Two Studies: Proper Weight Training and How to Bike Your Way to a Faster Run Split

>> Thursday, March 20, 2014

FIRST STUDY: Resistance training for runners

Matt Fitzgerald (author, sports nutritionist, former Carmichael Training Systems coach, and athlete) recently wrote about a recent study on Competitor regarding the best kind of strength training for runners (something I've been doing a lot of over the last 7 months). Here are some of his thoughts (and anything bolded was done by me for emphasis):

There are three basic types of resistance training a runner can do. One is muscular endurance training, which entails performing fairly large numbers of repetitions with moderate resistance. Think 15 lunges with each leg while holding light dumbbells. A second type of resistance training that some runners do is heavy weightlifting. Think six repetitions of barbell half squats with a load too heavy to lift eight times. A third type is explosive strength training. Think box jumps.

He wrote about a study where they broke groups of people up into these 3 categories, had them train a certain way, and then recorded any gains they had:

Members of the heavy weightlifting and explosive strength training groups saw improvements in their maximum strength and maximum muscle activation, while members of the muscle endurance training group did not. The highest speed attained in the anaerobic running test and the maximum jump height increased only in the heavy weightlifting group. But improvements were about equal in all of the tests that really matter to runners: endurance, VO2 max, and running economy.

The authors of this study concluded that heavy weightlifting is the best form of resistance training for distance runners on the grounds that it improved these last three variables as much as the other types while also improving anaerobic running performance, which the others failed to do.

My own belief is that runners should do a mix of all three types of resistance training, because different types of training are most appropriate for different muscles groups and because the benefits of the three types are complementary to a certain degree.

Fitzgerald ends with saying "balance all this out:"

... All runners lose efficiency as their form falls apart when they run to the point of fatigue, but runners with better muscle endurance maintain their economy better. So it’s a good idea to train for muscle endurance in the gym.

However, both heavy strength training and explosive strength training have been shown to increase running economy generally, before fatigue even sets in. The mechanism is completely different from that by which muscle endurance training works. Heavy and explosive strength increase the stiffness of the legs during running, so that less energy is lost to the ground during the ground contact phase of the stride. Explosive strength training is also proven to increase maximum sprint speed, and a distance runner can never have too much of that.

I've been doing a lot of "endurance" based work, and a fair amount of "heavy weightlifting" too. But I haven't been doing any "explosive" moves. This study made me give a second look at the boxes at the gym the other day... but then I remembered that doing things like that (that take coordination) don't go well for me. Visual aid:

SECOND STUDY: Cycling workouts for run speed

And here's another study I want to share. It's from 220 Triathlon, and it's about how to train on the BIKE to get the most out of your RUN:

Although the muscle recruitment patterns are different there’s quite a lot of overlap in the muscles used during cycling and running, which poses the question of whether interval training on the bike could enhance run speed? If so, bike intervals could be a valuable tool for injury-prone triathletes who want to improve run performance without the increased injury risk.

This study followed a similar line as the one I mentioned earlier: they took groups of athletes and had them train differently to see which group gained the most fitness.

[The athletes were] split into one of two groups:

- Short intervals (9-11 x 10, 20 and 40sec efforts at near maximum).

- Long intervals (6-8 x 5min efforts at 80% of the triathletes’ maximum oxygen uptake – in other words, fairly hard).

When the triathletes were retested after three weeks, both groups had increased their aerobic power by around 7% and both groups saw gains in power during the sprint test of around 10.5%.

What was fascinating, however, was that only the long-distance intervals had a truly significant effect on 5km run times, reducing it, on average, by around 1:04mins. Although there was a drop in 5km times after short intervals, it wasn’t large enough to be considered statistically significant.

So basically even if you're doing sprint triathlons, some "longer" intervals on the bike will be the most help to you. They gave these final 4 takeaway tips:

Takeaway tips:

- To boost your 5km run performance in three weeks without performing running intervals, try using long cycling intervals

- Advanced triathletes should train twice a week, performing 6 x 5min efforts at 80% VO2max with 1min recovery between efforts. Build this to 7 x 5min efforts in week two and eight efforts in week three

- Less accomplished triathletes should begin with 4 x 5min efforts performed just once a week, building to six efforts as fitness increases

- Always ensure that you take a rest or easy day before and after your interval days

Alright, time for some bike intervals to help my biking AND my running. And then maybe I can learn some sweet bike tricks:

Or maybe not.


CautiouslyAudacious 11:39 AM, March 20, 2014  

You definitely caught my attention with improving run speed on the bike!!! I am a much better cyclist than I am a runner so this sounds awesome to me! I'm going to try it out!

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