Resistance training is extremely beneficial as it:
1. Enhances endocrine and immune function (which are compromised by endurance training)
2. Maintains muscle mass (also negatively affected by endurance training)
3. Improves functional capacity in spite of aging by maintaining maximal strength and power (both of which decrease with prolonged endurance training)
4. Builds bone density (something many runners lack due to poor dietary practices, but desperately need in light of the high risk of stress fractures)
5. Enables us to more rapidly correct muscle imbalances, as evidenced by the fact that resistance training is the cornerstone of any good physical therapy program.
Amazingly, a single bout of resistance training can elevate the metabolism for more than 48 hours – and favorably affect endocrine and immune status in a manner that is conducive to fat loss. If you want to be lean, you have to lift weights!
Scientists at the Research Institute for Olympic Sports at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland found that replacing 32% of regular endurance training volume with explosive resistance training for nine weeks improved 5km times and running economy.
Running is more than just VO2max, anaerobic threshold, and a good pair of sneakers; it’s also about localized muscular endurance and nervous system efficiency. And, you can’t have strength endurance unless you’ve got strength. Build a solid foundation and you’ll be a complete runner.
Resistance training isn’t just about “feeling the burn” in your muscles; it’s about grooving connections between the muscles and the nervous system that tells them what to do.
When you use machine’s and work through a fixed line of motion, you’re allowing your nervous system to get lazy, so to speak; it doesn’t have to recruit any stabilizing muscles to ensure that you move efficiently. Machines turn you into a “motor moron” and ingrain muscle imbalances that can negatively affect your running efficiency and lead to injury.
When you do a dumbbell lunge, your body has to generate force in single-leg stance – and in order to generate force optimally, you need to have what is called “frontal plane stability.” With the lunge, this refers predominantly to the ability of the adductors (inner thigh muscles) and abductors (outer thigh/butt muscles) to co-contract, working together stabilize your thigh so that you don’t tip over. By doing a lunge correctly, we can teach these muscles to balance each other out properly, and in doing so, improve running efficiency and prevent problems such as lateral knee pain, anterior hip pain, and lower back pain (just to name a few).
A look at the status quo, however, shows that most women will try to train their adductors and abductors with those inner and outer thigh machines. Unfortunately, the adductors and abductors NEVER work in isolation like this, and they never work in a fixed line of motion. The adductors and abductors don’t just move the thighs in and out; they also have subtle effects on rotation of the femur, so when we’re “stuck” into one plane of motion, we promote dysfunction.
Factor in that the lunge also trains the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and core stabilizers extensively at the same time, and you’ll realize that it isn’t only safer than these machines; it’s also offers more bang for your buck. Why do five different exercises when you can get even better results with just one?
When we resistance train, it’s important that we – over time – gradually increase the load that is imposed on our system; otherwise, our body doesn’t really have any reason to adapt in a manner that will be favorable to use getting stronger, faster, or leaner.
The most successful endurance athletes are the ones who go the fastest for a set distance – not the ones who can run the longest. Anybody can go forever. Step outside your comfort zone by moving faster, desensitise yourself to zones above your normal race pace, and – perhaps most importantly. If you are serious about making improvements to your running, start heavy and explosive resistance training(progressively of course).
Specificity of training is more important than we think. If you want to run a marathon, you don’t do all your training on a cycle, do you? Of course not! It wouldn’t be specific for you!
In scientific jargon, super-slow training doesn’t work due to a phenomenon called “asynchronous recruitment.” We all have slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers, and it’s to our advantage to activate as many of them as possible when we resistance train in order to truly reap the benefits that our nervous system and muscles can offer. Slow twitch fibers are always recruited first; your body won’t also call upon the fast twitch fibers in your muscles unless it really needs help with a challenging task – like the last few reps on a set of five squats.
Once we’re a bit experienced with resistance training, in order to recruit fast twitch fibers (which can actually be converted to slow twitch fibers to enhance endurance performance), we need to train with at least 70% of our maximal strength on a particular exercise in order to build strength with classic “repetition work.” The more experienced one gets, the higher this percentage goes; really experienced lifters won’t get stronger below 85-90%, in fact.
Jump squats are a good example of dynamic effort training, which teaches the nervous system to recruit muscles faster. Additionally, some dynamic effort training can teach your tendons to store more elastic energy (like plyometrics). If your tendons work more efficiently, your running style is more relaxed, reflexive, and “springy,” as you don’t have to “muscle” every stride.