Distance Running and Strength Training (Part 2)
By Michael Bailey
Forward Fitness and Performance
In Distance Running and Strength Training Part 1 we discussed the many benefits of strength training for distance runners. If you have not read Part 1, you can read it here.
Moving in to Part 2 we will focus on how to program the two concurrently and what exercises will give you the greatest benefit as a runner.
Programming your strength training in conjunction with your running will depend on where you are currently at in your training cycle, when in a typical week your running workouts are placed, and your previous experience with weight training.
Training Cycle Programming
During base training, which typically last anywhere from 2-6 months, the focus of your strength training should be pure strength development and some accessory work to aid in fixing muscular imbalances.
Exercise selection during this time should largely consist of squats and deadlifts, with presses and pull-ups not too far behind. Variations of squats and deadlifts should be used to help fix imbalances as well – think single leg exercises – such as lunges, single-leg RDL, step-ups, Bulgarian split-squats, etc.
Depending on experience, 1-3 strength training workouts (with the goal being 2-3) per week in addition to running is recommended during the base training phase.
Each strength training session will have 1-2 main lifts in which the focus is maximal strength development. One main lift every workout should be a squat or deadlift. Each main lift should be performed for 3-5 sets of 1-5 repetitions at 80-100% of your max with 2-5 minutes of recovery between each set.
After your main lift(s) are completed, 1-2 single-leg accessory exercises are to be completed focusing on fixing muscular imbalances. The accessory exercise(s) are performed in the 6-10 rep range for 2-4 sets resting about 60 seconds in between.
The pre-competition phase generally is the time-period in which you are making a transition from base training to the competition phase/hardest training block. During this phase, the focus is still on strength development, but with some added power emphasis – achieved through speed-strength (plyometrics).
The strength training workouts during this phase will continue at 2-3 times per week. Each workout should consist of one main lift following the same protocols as previously mentioned. A squat, deadlift, or press should be performed as the main lift – only choose a press if strength training 3 times per week.
Follow your main lift with a plyometric exercise – think box jump, squat jump, etc. The plyometric exercise should be performed for 3-4 sets of 2-8 repetitions to work on speed-strength and power development.
Lastly, one accessory exercise should be performed using the same protocols mentioned earlier to continue to help fix muscular imbalances.
Also during this period, if you are performing three strength training sessions per week, high repetition squat training should be substituted for the plyometric exercise of one strength training session.
High repetition squats, 15-25 reps, performed to near exhaustion will work on your ability to clear lactate, which can improve lactate threshold. An improved lactate threshold will be vital in the coming months of racing. Perform 3-4 sets of the high repetition squats.
During this phase, when stress form hard training and racing is at its highest, the stress from strength training should be lightened slightly – not completely - to prevent overtraining or possible injury. The focus of strength training during this time should be on power development and maintenance of the strength gained in the previous phases.
The given running intensity of each week, will determine if 1 or 2 strength training sessions should be programmed for that week. Each strength training session during this time period will consist of 1 main lift performed 2-4 sets of 1-3 repetitions at 90-100% of 1 rep max.
After the main lift for the day, a plyometric exercise focused on developing speed-strength should be completed using a protocol of 2-4 sets of 2-5 reps.
During this phase, no accessory work should be completed, as the intensity and volume are already high enough through intense running workouts/races. Get in, get your strength/power work done, and get out.
This is time for you to decrease volume/intensity and run the race of your life. This is not the time for you to be concerned with increasing strength. You have put in the hard work up to this point and now it is time for you to reap the benefits.
During this period, I suggest doing dynamic effort squats. No deadlifts. Deadlifts are very taxing on your nervous system and you need to be as fresh as possible.
Dynamic effort squat means performing a squat as FAST as possible through the concentric phase of the lift (the up portion of the lift). These squats should only be performed with a weight that is 50-60 percent of your one rep max.
As far as protocols go for this period – one session per week. Do 6-8 sets of 2-3 reps of dynamic effort squats. That is it.
Remember this is a time to race fast, not gain strength.
When programming your running workouts and strength training workouts every week, remember to live by the “make your hard days hard and your easy days easy” rule.
With that being said, your running workouts and strength training should typically fall on the same day so that your recovery days can be used to recover rather being stressed even more.
During base training, perform your strength training workouts before you run. Base training is the time to really improve your strength levels and it almost impossible to strength train at hard enough effort after running to accomplish this goal.
During the pre-competition phase, continue to strength train before you complete your hard effort running workouts.
The best situation would be to allow 4-12 hours after you complete your strength training workout before you complete your running workout to allow the body a chance to slightly refuel and recover. As many people do not have this flexibility in scheduling, performing the running workout immediately after the strength training is the next best option.
Gaining strength is still a priority here and the strength training sessions will have very little (if any) impact on your running workouts.
Moving into your competition phase, the strength training workouts should still be performed on your hard effort days, but the strength training should now be completed after your running workout.
Again, if possible, allow 4-12 hours after you complete your running workout before you complete your strength training to allow the body a chance to slightly refuel and recover. Performing strength training immediately after your running workout is the next best option.
Lastly, in the peaking phase, perform your strength training session after a hard running effort and at least 2-3 days before
Correctly programming strength training and running depends on many factors. Your training cycle, running workouts, and experience all play a role in making slight adjustments to make your program a success.
All in all, strength training programs should focus on strength development, increasing power output, and fixing muscular imbalances to help you become a faster and more efficient runner!
Larisova, Veronika. "Does Resistance Training Improve Running Economy And Distance Running Performance? : Literature Review And Practical Applications." Journal Of Australian Strength & Conditioning 22.1 (2014): 56- 62. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 20 May 2014.
RAMÍREZ-CAMPILLO, RODRIGO, et al. "Effects Of Plyometric Training On Endurance And Explosive Strength Performance In Competitive Middle- And Long-Distance Runners." Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) 28.1 (2014): 97-104. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 20 May 2014.