Influence of strength work on running

In this article, we are going to see how strength work can help develop the conditional strength of resistance and help improve the performance of runners in both background and speed tests.

In terms of sports performance, the development of endurance as a physical or conditional capacity is mainly based on:

Achieve the ability to maintain a certain intensity when moving much or all body weight, or body weight plus an implement for a long time.
Increase the ability to withstand a greater number of efforts related to training or competition.

Improve resilience between efforts.

Stabilization of sports technique and the ability to concentrate in sports with greater technical demand.

Today, this vision can be somewhat general, and the so-called “resistance” is directly dependent on its most basic expression of the application of force per unit of time () and that is, if we manage to apply more force per unit of time in each of the cyclic gestures (supports in the race) of any endurance sport (running, cycling, cross-country skiing …) we will generally achieve more strength in each of our movements with the same cardiorespiratory effort and therefore we will get more performance with the same effort, so we will be more efficient.

Strength training for medium and long performance

We consider medium distance in athletics to tests greater than 800 meters, that is, they are longer than 2 minutes for an average athlete.

In a meta-analysis on this topic , it was seen that the implantation of a strength training mesocycle in the race, cycling, cross-country skiing, cross-country and swimming was associated with moderate improvements in the medium and long distance performance.

In addition, the benefits were existing regardless of the level of the athletes, so it is recommended for all levels of athletes.

And this is why?

It is seen, as with the implementation of more than one mesociclo of strength training, the energy cost improved (3), we become more efficient to the general power more strength in each of the supports with the same cost.
On the other hand, not only does it improve efficiency, but it also improved the running economy, mainly by improving intramuscular coordination, that is, there is an improvement in muscle contraction and the increase in stiffness of the tendons (4) that makes that less dissipated force be lost.
Finally, there were no negative effects on VO2max or blood lactate markers.

Training Proposal

The maximum strength training was with which the greatest benefits were achieved compared to combined work, underwater strength and power.

Training 2 days a week and with a progression of more than 24 sessions was associated with greater benefits .

Although improvements have also been seen with 2 to 3 strength training sessions per week over a period of more than 6 weeks. And the benefits are likely to be greater the higher the dose (4), that is, the higher the dose, the greater the benefit.

Different types of strength training and its improvement in endurance capacity.

When runners are not trained in strength, improvement is also found with plyometric and explosive strength training (4). However, it is convenient to adopt a periodized approach to training focused on maximum strength where in the early stages the goal was to increase muscle to maximize long-term maximum strength adaptations in untrained people.

Strength training for sprinters

We have already seen how strength training, mainly the maximum strength oriented can help performance in the background modalities. Next, the benefits of strength training in speed modalities, mainly 100, 200 and 400 m of athletics, will be shown.

As we have said before, strength training increases the strength indexes, which helps to have a greater capacity to absorb and general strength in very short moments of time, which in the modalities of speed becomes more important because when generating greater force, good posture must be maintained and to ensure a correct rapid recovery of the leg dissipating the least possible energy.

Related to this, the ability to produce a great force at high speeds, allows to reduce the duration of its postural phases, which brings with it higher running speeds.

It can also improve the performance of the stretching – shortening cycle during rapid movements. This adaptation improves the absorption and subsequent work generation of the athlete’s muscles .
And finally, as we have noted previously, increased stiffness of the musculature and connective tissue (ligaments, bones and tendons), which allows to withstand higher speeds and running forces .

Training Proposal

In this case, I consider that the traditional way used to train the force for these modalities should be turned around.
Since most of the strength exercises that are performed, require a force application of periods of time greater than those related to the time of the race itself .

On the other hand, the acceleration in a speed race is limited by the energy generated by the joint moments of the support leg through the rotation – extension strategy and by the deceleration mechanism of the impact limb (5) , and all the exercises that are usually used for strength training do not perform this movement associated with the sprint or the mechanism by which the leg “attacks” the ground.

Therefore, strength training for this modality should be focused on very short duration exercises, always lower than those of running time, looking for a technical career gesture very similar to the real one, such as deep jumps, multi-jumps with weight or career technique exercises with ballast.

Concurrent training in medium and long distance performance

It is a combination of different physical abilities in the same session (6). In this case, the work of strength and resistance, which is the most common. And it has been seen that medium and long distance athletes could benefit (with more than 24 sessions) from using this type of training, mainly in the running economy could be improved (2-8%) without changes in aerobic endurance or VO2Max .

But with special conditions, because due to the fatigue it generates, it can compromise muscle performance. The training must be adapted to the athlete and his training status. It would be a mistake, to schedule the same strength training to an athlete who is in a preparatory period such as the preseason than to one who is in a stage prior to major competitions. In the case of the former, he should work with a more structural orientation and in the latter, a focus on maximum strength and that at least he would not need so much of this type of training.

A correct long-term periodization, a combination of methods (structural work, submaximal force, maximum force, power) must be implemented to optimize the adaptations of strength training.
Maximum strength should be a crucial training stimulus, explosive and eccentric training could be advantageous if used properly in the training plan .

Concurrent training could also improve combined performance by improving aerobic metabolism and neuromuscular capacity, which makes us able to perform faster contractions and thereby be faster.

Finally, it has been seen that in order to optimize endurance performance, the aerobic-weight training sequence is convenient, since it is more beneficial for the aerobic component (7) by not compromising and generating previous muscle fatigue from weight training.

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