A style of training that has exploded in popularity over the past few years from the growth of functional training and fitness competitions, becoming a hybrid athlete has never been more popular.
Athletes like Fergus Crawley and Nick Bare are prime examples of how hybrid athletes can continue pushing boundaries through strength and endurance.
But what is hybrid training? And what are the benefits of hybrid training?
WHAT IS HYBRID TRAINING?
The aim of hybrid training is to improve both strength and endurance simultaneously.
Typically, studies have shown that the 'interference effect' of combining strength and endurance training can have a negative impact on performance, strength gains, and muscle growth.
This may be correct if you're training for high performance in one discipline, for example, a top-level marathon athlete. But how much can the London Marathon winner squat, bench, and deadlift?
Hybrid athletes continue to defy these findings with specific programming and correct training intensities and recovery periods.
Through a well-designed hybrid training program, which we'll discuss below, you too can combine your strength and endurance goals to build and improve your health and fitness, improving overall fitness and physical preparedness.
Generally, a hybrid training program consists of a combination of compound strength movements and running or cycling. However, one of the great benefits of hybrid training is its flexibility and customisation, therefore, a hybrid program can be tailored to your individual goals.
For example, to build muscle and improve swimming endurance, you can tailor your hybrid program for a hypertrophy resistance training focus alongside regular pool sessions - improving in both areas.
BENEFITS OF HYBRID TRAINING
Improved Overall Health
Improved Body Composition
Reduce Risk Of Injury
Greater Physical Preparedness
Efficient Use Of Time
IMPROVED OVERALL FITNESS
Resistance, anaerobic and aerobic training have been shown by numerous studies to have a beneficial carryover to our general health and well-being.
From improved mobility and bone strength, to better sleep and a lower resting heart rate - combining strength and endurance may have a more well-rounded impact on general health.
IMPROVED BODY COMPOSITION
You may consider hybrid training the 'best of both worlds' when it comes to body composition and re-composition.
In fact, one study concluded over a six-week period that strength and endurance training resulted in positive changes in terms of reduction in body fat and an increase in the participants' muscle mass.
REDUCED RISK OF INJURY
Training across various intensities, loads, and distances has been shown to have multiple benefits amongst athletes, such as greater physical outputs, resilience, and protection against injury. (study)
GREATER PHYSICAL PREPAREDNESS
Another huge life benefit of hybrid training is a greater level of physical preparedness.
You can't train for everything, all the time. But by training across strength and endurance, you can be ready to enjoy what life throws at you, whether it's a cycle ride with friends or a lat minute fitness competition entry.
You'll have a greater base level of fitness across a wider range, so you'll be comfortable lifting heavy and running distances.
EFFICIENT USE OF TIME
Following a hybrid training program allows you to develop strength and endurance within a combined approach, potentially leading to less time training while still achieving the benefits listed above.
IS HYBRID TRAINING FOR ME?
In elite scenarios, the argument that placing a balanced emphasis on endurance and strength can have a negative impact is backed by various studies.
However, the fact that you're reading this indicates that you may not be a world-record marathon runner or a Stoltman brother...
Hybrid training, the combination of strength and endurance, can still help you improve in both of these fitness aspects. Running a couple of weekly 5ks whilst also lifting heavy will no doubt improve your endurance and strength – and if that combination of hybrid fitness is what you're looking for, then following a hybrid training plan could be for you.
Studies have shown the positive effect of a hybrid-style training approach, from VO2 max improvements to greater body composition.
So, if your ambition is to be an all-rounder, able to lift heavy and endure distances on foot or bike, then conditioning yourself with hybrid training may be a rewarding and motivating way to exercise.
HOW TO CREATE A HYBRID TRAINING PROGRAM
When creating your own hybrid training program, having a plan that aligns with your goals is essential.
There's no doubt that a hybrid program can be demanding, so being smart in your training plan with particular consideration to intensities, volume, distance, and training times will all significantly impact your adherence to the program.
By structuring your hybrid program with the considerations made above, it should be possible to reduce the impact of fatigue and injury, therefore keeping recovery times optimised.
Here are a few other tips to think about when programming your hybrid training:
Focus On Recovery: hybrid training is demanding and you'll need plenty of sleep, along with structured recovery days to adhere to the plan. Don't forget your mobility, too!
Consider Your Goals: there's a good chance one of your goals may be a priority over another, which can be reflected in your training bias. For example, if you have a park run coming up, you may increase endurance training and slightly reduce resistance training for a 4-week period.
Fuel Your Body: You'll need more calories and protein to maintain your energy balance and recovery, and this could mean planning your meals ahead of time to ensure you're eating enough macro and micronutrients.
Hybrid training is a great way to improve overall fitness and can be an interesting approach to fitness and exercise due to the variety that hybrid training plans can offer.
Those that want to combine strength and endurance training into one program should consider the hybrid training approach to their fitness.
If you want to really focus on one training discipline, then hybrid training may not be for you – however, you still may benefit from including small amounts of strength or endurance within your training. For example, runners can improve their running economy by following a regular strength training program around their running training.