There’s a West LA gym called Sirens and Titans run by a very special coach named Jacques LeVore. This coach isn’t the only reason to attend the gym—its entire staff is incredible and impressive—but he is the main reason I decided to invest. He devised a form of strength training for endurance athletes called Maximum Sustained Power Training, or MSP Training. I included it in my Primal Endurance book from several years back as a great way for dedicated endurance athletes to not just incorporate strength training without impeding their endurance performance but to actively improve it.
MSP training is an effective way to train for anyone who wants to get stronger and generate more power for longer. If you want to play with your kids and keep up with them, bouncing on the trampoline and playing hide and seek and tag and tossing them up in the air, MSP can help you sustain your intensity. If you want to play pickup basketball or rec league sports, MSP will keep you going til the end. And yes, if you want to dominate the local 10k or run a marathon or complete a triathlon, you have to strength train, and maximum sustained power training is a great way to do it.
First of all, why strength train as an endurance athlete?
It builds better bones. Stronger, denser bones are better able to withstand the forces incurred through running, cycling, and other forms of endurance activity.
It builds resilient joints. Lifting weights develops the connective tissue and joints in a way that basic endurance training can’t do. Stronger joints and connective tissue means you can go for longer without getting injured.
It improves form. The stronger you are, the better you’ll be able to maintain proper form and technique when going long distances. Form breakdown doesn’t just slow down your performance. It also increases your injury risk.
It increases power. The stronger you are, the more power you can generate on the bike, on hills, on the track. That means faster times.
These are all great reasons to train in the weight room, and they also apply to people who aren’t endurance athletes. Goes without saying.
How to Do Maximum Sustained Power Training
Here’s how it goes. Let’s say you’re doing the deadlift.
Figure out your five rep max for a lift.
Now, if you’re just starting out, you want to build your 5 rep max up to a respectable number. If you can only deadlift 100 pounds for 5 reps, try to push it up to 150 or 200 pounds. Or more. It all depends on where you’re starting.
Once you have your five rep max, use that weight for your first MSP workout.
Lift for 3-4 reps.
Rest for 30 seconds.
Lift for 2 reps.
Lift for 2.
Repeat as many times as you can without failure.
You can also do this with something like a vertical leap. Do 3-4 reps of max height jumps, rest, repeat, and stop once the height you’re able to jump is noticeably lower than when you started.
Avoiding failure is key. Always stop well short of failure. Each rep should feel crisp and clean and quick. You’re not struggling. You are moving a relatively heavy weight quickly and almost effortlessly. You are not taxing your central nervous system. You aren’t burning through a ton of calories. You’re leaving plenty in the tank. Once you feel yourself about to fail or the movement slows down considerably, it’s time to stop.
Endurance athletes who try to strength train like a CrossFitter or do high volume, high intensity hour and a half-long training sessions in the weight room almost invariably end up overtraining. It’s just too taxing. Very hard to recover and still perform on the track or on the bike.
Just like proper low level aerobic activity often feels “too easy,” MSP training might not feel like a “hard workout.” You won’t be drained afterwards. You’ll know you’ve lifted, but you won’t walk funny. There won’t be much soreness the next day. This is normal. This is expected.
MSP training is also a good option for older people who want to stimulate strength development and bone density without overtaxing their bodies. It’s a relatively quick way to train—doesn’t require hours in the gym. You could even structure MSP sets as little microworkouts throughout the day.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever done Maximum Sustained Power training? Will you? Let me know how it’s worked for you.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.