One of the perks of using UCLA’s (hospital) free web is the access to their library of journals. I downloaded this 2010 article from the NSCA Strength and Conditioning Journal on strength training for distance running. The author Jason R. Karp PhD suggests that conventional hypertrophy-based strength training (10-15 reps at 60-75% 1 Rep Max) is not effective for distance running, especially since it does not improve cardiovascular fitness.
Karp suggests more power and strength based protocols:
- 3-6 reps at 90-95% of 1 rep max for exercises such as squats, hamstring curls, calf raises, cleans, and deadlifts with 5 minutes of recovery between sets
- 2×5 reps of plyometric movements such as single-leg hops, bleacher hops, squat jumps, box jumps, and bounding, with full recovery between sets
He adds that such protocols improve running economy by increasing the strength component of power, muscle recruitment, and speed. Karp explains that typical gains from hypertrophy-based training can include unnecessary mass gains resulting in potential loss of speed.
Strength to weight ratio is huge when it comes to running so hypertrophy-based training theoretically may not help one’s running. The author does mention that lower level runners CAN benefit with hypertrophy-based training because in such cases, ANY fitness gains will improve running.
I like the idea of low reps, heavy weight, and full recovery because it doesn’t heavily tax the cardiovascular system that is probably getting enough work from one’s regular running volume. I must admit that I’ve been guilty of doing the conventional style lifting in the gym; I’d do 6 sets of squats for 10-15 reps per set, and going as heavy as possible. I would do the same for deadlifts, knee extensions, and heel raises, all in the same workout. As a lower level runner, I believe that slamming the reps, doing tons of sets, and getting my pump on DID help me become a stronger runner. But I would also burn out, get sick, and injured, so I think the lower reps and full recovery will definitely decrease my chances of over-training and injury.
With muscle hypertrophy in mind, I though about the elite triathletes and marathoners and their body types. I did an online search of their height and weight and the results definitely demonstrate that building muscle and adding mass is low on their list of things to do (form definitely meets function!):
- Jan Frodeno, 2x Ironman World Champion: 6’4″, 165 lbs.
- Meb Keflizighi, Olympic Marathoner: 5’5″, 126 lbs.
- Galen Rupp, Elite Marathoner: 5’11”, 134 lbs.
- Patrick Lange, Ironman Triathlete: 5’10”, 139 lbs.
I might have to fix my 5’9″ 185 lbs vessel if I want to get faster.
This particular article is accessible to everyone and you can access it by clicking on the following link: