Resistance Training for Runners: Part Two – Strategies

By on October 12, 2015

In Part One of Resistance training for runners I introduced a three-step approach to help you plan your resistance training: Principles – Strategies – Exercises.

This simple hierarchy helps ensure you maximise your training by first of all considering a few key principles to underpin your training, then looking at the optimal strategies to follow for your goals before finally selecting the exercises that best fit your needs. In this blog, I will go into more detail about different strategies you can use dependant on your specific goals, and provide a general idea of the types of exercises suitable for each strategy.

Strategies:

Fat Loss

If your primary goal is to decrease your levels of body fat, then one very effective strategy to achieve this is to use full-body exercises for multiple sets of high repetitions with relatively short rest in between. This helps ramp up your metabolism both during and after training and also results in elevated growth hormone release following exercise which helps your body use fat for energy. Doing back to back sets of upper and lower body exercises works well, only resting after you’ve completed a set of each exercise or even developing it into a mini-circuit routine of three or more exercises in sequence without rest for a set time or number of repetitions. To keep getting the benefit form this type of training it is important to regularly change the reps and rest periods and/or the exercise themselves to prevent your body adapting and getting too efficient at any one activity. Remember, the aim is to be as inefficient as possible to use more energy (though still performing the exercises safely of course!).

Strength Endurance

Strength endurance can be thought of as the ability to endure or tolerate a high workload. The strategies suggested for Fat Loss training can also be useful for developing strength endurance, with the major difference being that you won’t change the exercises as frequently as you actually want the body to adapt to get better and more efficient to improve endurance. Alternatively, interval and circuit training are suitable for developing strength endurance, progressively overloading by increasing the repetitions performed, work performed in the given time interval or reducing rest periods. Hill runs and resisted sprinting (using weighted sleds, vests or parachutes, for example) can be useful exercises for developing strength endurance for runners.

Power

There are two different elements to power training, speed-based or strength-based. Speed-based power training relates to how quickly you can perform an action with minimal external resistance such as plyometric (jump) training or medicine ball throws. Strength-based power still requires you to attempt to perform the action as fast as possible, but this time against much greater external resistance, for example Olympic lifting or squat jumps. Because the aim of this type of training is to increase power, it is important to keep the volume of work low and the rest periods relatively high. It is extremely difficult to improve power if you are working under fatigue! Progressive overload in speed-based power training should follow a progression from lower impact, jumps in place through to multiple jumps for distance eg repetitive hurdle or long jumps and finally onto depth jumps from height. This type of training is particularly demanding on the neural and muscular systems so should be approached with care and gradually progressed over a long period of time. Olympic lifts for strength-based power can be very effective but sometimes difficult to master as they require a high level of technical proficiency. Weighted squat jumps and/or kettlebell or dumbbell versions of these activities can often be easier to learn and just as effective.

Maximum Strength

Training to improve maximum strength has great benefit for runners but is often overlooked. Increasing strength can help improve movement efficiency and power as well as helping to reduce the risk of injury. Maximum strength training is primarily focussed on teaching your muscles to work better together to produce force and does not necessarily result in added muscle mass. Before beginning to train for maximum strength it is wise to complete at least three months of strength endurance type training to help prepare the body to tolerate the stress of lifting heavier weights, and as with power training, it is important to remember that most adaptations that occur are neural so training must be done without the presence of fatigue. Maximum strength training requires you to lift heavy loads for multiple sets of low reps with full recovery between (which can be 3-5 minutes). In terms of progressive overload, you would generally start with sets of 6-8 reps, using a weight that you could probably only safely lift for one more rep, gradually increasing the weight and lowering the reps to sets of 2-3 reps.

For further information and advice on optimal recovery strategies, ask the experts at Go Nutrition who can help you build a solid nutritional foundation to support your recovery and help you reach your training goals whatever they may be.

 

Richard Whall

About Richard Whall

Since 1st September 2014 I have been running at least 1 mile every day (regardless of weather, illness, minor injury, holidays, lack of time or general daily stress!) and will continue to do so for an entire year, all in aid of my local children's hospice. To make this even more of a challenge, I aim to cover 1500 miles in the year, during which time I will complete my first ever marathon and, towards the end of my run streak, on Day 363, complete an ultra-marathon in the Lake District! As a devoted husband, father of two young children and full-time teacher I understand the difficulties of modern life, but also appreciate that some have it much more difficult than others. Completing this challenge helps me to remember the struggles many children and their families face on a daily basis, as well as being an opportunity to prove that there is always time to exercise, it is just a matter of planning and priorities!