Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Study Spotlight: Explosive Strength Training for 5K runners

By: Andrew Jagim

Concurrent training, or the use of multiple training modes in one training cycle (i.e. strength training and endurance training) is always a controversial topic. Some people believe that lifting weights will make you big, bulky and slower whereas other endurance athletes swear by the benefits of strength training and always include them in their programming.  Researchers sought out to identify the potential benefits of strength training in terms of it's ability to improve 5K running performance.

What did they do?
Researchers investigated the effects of simultaneous explosive-strength training with traditional endurance training on 5K running performance.  They randomly assigned 18 endurance athletes to either an experimental or control group for a 9 week training period. The experimental group completed the same overall training volume as the control (aka endurance only) group however 32% of their training volume was replaced with explosive-type strength training.

The explosive training sessions lasted approximately 15-90 min and consisted of various sprints, (20-100m) and jumping exercises without any additional weight.  Endurance training consisted of cross-country running for .5-2 hrs. at or slightly above lactate threshold. Pre and post changes in 5K running performance, running economy and 20-m speed were assessed.

What did they find?
The researchers found that 5K time, running economy and maximal speed improved in the experimental group but not the control group. Overall aerobic capacity was improve in the control group but not the experimental group. The authors concluded that the completion of both training modalities appeared to increase 5K time more than just doing endurance training alone. The authors speculated that the improved running time was likely a result of neuromuscular improvements which transferred to greater running economy as their overall aerobic capacity did not improve.

Take Home Message:
Even though endurance-specific training volume is less, by adding in explosive strength-based training into your regimen, you may be able to improve running performance.

This improvement likely comes from an enhanced ability to contract and active certain motor units and muscle fibers to improve overall running economy which makes you a more efficient runner with improved times.  Keep in mind, the current strength program utilized is rather basic and simply consisted of some jumping and sprinting activities. So if you're looking for an improved 5K time, try adding in some higher-intensity sprinting or jump-based strength training into your program!

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