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How To Use Strength Training

by My Finish Line

Strength training is a valuable ally of speed, of which is a valuable ally of efficiency and pacing, which leads to better performance in endurance events. The oil and water perception of strength and endurance has sadly been perpetuated for far too long by those that simply have not been able to see outside their own echo chambers of information. Used in the correct way, and appropriately, a strength training plan is an important part of any training plan for running or cycling based events.

The Principle

Every heel strike involves power transfer onto the tarmac/track while running. Every pedal push involves significant power output (which the Watt Bike phenomenon has exploded wonderfully into all of our collective consciousnesses). What is the basis of powerful heel strike or power application in a pedal? Strength – or, in the parlance of what we are truly looking for, our strength to weight ratio. If we are weak in relation to our body mass, it effectively means we are inefficient and takes a lot of energy to be able to propel our movement. Also, to compound things, pure physics means that an insufficient force trying to move an object ill-designed to be propelled by it ends up being slow. Think of a people carrier with an engine of a Mini. What we want is a Mini with the engine of a people carrier.

How Do I Apply It?

The usual movements in the gym targeting leg strength (squats, deadlifts, step ups, lunges) will go a long way in developing a good base level of multi-directional strength which positively impacts on running. Take it up another layer however and incorporate a small amount of jumping, plyometrics and explosive work, and the benefits can be huge. It is vital however that the progression that is made in this regard is slow, controlled, and measured. In the same way that during the first few months of when we first started to run we learned how to pace ourselves, how to relax and control breathing, the technical aspects of lifting need to be practiced before placing them under the stress of weight. We will write in another blog the timing components of when to combine strength training with running, but the first stage of using strength is to slowly (probably over the course of 3-6 months) work up to be able to squat half our body weight, deadlift three-quarters our body weight, and maybe lunge a quarter of our body weight with ease. Once this base level is achieved under technical proficiency (and without the dreaded DOMS kicking in), a strength training plan can then be followed concurrently. The ‘choose a workout’ section of the My Finish Line website has plenty of strength training sessions for the beginner or the advanced to trial and test yourselves with.