I recently was reading the latest edition of a popular running magazine, and stumbled across a quote from an elite runner, who just medaled at World Champs in Osaka, that perpetuates the myth that distance runners need not lift weights. The quote rips on lifting for distance runners as the athlete gained twelve pounds of mass during a forced break where her primary cross training modality wa
While I totally agree that strength training is beneficial to distance runners, I also understand the hesitation and frustration distance athletes have with the concept of lifting weights. The reality is that most weight training programs that distance runners are exposed to are poorly conceived at best and out right detrimental at worst. Combine that with the fact that most distance athletes (even at the elite level) are so weak in the core that anything beyond the most basic general strength exercises are inappropriate to the developmental level of the athlete and you have a the perfect cocktail of bad attitude toward the weight room.
My advice…stick to strength training methods that do not involve weights. For men I use the 30/30/30 rule. If you can't do 30 push ups in 30 seconds, 30 v-sits in 30 seconds, or 30 parallel prisoner squats in 30 seconds, then you are not generally strong enough to walk into the weight room. For women I modify this to the 20/20/20 rule (20 reps in 30 seconds).
my 2 cents…
I certainly can agree with your comments about runners typically deficient in core strength, however, I question using solely bodyweight work. In the early phases, especially in beginners, I certainly emphasize using bodyweight resistance. I also have a small disagreement with your 30/30/30 approach.
It is extremely rare to come across a runner who can perform a satisfactory squat (it is necessary to teach the squat and quell limiting factors first), and 30 parallel squats in 30 seconds is an extremely quick tempo. I train my athletes to maximize the rate at which they produce force, so in a bodyweight squat, often they would leave the ground (even just slightly) wasting precious seconds. I also have apprehension in using v-sits for a prerequisite to loaded strength exercise. Instead, I'd utilize a timed prone and lateral bridge to access core readiness. Finally, I'd consider adding in an inverted row into the mix. I also feel that push-up form (or most exercise form), while a basic movement, can go to hell when you set a specific number in a specific time.
How long do you typically spend with runners on your 30/30/30 set before you progress them into the weight room?
30/30/30 is not a training regimen. It is a list of testing parameters. I have found these parameters to be very beneficial when it comes to improving athletic performance over time. To be certain, strength can be effectively developed in the weight room by athletes who begin there on day one year one. However, this may not the most efficient method of developing that biomotor ability. In short, waiting until the athlete is ready and more able to benefit from an activity will produce a greater result in a shorter amount of time.
With regard to endurance athletes: I find that it is very difficult to include strength training more than twice per week in their schedules. Because of this I recommend bodyweight work exclusively during the first 3/4 years training – 8 to 12 exercises, 3 to 5 sets, 8 to 12 repetitions.
Sample strength program for >1500m athletes
4×10 – Prisoner Squats, L-Overs, Pushups, Lunge Walk, V-Sits, Decline Pushups, Single Leg Squats, Crunches, Rocky's
3×10 – Back Hypers, Reverse Pushups, V-Sits, Lunge Walk, Alternate Arm/Leg Hypers, Decline Pushups, L-Overs, Prisoner Squats, Superman Hypers, Pushups, Crunches, Backward Lunge Walk
Hope that clarifies my earlier comments.
Out of curiosity, why do you find it difficult to fit in more than two sessions? With what age group of athletes are you working? How much time do you spend post-run on stretching/flexibility work?
I agree with your statement, "waiting until the athlete is ready and more able to benefit from an activity will produce a greater result in a shorter amount of time" whole heartedly, but I think you can take a much more proactive approach to making them ready instead of sitting around waiting. I see absolutely no problem utilizing bodyweight resistance, but in 9 months of it seems a bit superfluous. I think you'd be able to get any athlete adept to loading with their body in a much shorter period (1-2 months, tops) at which time external loading could commence.
How long would you stick to your sample program before adjusting? Do you always place emphasis on the anterior structures of the body?
I will try to field your questions in order.
More than two strength training sessions per week are difficult for endurance athletes due to NCAA practice limitations.
Chrono age of athletes varies between 17 and 23. Training age varies between 1 and 4.
We stretch daily post session.
As for the time frame of adaptation for athletes being 1 to 2 months, I can only say that mine don't adapt that fast. Even with power event athletes (who tend to adapt much faster than endurance athletes) I seldom see core strength increase to the levels I feel comfortable with really loading them in the weight room inside of 12 weeks.
The exercises will vary with different densities and volumes, but the structure of the general strength training program for endurance athletes will stay basically the same all the time. I suppose that means it is really changing all the time, but we don't look at it that way.
Yes, due to the function of the spinal column and trunk flexion we tend to place more emphasis on the muscles that support and move the anterior side of the body.
While I understand your difficulty with the twenty hour rule, you could possibly do strength work and stretch during rest periods between sets to improve training economy.
As far as the adaptation process, I suppose this is where the art of coaching comes in. I commend you for making sure your athletes are prepared. If, however, your athletes reach "core strength" levels at 12 weeks, why would you wait for another 24 weeks to begin with external loading?
I find almost all endurance athletes to be anteriorly dominated, and find that seeking balance by training the posterior chain/balancing force couples is more ideal as far as injury prevention and gains in track performance. Can you please elaborate on why you train the anterior side of the body? Do you find it to enhance injury resistance?
I am a Coach/therapist for a school at the HS level 3 athletes come to mind on this issue you have touched on each loved racing at high levels, all 3 were tight in hips this could be from the level they could push there bodies while racing yet in the weight room we soon realized to use that time as therapeutic in nature, strength levels would come from a variety of ways and I came to the conclusion these athletes needed to feel better from that time under tension; create range of motion , confidence IE knowing were we were going was a major emphasis what & when to apply strength creating balance by take into account so many things weigh on the kid besides weights so help make TUT a positive experience Coach DuPre
I've found what you say to be true in the majority of instances. (How) Did you evaluate the athletes? What did your early programming look like with these athletes? How long was it until you found them comfortable to begin external loading?
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