Is it Possible to Build Strength and Endurance at the Same Time?

A Marine executes a squat at Camp Pendleton.
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Klayton Inmon, a manpower analyst with Manpower Information Systems Support Office, Marine Corps Installations West, executes a squat at Paige Field House on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 7, 2022. (Lance Cpl. Shaina Jupiter/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

I have enjoyed working with professional trainers tremendously since joining the National Strength and Conditioning Association and becoming certified through their Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist program (CSCS).

 I have learned from some of the best, but also share a side of fitness to which not many are accustomed by training tactical athletes. Here is a question from a trainer who is seeking some information on training hard in strength and endurance, as it is tough to be great at both:

Good morning, Stew,

My name is Nick, and I am a strength and conditioning coach at a local university. My question comes from joining weight-room strength with running economy. Have you ever come across a running program that will not hinder weight-room strength gains? I know that this is a random [question] coming from a strength coach, but if I cannot come up with an answer myself, I look to those that I respect in the field for help. Thank you so much for your time.

Nick, I have searched and experimented with many options, looking for an answer to that question for years. The only way I have kept up with both running and strength numbers is to cycle them separately. Of course, that is longer-distance running -- four or more miles in timed events. Sprinting, as you know, goes hand in hand with heavy lifts for strength.

However, if the goal is shorter runs (1-1.5 miles timed), then you can do both relatively well.

As you are aware, I am sure, you will never be at your best one-rep max or your best 1.5-mile or more timed run while lifting heavy and running 4-5 days a week at the same time. But if you can live with a 20% decrease in strength (from your one-rep max) for 6-8 weeks with a solid decrease in running time, then I would suggest the periodization method. It has helped me cycle through for 20 years now.

For instance, here are issues I am seeing as I reach 40 years of age and beyond. This winter, I lifted more than I have in 20 years:

  • 400-pound squat
  • 450-pound deadlift
  • 325-pound bench press
  • 275-pound power clean (but I picked up weight to 225 pounds -- the heaviest I have ever been in my life

When we dropped the weights and started to progress with a running program in the spring, it hurt. Hurt badly. Following a progressive running plan even every other day hurt. I have since lost 15 pounds, but still would like to lose another 10-15 pounds for optimal run times. 

Even at 47 years old, I reach a mile pace below seven minutes. At its best, my strength is associated with too much weight gain. I'm still working at gaining strength without weight and running faster at that same weight without pain. I have been doing more interval runs with less distance, which seems to be working well for my pace and dropping some body weight, too. Twenty years ago, it was much easier to drop the weight when we started running again. It is difficult to outwork my diet now; in fact, I cannot.

Since I have not lifted heavy since March, I assume that my maxes are down. I find that I keep strength pretty well but lose cardiovascular ability quickly. I can take a week from lifting and come back stronger, but take a week off of running or swimming and feel like I am a beginner again. When we come back around to lifting progressions again, it typically only takes about a six-week program, and I am at my old maxes again or near them when we lift in the winter.

This model has worked for me and is very functional for the tactical athlete whose goal is not to master anything but have no (horrible) weaknesses, either. 

Periodization -- How We Do It (more links too)


Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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