My friend Jay Yanovich is a physiology guy and a former ultra-runner. He served as my strength coach during some of my best years of running in my early 40s. He limited my unstructured routine to a few short resistance exercises; after the initial shock wore off on the roads, the routine put some surprising power into my legs. Regrettably, once I got into triathlon (especially swimming) I dropped everything having to do with weights.
As I mentioned the other week, it's time to get back to where I once belonged.
Kelly, Burnett, and Newton (2008) investigated whether a strength training program, added to endurance running, would improve 3-km run times in a group of recreationally fit women when compared with run-only training. The strength-trained group was found to improve their 3K run time, while not significantly, compared to the group which only ran. Not surprisingly, the lifters also were stronger when lower body strength was tested (parallel squat and hamstring curl), and stronger in the upper body, as measured by bench press data. But did they become bulky, which is often a “reason” women give for not weight training? Not only did the researchers find no difference in VO2max or running economy in the lifting/running group, but there were no changes in the body composition. Women are less likely to get bulky (if lifting for muscle endurance) because of their hormone make-up.
Michael Leveritt, author of the upper body strength training section in “Run Strong” (Human Kinetics, 2005) describes the varied outcomes of strength training – muscle strength, muscle power, muscle hypertrophy, and muscular endurance – and recommends that to increase muscle endurance without the hypertrophy (getting “bulky”), the exercises should involve 12-to-15 repetitions for two to three sets, about a minute of rest between sets, with a weight at about half of what could be lifted for one repetition. Leveritt’s sample upper body program can be performed in about 30 minutes and focus on the back, chest and shoulder muscle groups, with some assistance from the biceps and triceps. The movements are running-specific, done with alternating movements of the limbs and mostly in an upright position. The routine includes:
There are several other exercises which can be used for strength training, depending on the individual runner’s strengths, weaknesses and imbalances. Remember that the goal is to increase the muscle strength – and running performance – with as little increase in muscle size as possible.
Next post will outline some lower body exercises which can be incorporated as part of a strength training program.