- Strength Training - enables runners to maintain form when running and be more efficient. Certain exercises are useful in helping prevent injuries;
- Power Training - helps with change of speed and acceleration during races, and with changes in incline during cross-country courses;
- Plyometric Training - helps improve running mechanics (if performed correctly) by improving the reactivity of ankle, foot and pelvic joints whilst running. This can lead to an overall increase in running efficiency and therefore less energy expenditure whilst running;
- Muscular Endurance - where increased local muscular endurance can help with overall endurance by increasing the number and density of mitochondria in the muscles.
The hard part is to balance out these exercises so that it does not have any negative effects to running training and mechanics.
How does strength build up?
- Intra-Muscular Coordination - By recruiting motor units within each muscle that may not have been previously stimulated, more work can be done by the muscle. Frequent training allows the motor units to work in sync with each other and can be recruited simultaneously thus producing more work.
- Inter - Muscular Coordination - Develops greater coordination between targeted (agonist) and opposing (antagonist) muscles as they become more accustomed to working in a certain movement pattern.
- Hypertrophy - An increase in muscle size caused by either; hyperplasia (increase in muscle fibres) or myofibrillar hypertrophy (increase in muscle fibre size).
For middle distance runners, the intramuscular and intramuscular adaptations are the most important as they enhance running economy and efficiency which is beneficial for the body's coordination. Too much muscle hypertrophy can be detrimental to running as they cause an increase in mass ( heavy limbs) and a decrease in mitochondrial density which is important for aerobic efficiency of the muscles.
Importance of Biarticular Muscles
Biarticular muscles are muscles that pass over more than one joint and have more complicated movements than monoarticular muscles and they utilise elastic strength rather than pure contractile strength.
There are three main biarticular muscles in the lower limbs which are useful for running: the rectus femoris (frontal thigh), which passes over the front of the knee and hip; the hamstrings, which pass over the back of the knee and hip; and the gastrocnemius (calf), which passes over the ankle and knee.
What Works for Runners?
Exercises should focus on;
- Pylometric exercises that focuses on ankle reactivity. An example of this exercise would be the ankle bounce that focuses on the calf muscle with little to no movements from the knee. On two feet and keeping the legs almost straight, quickly pull up the toes and jump up off the floor. As you land quickly pull up your toes again and repeat. It is also important to minimise the amount of contact time between the foot and the ground.
- Single leg strengthening exercises that improve balance and control in the gluteal area and the knee joint. Examples of these exercises would be the split squat, the one legged hip hitch and the step ups on a box.
- Hamstring exercises that develop eccentric strength. An example of this exercises would be the split squats with a forward bend. The motion of the exercise is exactly the same as the split squat but when the thigh is parallel to the ground, the weight and shoulders are bent forward so that they past the knee. The weight shouldn't be too heavy that the weight cannot be brought to the front.
- Core Exercises such as the slow sit ups and the medicine ball slams which works the core muscles of the body such the internal and external obliques, the transversus abdominis and the rectus abdominis.
Research and anecdotal evidence shows that some form of resistance training is likely to improve your performance as a middle distance runner. However, the quality of the programmes within the research studies and the lack of suitable studies mean that conclusions are difficult to draw as to exactly what works best. However, once an initial strength base has been established, working on specific exercises twice a week for 20-30 minutes may well help improve running economy. During the off-season, this could be increased to three times a week for 45 minutes.
More information can be found on http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/strength-training-for-distance-runners-42331