Reason #1: Resistance training leads to better Race times
Start with the most obvious.
Research has proven unequivocally that resistance training is important for making and keeping people healthy, strong, fast, and lean.
We know that resistance training is good for general health, as it:
1. Enhances endocrine and immune function (which are compromised by endurance training)
2. Maintains muscle mass (also negatively affected by endurance training)
3. Improves functional capacity in spite of aging by maintaining maximal strength and power (both of which decrease with prolonged endurance training)
4. Builds bone density (something many runners lack due to poor dietary practices, but desperately need in light of the high risk of stress fractures)
5. Enables us to more rapidly correct muscle imbalances, as evidenced by the fact that resistance training is the cornerstone of any good physical therapy program (and I’ve never met a runner without imbalances)
So, strength / resistance training offsets what we lose during endurance training
If youre still not convinced a University of Alabama study revealed that 10 weeks of resistance training in trained distance runners improves running economy by 8-10% (1) that’s about 20-24 minutes off a four-hour marathon.
Reason #2: Free weights strengthening makes running easier
Next time you’re running, try to figure out which of the weight machines or pilates moves mimics your running motion the most…… ah that would be none.
Resistance training isn’t just about “feeling the burn” in your muscles; it’s about grooving connections between the muscles and the nervous system that tells them what to do.
When you SIT / LIE down and work through a fixed line of motion, you’re allowing your nervous system to get lazy, so to speak; it doesn’t have to recruit any stabilizing (balance) muscles to ensure that you move efficiently. Machines turn you into a “motor moron” and ingrain muscle imbalances that can negatively affect your running efficiency and lead to injury.
Let’s take a look at an example.
When you do a dumbbell lunge, your body has to generate force in single-leg stance – and in order to generate force optimally, you need to have what is called “frontal plane stability.” With the lunge, this refers predominantly to the ability of the adductors (inner thigh muscles) and abductors (outer thigh/butt muscles) to co-contract, working together stabilize your thigh so that you don’t fall over. By doing a lung correctly, we can teach these muscles to balance each other out properly, and in doing so, improve running efficiency and prevent problems such as lateral knee pain, anterior hip pain, and lower back pain (just to name a few).
Unfortunately, the adductors and abductors NEVER work in isolation like this, and they never work in a fixed line of motion. The adductors and abductors don’t just move the thighs in and out; they also have subtle effects on rotation of the femur, so when we’re “stuck” into one plane of motion (clam exercise??), we promote dysfunction.
Factor in that the lunge also trains the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and core stabilizers extensively at the same time, and you’ll realize that it isn’t only safer than these machines; it’s also offers more bang for your buck. Why do five different exercises when you can get even better results with just one?
Reason #3: Super-slow high reps – low weights are not the way to go.
The best endurance athletes are the ones who go the fastest for a set distance – not the ones who can run the longest. If you ever get a chance to see the elite level marathon runners aiming for 2 hour 10 time try to gauge how fast their pace is relative to your sprint. For most of us, its pretty fricking close!!
In layman’s terms, if you train slow you race slow.
Specificity of training is more important than we think. If you want to run a marathon, don’t do all your training on a bike and vice versa!
The reason is this – we all have slow and fast twitch fibres and as you may already know, slow twitch fibres are always recruited first; your body won’t also call upon the fast twitch fibres in your muscles unless it really needs help– like the last few reps on a set of weights.
In order to recruit fast twitch fibres (which can actually be converted to slow twitch fibres to enhance endurance performance), we need to train with at least 70% of our maximal strength.
With slow, light weights high reps we’re stuck with a protocol that forces us to use well short of the crucial 70% mark.
The Dynamic Effort Method – This approach uses non-maximal loads, but the focus is on lifting the weight as fast as possible. Jump squats are a good example of dynamic effort training, which teaches the nervous system to recruit muscles faster. Additionally, some dynamic effort training can teach your tendons to store more elastic energy (like plyometrics). If your tendons work more efficiently, your running style is more relaxed, reflexive, and “springy,” as you don’t have to “muscle” every stride.
With all this said, it should be clear that you can’t pursue the maximal or dynamic effort methods with sets of 12-15; you have to use lower rep ranges and loading parameters if you want a truly effective resistance training program
Daily Exercises – if you are still to be convinced or feel you don’t have enough time to add a couple of strength sessions to your weekly routine have a look at our Daily Exercise suggestions. It takes 10 mins and can be done as a warm up to help prepare you for what endurance training throws at you