dr. Inigo Mujika: Strength training for endurance athletes

16 February 2020by Robi Simonic

dr. Inigo Mujika: Strength training for endurance athletes

16 February 2020by Robi Simonic

Dr. Inigo Mujika: Learning from the worlds best in sport science

As many of you know, a few days ago I was on a lecture by dr. Mujika from Spain. He prefers to be acknowledged as Basque. Professor who introduced him to us, said that he was asking a lot of questions regarding the independence of Slovenia during the ride from airport to faculty.

His lecture was on two topics, first one about Tapering. On this topic I am sure he is the world most knowledgeable person and second one was on “my” topic on Strength training for endurance based sports.

By dr. Mujika’s definition tapering is: “Eliminating fatigue and enhancing performance” and for Mujika, this is the most sensitive area of training and planning, as “we can ruin all we were building during preparatory phase” and I certainly won’t argue with him. During the lecture, I got the feeling that he trains so many Olympic medalists, that he lost count.

Till this lecture I’ve been managing tapering in rather “drive-through” mentality. Planning and training using scientific facts and then tapering by only reducing volume a little bit and intensity if needed. What a peace of crap by me. This was like riding on train with full speed and then at the end just stepping of the gas pedal and waiting if the train will stop at the station or somewhere near!


Listening to dr. Mujika I got the impression, that I have to find a new way to deal with this better. He mentioned that during tapering, we can:

      1. lower the volume and intensity,
      2. manipulate the time when to start tapering,
      3. increase rest time or,
      4. we can do different types of tapering such as linear, exponential or box tapering.

He showed us the numbers and explained the reasoning behind the whats, whens and hows. Another thing we have to consider is that there are different tapering methods for different athletes and sports. He showed us an example of two triathletes, who I believe were brothers and in the same sport. They were both nearing the same competition using rather opposing tapering methods.

Some interesting points on how to do that:

    1. Volume is the first thing we consider to taper and the best is from 41% to 60%.
    2. Frequency: We don’t change training frequency.
    3. Ratio: If we train for four weeks then two weeks of tapering is the norm.
    4. Sex: For male and female is the same.
    5. Population: Tapering is for all levels of athletes no matter if we train Olympic or local champions. All can and will benefit from it.
    6. Nutrition: Be very cautious with food planing as the volume is changing and so must the food. He gave an example of thriathletes whose normal intake during the day was 16MJ and during the tapering it was at 12 MJ/day. He gave a good example on how to “mislead” athletes here with serving the food on smaller plates so athlete is not worried about the food quantity, which is often.
    7. Team Sports: Similar is in team sports, smaller levels from tapering are even more visible as every team consists of individuals.
    8. After tapering there is bigger progress in strength than in endurance.
    9. I think we all need more reasoning on this topic! It is rarely addressed but I was convinced that it is ultimately needed. Here are my two cents from “real world” experience I’ve had. I can engage in tapering in some way, but if others working with training athletes dont’ adjust or don’t know or practice this, than it means nothing and we can’t expect many benefits from it.

To wrap it up…

After some Q&A we had a short break. We continued with the second topic, which honestly I know a little bit more of. I was glad that he has confirmed my current knowledge on the matter.

At the end let me say, that this was one of the best lectures for me. Not just because it was on topic, that my knowledge was/is shallow, but also because he talked both in numbers and backed all that up with practical experise and from training real world athletes and champions. This for me was very important, since by now you know I am a big fan of numbers in training.

To wrap it all up – a little rumble at the end. I was surprised that among listeners there were only a few trainers/coaches, I could count them all on the fingers of my hands. Among the audience were a few professors and mostly students.

If you find this article interesting please share it with your friends and people you think could benefit from this.

Another quality presentation from dr. Mujika can be found below:


Robi Simonic