Posted July 26, 2010

Resistance Training for Endurance Athletes

Now normally I wouldn’t do too many posts about distance running, but apparently I am getting more and more clients coming to me to figure out how to run better and get faster times. Currently I have two people looking to qualify for Boston next year, as well as three running competitive marathons for personal best times, and an ultra marathon runner who hasn’t figured out that if they want to go more than 100 kilometers through trails and around mountains that a quad or motor bike would be a lot faster and easier.

Now most endurance athletes tend to balk at the thought of doing strength training to improve their run performance, thinking that keeping their knees from ever bending and limiting their core from doing anything more than holding tight like a constipated colon would make them big and bulky like this guy….

However, most endurance athletes unfortunately look like warmed over death with minimal muscle tone and hanging skin that provides aerodynamic drag while they run, and makes them look more like hunched over half-humans than anything bulky or muscular.

Now unfortunately, these people will never get huge or impressively sculpted muscles, as they do the majority of their training in distance running. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t get stronger and more powerful to improve their run performance by substituting in some weight training for strength and power. There are ways to do this without building a lot of muscle, plus we would have to do a lot of hypertrophy training to see any appreciable gains in muscle size, which would be ineffective for endurance athletes.

There has been a lot of research done on the benefits of resistance training and endurance athletes. Pavvo found in 1999 that by reducing total run volume by 32% and switching it to explosive power drills caused no loss in aerobic capacity, an increase in run economy and maximal speed. Recently Mikkola found in 2007 that replacing running altogether with explosive power drills didn’t change injury incidence (ie. they didn’t get injured), maintained their VO2 max, and resulted in more power production (more speed with less effort). And they looked wicked cool in the gym banging out jump squats and stuff.

So a basic plan for an endurance runner would have to include some multi-directional hip work to help with any imbalances from doing the same saggital plane movement over and over and over and over and over again. Another main variable would have to be power development and speed development through both horizontal saggital movements and vertical saggital movements, as well as core rotation work. Most of the sets should have rep ranges between 5-8 reps to work on strength with minimal hypertrophy, and involve maximum speed development. Check out the circuit shown below for a dead sexy triathlete (Note: It’s Lindsay, my fiancee, so I am allowed to call her that. Grow up.)

A strength program like this would give her a great workout, limit soreness that would detract from her ability to train her main disciplines (mainly swim, bike, and run), and would increase her speed and power development to increase her speed during her racing.

Just leave those short-ass running shorts outside of the gym. I don’t want to see another old man in extremely short shorts doing piss-poor deadlifts and have a “wardrobe malfunction” ever again. I may need therapy after that.

Maybe an exorcist.

One Response to Resistance Training for Endurance Athletes