Tag: strength training

Strength Conditioning

By Ian Nurse, DC

In the last issue of Level Renner we explored the debate surrounding stretching and its role in long distance running. While some cling to their regular stretching routines, recent research has spurred the questions of how to stretch and exactly how much. In this issue of Level Renner, I want to address a concept with which everyone seems to agree: the necessity of strength training for long distance runners.

Like many of us, when I first started running I assumed that all the hard work of pounding the pavement would make me stronger. While initially this is the case for anyone who starts running on a more regular basis, after time this strength gain changes. Despite what you probably think, as you run hundreds of miles in training for a marathon, your legs actually lose strength. As opposed to the power that sprinters gain, the more one runs, the more muscle mass is lost. One’s legs actually get weaker with endurance training and inevitable muscle imbalances start to crop up.

To combat the many injuries that are caused by muscle imbalance, one must perform supplemental strength exercises in addition to running. Thankfully, we only need a few efficient exercises to maintain balance. Here is a description of the four most important exercises for runners. As you will see, fancy equipment is unnecessary; your own body weight will do.

nurse hamstring1. Hip Lifts: Hamstring Strength 

 Lie on back with back of heels resting on a chair or bed.

 There should be a 90 degree angle at both hips and knees.

 Relax everything except hamstrings.

 Slowly raise hips 4 inches off the floor just using ham-strings.

 Repetition should take 5 seconds total (2 up, 1 hold, 2 down).

 Repeat until fatigue or start recruiting other muscles (max of 30).

 Perform 2 sets, 3 times/week.

2. Single Leg Squats: Knee Stability 

 Stand with one foot forward and the other back.

 Feet should be about one shin-length apart (they should be hip-width apart from side to side).

nurse single leg squat Most of your weight should be directed through the heel of your foot on the ground.

 Bend your knee, lowering your body until your knee reaches an angle of 90 degrees between the thigh and lower leg.

 Return to the starting position, maintaining upright posture with your trunk and holding your hands at your sides.

 If you feel wobbly, stabilize yourself by holding onto the wall.

 Repeat 2 sets until fatigue (up to 15), 2-3 times/week.

3. Side Bridge 

 Lie on your side and support your whole body with only your forearm and the outside of that same foot.

 Your body should be a straight line and off the ground. Your left foot should simply be lying on the right foot. Don’t let your hips sag.

 Hold this position until you fatigue, begin cheating (if your hips sag or rotate forward), or are shaking badly.

 Flip over and repeat on the other side.

 Hold each side the same amount of time, even if one side is stronger than the other.

 Each day try to hold a little longer and progress to 90 sec-onds per side.

nurse plank Hold up to 90 seconds per side, 4-5 times/week.

4. Plank 

 Lie face down on the floor.

 Lift up your body so that you are balanced only on your forearms and toes.

 Your elbows are on the ground and should be directly below your shoulders.

 Your forearms and hands are pointed straight ahead, rest-ing on the ground.

 Your feet are about shoulder-width apart, and your toes are the only part of your lower body that are touching the ground.

As long distance runners, I think we have all given up the hope of looking like powerhouses Usain Bolt and Justin Gaitlin. All that extra bulk would just slow us down. However, as we train more and more, we need to combat the muscle loss that is inevitable. Thankfully, all we need is a just a few exercises performed a few times a week. Even I can do that!

Ian Nurse was recently named team chiropractor for Terrence Mahon’s elite adidas BAA team. This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 2014 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen).

Strength Training Myths

5 Common Myths About Strength Training for Distance Runners

Guest blog by Jeff Gaudette (RunnersConnect)

Despite the advancements in our understanding of the role strength training plays in our development as long distance runners, there are still some pervasive myths in the running community about the best way to approach improving running-specific strength.

Like most long-standing myths, the misunderstandings about strength training come from outdated information that has been passed down throughout the years. Unfortunately, in today’s world where anyone can become a running coach by attending a weekend seminar and forums and message boards contribute to the spread of misinformation, many runners simply repeat the information they’ve “learned” without regard for recent findings, research and developments in the sport.

Luckily, in this article I am going to dispel some of these myths and hopefully start reshaping how all runners view and incorporate strength training into their running schedules.

Myth #1: You need to maintain short rest between sets

When most runners hit the gym, they feel like they need to replicate the feeling and the work they do on the roads. Typically, that means keeping the heart rate elevated. As a runner myself, I know it can feel foreign to consider a workout effective if I’m not breathing hard.

That means most runners try to take as little rest as possible between sets. It’s not uncommon to find runners resting only 30-60 seconds between exercises.

Unfortunately, these brief rest periods are detrimental to strength development because of the primary energy system used and the rate of recovery.

Unlike in running, which relies on the aerobic system for energy, the major source of energy when trying to build strength is what we call adenosine triphosphate phospho-creatine (ATP-PC).  ATP-PC is responsible for providing the energy to produce short, powerful movements – like we need for strength training. As you can see for this chart below, ATP-PC requires at least two to three minutes to approach full recovery.


While it will feel completely foreign to you as a distance runner, it’s important that you take the necessary recovery time between each set to fully replenish your ATP system.

By not fully recovering between sets when strength training, you’re not able to maximize the recruitment of your muscle fibers and the quality and effectiveness of your session plummets.

If your goal is to build strength, you need to be taking at least a 2 minute recovery between each set.

Myth #2: Training with high reps builds endurance

It’s often claimed (since distance running is endurance oriented) that the use of high reps with low weight is the best way to build endurance to running-specific muscles. The thought process is that high repetitions, just like higher mileage, will improve muscular endurance. That’s why you often see runners lifting the 5-10lb dumbbells for shoulder raises or even in the running-man motion (don’t worry if this is you, I used to do lots of this myself).

Unfortunately, high reps and low weights don’t build muscular endurance

  • First, recent research has shown that performing repetitions in the 12-20 range does not increase muscular endurance any more than the 6-8 repetition range.
  • Second, you’re already working on your muscular endurance when out on the road and when doing track workouts. The purpose of strength work is to build strength so performing routines and rep ranges that target this goal is ideal.

Therefore, rather than using light weight and high repetition, you should lift the maximum weight you can safely handle for 6-10 repetitions. The 6-10 rep range allows for maximum muscle overload and will recruit the greatest number of muscle fibers, thus leading to increased strength.

The next time you head to the gym for your strength training session, consider reducing your repetitions and adding more weight to your exercise. You’ll maximize your strength gains much faster this way.

Myth #3: Heavy weights will bulk you up and light weights will make you look “tone”

When I first suggest to runners that they will be better served by lifting heavy weights, their initial reaction is, “I want to look like Mo Farah, not Arnold Schwarzenegger”. But, this fear comes from a misunderstanding of how “bulking up” actually occurs.

Muscle bulk is not determined by lifting heavy weights alone. In fact, lifting heavy weights is the least important part of the equation. Nutrition, specifically excess calories, is what contributes to bulking up when lifting heavy weights. (As a side note, it’s same for using running as a means to lose weight. The mileage itself is not the most important factor, but rather the negative calorie balance.)

Moreover, because the amount of time you will spend running will vastly outnumber the amount of time you spend lifting heavy weights, it will be virtually impossible for you to gain unwanted or detrimental mass (unless of course you’re seriously overeating, which is not a training problem).

Don’t be afraid of looking like a body builder if you’re including heavy lifting in your running routine. It just won’t happen.

Likewise, lifting lighter weights with more repetitions won’t make your muscles look more “tone”.  The common belief is that high reps magically get rid of fat. While high reps with light weight to fatigue can create a muscular response, it does not necessarily remove fat better than low reps with heavy weight. The mythical “tone” is a result of not losing muscle mass in conjunction with losing weight.

As an example, one study from the University of Alabama in Birmingham showed that dieters who lifted heavy weights lost the same amount of weight as dieters who did just cardio, but all the weight lost by the weight lifters was fat while the cardio subjects lost a lot of muscle along with some fat.

Myth #4: You should perform strength training on your rest or recovery days

Runner’s typically think of strength training as an add-on to their running training, rather than an integrated piece of the training puzzle. When you do your strength workouts is just as important as what strength workouts you perform.

The mistake many runners make is performing their strength workouts on their easy, recovery or off days.

The thinking behind this idea makes sense – you’re the most tired after hard workouts, so why push yourself even more by adding strength work on these days?

But, we’re forgetting about the recovery aspect and the training plan as a whole.

If you were to perform harder strength workouts, especially anything that involves the lower body, on your easy running day the added stress and shortened total recovery time between workouts would detract from your body’s recovery ability.

Moreover, if you perform your harder strength training the day before your workouts, you’ll likely be too tired or sore to perform optimally in the most important session – the run the next day.

This is why your hardest strength training days should be on your running workout days.

But, since there are more than one type and intensity of strength routines, here’s how your week should look:

  • Your hardest, most running-specific strength routines after your hardest workouts
  • Your medium effort routines (like basic core or hip routines) on your regular running days
  • Any preventive routines on your off or recovery days

Myth #5: Machines are a good substitute for bodyweight, free weights, and therabands

The next time you’re in your gym, take a look around and count the number of strength training machines you see. I’m willing to bet it’s an extraordinarily high number.

Because the machines are so pervasive, it’s easy to think that they are just as good, if not better, than free weight and bodyweight exercises. However, in most cases they are far less effective – and in some cases useless.

The problem with machines is that they have a limited range of motion, isolate the wrong muscle groups, and don’t trigger the same “supporting” muscle groups response that make some exercises most useful.

As an example, we know that hip strength, or lack thereof, is one of the main contributors to running injuries.  The prescription is obviously to strengthen the muscles in the hip, which include the abductors. Seemingly, the abductor machine at the gym make this very easy to do. Just sit down, push out and you’re on your way to injury-free running.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Research has shown that to improve running-specific hip strength, an exercise should maximize the recruitment of the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus, while minimizing the recruitment of the TFL (tensor fasciae latae – a muscle located on the upper lateral portion of your thigh).

The abductor machine actually targets the TFL and therefore has limited effectiveness. Furthermore, a tense TFL, because it connects directly to the knee’s lateral side via the iliotibial band, may increase knee strain that could develop into IT band syndrome.

In this case the adductor machine is not only useless, it could be harmful.

For an in-depth look at 2 other most blatant examples of this, you can check out my guest post on the healthynomics blog on this topic.

By sticking to the right bodyweight, free weight and theraband exercises you can maximize the time you spend in the gym and avoid many of the common pitfalls.

Now…go crush your personal bests with these myth busters in mind

Consider how these 5 common myths play into your current perception and approach to strength training.

Hopefully, you’ve been reading enough of the current literature, much of which we’ve posted before, to have already made positive changes to your strength training routine.

Regardless, use the information we’ve presented to dispel these myths to make the most of your time spent in the gym.

Thanks once again to Jeff Gaudette and RunnersConnect for sharing this great material with us. Be sure to check out their blog, which pretty much has all of your technical running needs covered.

**If you need help developing and implementing a full strength training routine to decrease injury and improve performance, check out the Strength Training for Runners Program. It’s a step-by-step guide for exactly when and how to add strength training to your running routine. Click Here to Get Yours Now!

Hard Days Hard, Easy Days Easy

A Simple Principle for Incorporating Strength Training into a Running Routine

Guest blog by Jeff Guadette (RunnersConnect)

Whether the desired outcome is general fitness, increased explosiveness and stride efficiency, or injury prevention, most runners understand the importance of adding strength training to their running schedule.

However, despite clearly understanding the potential benefits of strength training, few runners actually incorporate it into their training schedules on a consistent basis.

When asked why not, the most of these runners concede that they don’t know how to properly integrate it into their schedule for maximum results.

Specifically, the big question most have is if they should do their strength work after their hard workouts or on their easy days.

This decision quandary can paralyze runners because they end up feeling uncertain whether the extra time they spending on strength training is worth it, and thus they skip it all together.

Luckily, there is a simple rule you can follow that answers this burning question: Keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy.

In this article, we’ll delve into what exactly this statement means and how it impacts your approach to strength training.

The philosophy behind performing your strength workouts on hard workout days

The philosophy behind keeping your hard days hard and your easy days easy is simple: You want to incorporate your hardest strength-training workouts on your hardest workout days so that your easy days remain as easy as possible for maximum recovery.

If you were to perform harder strength workouts, especially anything that involves the lower body, on your easy running day the added stress and shortened total recovery time between workouts would detract from your body’s recovery ability. This is the single most important reason to include strength training on your hard workout days.

In addition to allowing you to properly recover between workouts, performing your hard strength training days on your intensive workout days also provides a few additional benefits:

  • Prevents you from going too hard during strength training
  • Since running is the most important part the training plan, it should comprise the most of your available energy and focus.

While this process would leave you more tired for your strength workout, and consequently unable to be as strong or explosive as you would like, it’s actually a benefit. Being tired will prevent you from going too hard or lifting too heavy, which happens too frequently when runners are fresh when they hit the weights.

Burns more calories and aids in recovery

Scientists from Brigham Young University found that post-exercise metabolism increased most when people did intense cardio first and lifted weights afterward. This means that you’ll burn more calories, and burn them for longer, if you do your strength training after your more intense running sessions.

Likewise, researchers from the College of New Jersey found that following weight training, heart rate and blood lactic acid returned to resting levels faster, which means you could potentially recover from hard running faster if you perform strength training that day.

The downsides to strength training on workout days

While the “hard days hard, easy days easy” philosophy is the best approach to incorporating strength training, it does have a few drawbacks.

First, you have to be extra careful to perform exercises correctly. As noted above, you will be tired when performing your strength sessions after hard workouts. As a consequence, you need to be extra cautious and ensure that you perform the exercises with proper form. The more tired you get, the easier it is to cheat or put your body in positions that could lead to injury.

To overcome this potential issue, focus intently on your form by performing each exercise slowly and use lighter weights to start. It’s much more effective, and safe, to perform exercises with a light weight and slow movements as opposed to rushing through a workout and trying to lift as much as you can.

Hard workout days are already your longest days

For most runners, hard workout days already consume quite a bit of time. Add together the warm-up, stretching, rest intervals and cool down and 5 x 1 mile takes much longer than running 5 miles straight. Therefore, it may be impossible to fit in a 15-30 minute strength-training session after what has already been a long workout.

One potential solution is to split up the running workout and strength routine into a morning and afternoon/evening session. Generally, strength training sessions don’t take too long, so it can be squeezed into your routine when you get home from work or before bed.

Putting it together

The final piece of the puzzle is how to incorporate the “hard days hard, easy days easy” principle when you have multiple strength training sessions or only one workout per week. In this case you should schedule:

  • your hardest, most running-specific strength routines after your hardest workouts
  • your medium effort routines (like basic core or hip routines) on your regular running days
  • any preventive routines on your off or recovery days

Below is a sample week that incorporates 7 days per week of strength training that you can modify to fit your needs (you don’t have to strength train 7 days a week, but this outline should help you see where each type of routine would fit):

Monday Easy Run + core routine (moderate)

Tuesday Speed Workout + Leg training (difficult)

Wednesday Off or Recovery run + preventive exercises (easy)

Thursday Easy Run + core routine (moderate)

Friday Tempo Workout + plyometrics (difficult)

Saturday Run + general strength – gym or bodyweight (moderate)

Sunday Long run + speed and form drills (easy to moderate)

If you’ve been struggling with how to incorporate strength routines into your training plan, try using the “hard days hard, easy days easy approach.”You’ll ensure that you recover before your next hard workout while still getting maximum benefit from your time spent strength training. If you want an exact prescription for how to add strength training to your schedule for any race distance, check out our strength training for runners program.

A version of this article originally appeared on competitor.com and is a part of the strength training for runners program

Contact Form Powered By : XYZScripts.com