Be­come a com­plete ath­lete

Runner's World (UK) - - Running Wisdom -

ack in the 1970s and 1980s, run­ners rarely thought about strength: The weights room was a tor­ture cham­ber full of body­builders. In the last decade, if you wanted to sound like an in­formed mem­ber of the run­ning world, you threw out one word about strength: core. De­vel­op­ing strength in those mag­i­cal mus­cles in your ab­domen, trunk and lower back was touted as the most vi­tal an­cil­lary work you could do.

Core sta­bil­is­ing mus­cles are cer­tainly im­por­tant, but so are the mus­cles, lig­a­ments and ten­dons in the lower and up­per body. Sev­eral stud­ies have found ev­i­dence that lift­ing heavy weights, es­pe­cially with the lower body, im­proves race times for well-trained dis­tance run­ners.

More re­cently, at­ten­tion in the strength and con­di­tion­ing world has moved away from raw strength and to­wards re­duc­ing the dis­crep­ancy in strength and flex­i­bil­ity be­tween paired mus­cles. ‘Func­tional move­ment is re­ally the buzz phrase,’ says Rosario. ‘We ad­dress any biome­chan­i­cal in­ef­fi­cien­cies. We make sure strength is equal on each side.’

While ex­er­cises tar­get­ing the abs, obliques, lower back and hips are still in­cluded in this ap­proach, so are ex­er­cises that work on the quads, ham­strings, calves, Achilles ten­dons, shoul­ders and chest mus­cles. Rosario’s ath­letes mostly use ket­tle­bells and their own body weight. Other coaches add in bal­ance boards, medicine balls and elas­tic bands. The com­mon goal is ad­dress­ing strength im­bal­ances and ap­ply­ing them in a run­ning-spe­cific man­ner. To lower in­jury risk, Rosario’s ath­letes can’t move on to heav­ier weights un­til they have mas­tered good form.

An­other op­tion for de­vel­op­ing strength and power is to train on steep hills. One re­cent study found that hill runs de­vel­oped stronger hip flex­ors, which could be re­lated to bet­ter form and ef­fi­ciency, and faster times. Coach John Goodridge ar­gues that hill sprints are just as ef­fec­tive as lunges or squats. ‘As a 67-year-old coach, I'm in the mi­nor­ity, old-school club and do not em­pha­sise weight train­ing, core or run­ning drills,’ he says. ‘I make use of hills through­out the year.’

Goodridge is not a lone voice: Many coaches find ex­plo­sive hill reps of seven to 10 sec­onds on a steep gra­di­ent (20-30 per cent) to be as ef­fec­tive as squats in build­ing lower-body power.

CHANGE THIS Strength-train your whole body, not just your legs or mid­sec­tion.

WHY You need full-body strength to run with your best form, us­ing your full range of mo­tion and power. Strength also re­duces in­jury risk. You can’t get all the strength you need just by run­ning more.

THE CHAL­LENGE Strength train­ing takes ex­tra time and en­ergy on top of run­ning. And run­ners tend to find it a te­dious dis­ci­pline, with none of the joy or clearly vis­i­ble progress of run­ning.

THE RISK Poor form with heavy weights can lead to in­jury.

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