How to train like a hybrid athlete.
By Coach Hunter Bennett
Hybrid training describes exercising to improve strength, power, endurance, and aerobic fitness at the same time. Training like a hybrid athlete not only improves athleticism, but also keeps training fun by making sure you always have a diverse range of exercises in your routine.
And the good news is that with smart training strategies, you can improve it all at the same time.
In this article, we delve into the key principles and strategies for training like a hybrid athlete so you can keep making gains across ALL fitness domains.
1. Seek your minimum effective hybrid training dose
To maximise the effectiveness of hybrid training you need to find the minimum amount of strength, power, and aerobic training required to elicit positive adaptations. This will ensure you still have adequate time to recover, maximising progress.
Fortunately, the minimum effective training dose for most people is much lower than conventional wisdom would suggest.
For example, trained powerlifters have been shown to make considerable strength progress on as little as three working sets per week. Similarly, increases in aerobic fitness can occur with as little as three short moderate intensity runs per week.
The key is to find the smallest amount of training volume you need and start there. You can always increase it gradually over time if you start to plateau.
2. Focus on compound movements for strength
When it comes to strength, prioritising large compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups is integral to maximise efficiency and progress. Exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and rows, are not only time-efficient but also highly effective at getting you big and strong.
An example of a full body strength training program geared towards the minimum effective dose could look something like this:
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|Squat 3 x 3||Deadlift 3 x 3||Squat 2 x 5|
|Bench 3 x 3||Overhead Press 3 x 5||Bench 2 x 5|
|Pull ups 3 x 6-8||Seated Row 3 x 8-10||Chin ups 3 x Max|
Obviously, you have the scope to add and remove exercises as you see fit (i.e., chuck in some arms if you want to train arms, or glutes if you want to train glutes), but this should provide a nice example of what it could look like if you wanted to take a minimalist approach to strength training
If you want to read more about how to design a minimalist strength program, make sure to check out our article “Minimalist Strength Training Program: The Ultimate Guide.”
3. Embrace Plyometric Warmups
One of the most effective training modalities for power development is plyometrics.
Plyometric exercises involve high intensity jumping, bounding, sprinting, and throwing, done for low reps and with maximal intent. These exercises improve your body’s ability to store and use elastic energy, making you more explosive and efficient.
This not only improves athleticism, but also makes you a better runner.
As a bonus, you don’t need large volumes of plyometric training to improve performance. As a result, they are the perfect way to end your warmups for both strength and cardio sessions.
A simple plyometric circuit that can be put at the end of your warmup could look something like the following:
- Pogo hops x 10
- Medicine ball squat throw x 5
- Broad jumps x 5
- Single leg bounds x 5
- 10m sprint x 5 (30s rest between each sprint)
- Repeat once more
You could then perform it twice per week and be confident you have everything you need from a plyometric development standpoint.
4. Embrace low intensity aerobic training
Low intensity aerobic training simply described aerobic exercise where your heart rate sits around 65-70% of your maximum. It should be a speed and intensity that you can maintain for a long time while being able to hold a conversation.
In short, it should feel deceptively easy.
While most people think you need to go HARD to see progress, this simply isn’t true when it comes to aerobic exercise. In fact, simply accumulating volume at low-to-moderate intensities is a great way to make your cardiovascular system more efficient, causing substantial increases in aerobic fitness and performance.
Importantly, low intensity training is much easier to recover from than higher intensity aerobic modalities, which means it won’t interfere with your strength training workouts.
For most people, starting with 2-3 sessions per week, lasting between 30 and 60 minutes each, is more than enough to improve fitness.
5. Don’t be afraid to train fatigued
When you are trying to train multiple qualities at once, there might be times where you need to perform cardio and strength training on the same day – and this should be embraced.
While performing strength training after cardio is probably not a good idea (the fatigue from your cardio can impact your strength performance), doing cardio after weight training is absolutely fine.
In fact, it might even be beneficial.
There is some evidence to suggest that performing low-moderate intensity aerobic exercise in a fatigued state may stimulate additional aerobic adaptations, leading to greater improvements in fitness.
So, if you find yourself needing to train strength and cardio on the same day, it may even be a good thing.
6. Don’t shy away from interval training
High intensity interval training (HIIT) describes any type of aerobic exercise that combines short bouts of high intensity exercise with short bouts of recovery, and it can be a potent aerobic stimulus if you are short on time.
One of our favourite HIIT protocols involves:
- 30s at 85% max speed
- 30s light jog
- Repeat for 8 minutes
- Rest 4 minutes
- Repeat the whole process again
This is a great way to get a training session done in 20 minutes.
We should note that HIIT is generally harder to recover from than low intensity aerobic work, so it is probably better to perform this type of training using low impact exercise (i.e., cycling, rowing, air-bike), and only for 1-2 sessions per week.
7. Track your hybrid training progress
Lastly, if you want to become a hybrid athlete, you need to track your progress and be willing to adjust your program accordingly.
Pay attention to your strength, power, and improvements in aerobic capacity. If you find that certain aspects are lagging behind, tweak your program to address your specific weaknesses.
Similarly, if you feel fatigued all the time, don’t be afraid to pull back some of your training volume to maximise recovery. In some cases, doing more can be counterproductive, and taking a step back can help kick start your progress again.
How to train like a hybrid athlete: Take home message
Crafting a minimalist hybrid training program that focuses on the minimum effective dose for strength, power, and aerobic fitness is not about cutting corners. Instead, it is about optimising your time and effort to ensure you maximise progress across all fitness domains.
By strategically incorporating compound movements, explosive exercises, and efficient aerobic training, you can become a hybrid athlete without sacrificing hours of your day.