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Strength Training Exercises For Runners

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2008-07-26 06:57:13     
Article by John M. Martinez, M.D.

Weight training for runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes has an important role and place in the pre-season and in-season training programs and should not be an afterthought. In fact, many coaches use strength and weight training as an integral part of their yearly plan just like track interval workouts, long, slow endurance runs and hill repeats. You should approach strength training with the same preparatory building, periodization and recovery phases that you would with the rest of your training.

If you are already into your racing season, its not too late to add one or two days of weights. If you are returning back to weight training after a long break, you should know that the days of only doing low weight/high reps weight training all season long is over. In fact, most of your training is already low weight/high reps. For example, if you cycle holding a cadence of 90 RPMs for 2 hours that equals to 5400 reps (90 x 60 min) of light weight per hour. Most endurance athletes such as runners, swimmers and cyclists do this type of weight training day after day with their regular workouts.

A focused period of heavier weight training can pay big dividends by increasing muscular strength as well as improving neuromuscular firing patterns. Does that mean there is no place for a light weight and high reps strength training program? We use a light weight/high rep strength training period in the initial phase of weight training to prepare the body for the heavy loads we will demand of it later. We also need to ensure that there is sufficient connective tissue strength, core stability and body balance. A few functional strength tests can detect any specific weaknesses or areas that may need additional focus. For example, we may perform an overhead squat assessment and determine that you have extremely tight calves (while squatting your heels rose and your feet flattened or your toes turned outward).

Our first weight training phase is called Corrective Stabilization and focuses on identifying and correcting these weaknesses and imbalances. Skipping this important phase can lead to chronic injuries and a diminished performance during the season. The fix for all this is fairly simple and involves the use of a foam roller, stretching, and some modest strength exercises. A few other function strength tests round out the initial evaluation.

The Base Period is the next phase of weight training and focuses on a short period of low weight high rep training, developing proper form and technique, in order to prevent injury later in the program. An athlete unfamiliar with strength training may start with only one set of 15-20 reps and build up to three sets of higher (20-25) reps. The Base Period may seem boring but focusing on technique and will pay huge dividends later on. The types of exercises are general strength and multi-planer exercises like lat pull-downs, step ups, squats, cable wood chops, and as always core abdominal work.

Over the next 6-8 weeks we can begin to increase the weight, drop the reps, and enter into more sport specific movement patterns of the Sport Build Period. Much of the focus in this period is on the nervous system and teaching the body to properly fire the stronger muscles. In this phase we will increase neural drive and motor unit recruitment, essentially teaching the body to recruit and activate more of the specific muscle fibers that we already have rather than bulking up. For runners, triathletes and cyclists, the focus is on improving the recruitment of muscle fibers in the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus muscles. If you follow a proper progression you will still be able to do quality swim, bike and run workouts. You will also be amazed at how much stronger you are and how fast you recover. Article by Greg Griffin and John Martinez, M.D.

Dr. John Martinez is a primary care sports medicine physician and medical director of Coastal Sports & Wellness Medical Center, a sports injury clinic in San Diego, CA.

Greg Griffin is a nationally-certified personal trainer and top age-group triathlete at Coastal Sports and Wellness.

Visit us at http://www.coastalsportsmedicine.com

Specialized in: Sports Injury - Sports Massage - Sport Medicine - Chiropractor San Diego
URL: http://www.coastalsportsmedicine.com
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