What to do with strong, but maybe useless quads?

  • Creator
  • #67444

    I´ve been an avid telemark (and backcountry) skier for +30 years (for those not familiar with telemark, think doing split jump squats until muscular failure three times a week in the slopes during the winter season), resulting in large bodybuilder (or elite soccer player) style legs/quads.

    I always thought that those strong legs was a good thing, but getting more into endurance sport I am not so sure that those legs are so good anymore.

    I have been noticing from time to time over the years that I may get some minor pains from the knees unless I try to strengthen the back of the leg, and I have also noticed they I am a very weak on the bike if try to hold a higher continuened speed (sprinting, and shorter uphills are much easier) and also I am getting a lot of quads soreness after slower or longer runs. All this was way more prononced after an ankle fracture this winter, and I also noticed that holding a higher cadence on a bike trainer really made my quads sore afterwards (and I did struggle to hold a decent watt/power also with higher cadence, low cadence was much easier).

    My theory is that my previous skiing had give me legs that are not very well suited for endurance sports as long-distance trail runnning and biking, ie. mainly fast-twitch fibers with limited endurance. And consequently, I am asking for advice/opinion on:

    1. Is my theory correct that strong legs in one sport, with usually 2-4 minute bursts of load, may be an disadvantage in endurance sports?

    2. If so, how should I think in training to get my legs more adapted to endurance sports (trail running and biking mainly)? Should I focus on long continued intervals, since I am probably performs well on shorter 2-4 minute strength intervals?

    3. Any tips on technique in running/biking/skimo, to try to use the glutees more (instead of the quads, since I am probably very quad-dominant in all my sports)

    Perhaps my issues is not uncommon among skiers with downhill focus, since downhill skiing clearly favors quad strength before general endurance.


  • Participant
    rich.b on #67508

    As a formerly avid telemarker back in the mid/late-1980s and a runner since, I can say that running never helped me much the few times I ever pulled out the old tele-skis (Karhu Extreme, so we are talking pretty old). Different demands, as you describe from the other direction. So seemingly there is a lot of aerobic base building to be done. However, by your description of what you are doing when you bike, it gives the impression you are working too hard, especially how you describe on a bike trainer. Your approach to training may be subconsciously biased from your long experience from telemarking, as suggested by your references to power output and strength intervals. Endurance building is slow, steady work.

    Wiser voices will likely/hopefully come with better comments, but what you describe is essentially one of the key topics Uphill Athlete focuses on – aerobic deficiency: https://uphillathlete.com/aerobic-deficiency-syndrome/

    lycka till

    nalle4 on #67700

    Thanks Rich!

    Your comment is very helpful, and after thinking about this a few days things are starting to make sense. Hopefully, I am not too deep into ADS, since I have been very reluctant to training in Z3 and higher for the last 4 years. Testing for ADS in running, either by nose breathing, or heart rate drift, have previously not revealed any signs of ADS. But longer runs have been giving me sore legs afterwards, and when testing HR drift on the bike trainer, or running, my heart rate remains fairly stable – but it leaves my legs unreasonably sore afterwards (I could do an easy run the day after, but I wouldn’t want to do anything in Z2 and upwards, or any strength training). I have experienced all this previously, but it is more pronounced when I am coming back after the injury now.

    As I understand it, a successful AeT test should not result in DOMS (delayed muscle soreness) – so I am probably pushing it to hard even if my heart rate tells me otherwise. I don’t know if strength oriented legs are able to mask ADS, or if they are just not fatigue resistant – perhaps you or anyone else can give me any opinion on that?

    Do you have any opinion on how to increase the fatigue resistance of the legs, I guess longer continued run and bike sessions is the way to go – but what power or HR zones should I aim for? Or should I have presence of DOMS as an indicator that I have been in too high zone?

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