reps with an optimal band for a set.

The author did many experiments and personally found a great increase in triceps strength. Another member at Westside made significant improvements in pressing movements. In three years, his raw bench moved from 335 pounds to 600 pounds raw. By doing a set of heavy extensions and then light band extensions, his shirt bench improved from 435 pounds to 900 pounds officially. The reps and sets were eight by eight with a dumbbell, and ten sets of six reps with a barbell. The rest period was walking from the weighted extensions to the band push-down extensions, or approximately 20 feet.

First, let’s look at two rules of training—general, special, or strength endurance.

  1. To build or increase endurance, one must work through fatigue.
  2. You must stop endurance training when form breaks down.

You need to understand the two-factor theory of fitness-fatigue: You must workout to gain fitness, but your training will deteriorate due to the onslaught of fatigue.

Endurance depends on other physical properties, such as speed and strength. One simple test with a barbell is to do as many reps as you can, with 40 percent of your one-rep max. But there are many tests to evaluate your endurance. Jumping in many forms using time limits would be another test.

To test your speed reserve (SR), count your times on a pre-set distance that is longer than the length of your events. For example, a 60-meter run or a 300-meter run. Also, test yourself with a small amount of resistance with a weight sled. For instance, putting 15 pounds, 25 pounds, and 35 pounds on the sled. Or a light-weight vest with 10, 15, or 20 pounds. Because an athlete weighs a certain amount and covers a set distance, the amount of weight is always the same.

In physics, work is defined as net force and displacement through which that force is exerted (W=Fd). Your work is constant. One way to change the amount of work done in a pre-set distance is to become more powerful. To do this, you must increase your power.

Power is defined as work divided by the time used to do the work (P=W/T). If two athletes compete in the same race with equal technique, the more powerful one will cover the distance in the shortest time.

By going for time instead of distance, you can concentrate on covering a longer distance in three to seven, 12, and 15 seconds. Set a marker at a distance you cover in, let’s say, seven seconds. Then, on your next trip, try to increase the length by some amount, such as a meter. At up to 65 meters for a top male sprinter, you have increased your acceleration phase. At 10 seconds, the longer distance would be added to your top speed maintenance phase. 

This type of training by Westside was used by Glen Mills and others for years. Checking the total distance can be done with the weight sled and the weight vest. Westside has worked with very young sprinters and wrestlers using the same methods.

To measure your speed time, use 60 meters, or at least, the 30-meter. The longer you run, the body will start to rely on more endurance and less on pure maximal strength. To test your power, jump onto a box for height or stand flat-footed and jump up and touch the highest possible point on the wall. To test strength, pick a series of strength lifts—like the bench squat, deadlift, snatch, or clean-jerk.

For single-joint, use calf-ham-glute raises, inverse curls, back raises, or reverse hypers for a heavy set of 10 for strength gains. Or, use light weights for 25 reps or more for strength endurance. There are other exercises, including the Ply-O-Swing jumps with one or both legs.

The author relies on light sled work for long-distance of 30- to 60-minute trips. Track your distance covered. Break it into intervals. You can also use a heavy weight sled for trips of 60 meters for building maximum strength for all sprint muscles.

If you choose to use the Repeated Effort Method, you must know that only the very last reps with submaximal weights are beneficial for building strength endurance. When training for endurance, you must raise your strength endurance and your ability to increase oxygen consumption. You may choose circuit training where five to seven light exercises are rotated with no rest between sets. 

There is a very intriguing paper that was written by Leena Paavolainen in 1990 on using Explosive Weight Training to improve 5-K race results. The title is “Explosive-Strength Training Improves 5-Km Running Time by Improving Running Economy and Muscle Power.” 

In the study, a group of 5-K runners cut 32 percent of running and replaced it with Explosive-Strength Training. The goal of the study was to increase ground force and reduce ground contact time. The results showed all running could be improved by this method. If you can reduce one-hundredth of a second per stride, it will cut your running time in any race. It could minimize your time in a 5-K race by 25 seconds when one counts the total strides in a 5-K race.

The weight-trained group in the study did not improve their VO2 max or their lactate threshold. While the control group increased their VO2 max, they did not improve their running times. The weight training was not high-rep bodybuilding that would add body weight. Adding bodyweight would make overcoming gravity more difficult for the runners. After all, it is gravity that is the runners’ actual competition. To excel at strength endurance, you must be blessed with Type I, slow-twitch or slow oxidative fibers. They are fatigue resistant. 

Along with the Explosive-Strength Training, you also must do some training for muscle and tendon elasticity. The elasticity of the tendons is a special skill used in landings and take-offs. One can have powerful muscles, but if the tendons don’t respond during the Amortization Phase while landing from a depth jump or landing the feet while running, they will be too slow for maximal reversible muscle action. Remember, the more powerful the ground force, the greater the rebound due to deformation on the tendon. 

Here is an example: If you drop a basketball from three feet off the ground, it will rebound no more than three feet. But, if you throw the same basketball downward as hard as possible, it will bounce powerfully above your head.

To close, at the end of a marathon, most of the competitors will stagger across the finish line due to lack of sufficient leg strength, while the lungs can continue to function at a high level. 



Explosive Power and Jumping Ability for all Sports, Starzynski and Sozanski

Underground Secrets to Faster Running, Barry Ross

Science of Sports Training, Thomas Kurz

Basic Physics, Karl F Kuhn

Supertraining, Mel C. Siff

Fundamentals of Special Strength-Training in Sport, Y. V. Verkhoshansky

Science and Practice of Strength Training, Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, William J. Kraemer