Se­crets Of Ef­fec­tive Strength Train­ing

Lift heavy loads to get the big re­wards

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

Many run­ners avoid strength­build­ing ses­sions. This is what’s known as a ter­ri­ble idea

Purists say the best sup­ple­men­tary work­out for run­ners is more run­ning. There’s some truth to this, but many top ath­letes also strength train. By work­ing weak mus­cles and cor­rect­ing im­bal­ances, th­ese run­ners hope to re­duce their in­jury risk, so they can run even more. Strength train­ing also boosts run­ning econ­omy, al­low­ing you to hold the same pace while burn­ing less oxy­gen. All of this be­comes more im­por­tant once you reach your mid-30s and start fight­ing age-re­lated mus­cle loss. The chal­lenge is that en­durance work and strength train­ing place com­pet­ing de­mands on your body. To get the most out of your strength ses­sions with­out com­pro­mis­ing your run­ning, keep th­ese guide­lines in mind.


Re­cent stud­ies have shown that tiny dumb­bells, big bar­bells or body­weight ex­er­cises can pro­duce sim­i­lar gains, as long as you lift to mo­men­tary fail­ure, the point at which you can’t com­plete an­other rep with per­fect form. In­clude two or three ex­er­cises each for the up­per and lower body, plus some that tar­get core and hip strength; aim for three sets of each ex­er­cise, twice a week.

To op­ti­mise run­ning econ­omy, fo­cus on lower-body ex­er­cises that re­cruit large amounts of mus­cle all at once, such as weighted lunges and squats. Or in­clude ex­plo­sive ply­o­met­ric ex­er­cises such as two-legged and one-legged jumps. Even­tu­ally, try drop jumps, which in­volve step­ping off a low box or step and then jump­ing as high as you can as soon as you land.


Run­ners should gen­er­ally run be­fore lift­ing any weights, be­cause try­ing to run af­ter­wards can al­ter your me­chan­ics, po­ten­tially in­grain­ing harm­ful habits. Lift weights ei­ther im­me­di­ately af­ter a hard work­out or later the same day. That makes your hard days ex­tra-hard but en­sures that you can re­cover on easy days.

You don’t have to lift hard all year long. Stud­ies have found that a six-week block of fo­cused strength­train­ing dur­ing a race build-up will boost per­for­mance. It’s still good to keep up a low-key main­te­nance pro­gramme for the rest of the year, but you can re­serve lift­ing to fail­ure to co­in­cide with pre­par­ing for goal races. Scale back your lift­ing two weeks be­fore race day and don’t lift at all dur­ing the last week so you can re­cover and be ready to race at your best.


A hard run plus a strength ses­sion might leave you jel­ly­legged the next day. Make sure that you’re get­ting enough pro­tein to help your mus­cles re­pair – not just right af­ter the work­outs, but through­out the day. Aim for four to five doses of about 20g of pro­tein (such as two eggs and 250ml of milk), in­clud­ing one just be­fore bed.

To deal with next­day sore­ness, try aids such as ice baths and com­pres­sion gar­ments, but it’s far bet­ter to pre­vent sore­ness by grad­u­ally build­ing up your strength rou­tine. If you haven’t been lift­ing weights, take a six-week block to build up to lift­ing to fail­ure. Be sim­i­larly cau­tious with new ex­er­cises. You should be tired the day af­ter a run­ning-andweights dou­ble – but if you can’t even get out of bed, you’re not get­ting faster.

Do as many reps as you can with good form – which may not be many af­ter speed­work.

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