Too often, strength training is ignored by the running fraternity.
After all, it's much more fun being outdoors in the fresh air, running on the road or on the track. Pumping iron or performing repetitive drills is not for them.
Ironically, however, dismissing the importance of strength training can actually result in injury – not to mention the mental aggravation (and even depression) brought about by the weeks or months of enforced inactivity that are typically needed to recover from a ligament injury or stress fracture.
By contrast, the correct approach to strength training– one that is balanced and designed specifically to reflect the needs and training and racing status of the runner – can both significantly reduce injury risk and increase performance by improving running style (and thus running economy), physical strength and speed.
Which is why my latest Peak Performance Special Report deals with this often misunderstood and overlooked issue.
Strength Training for Runners is specifically designed to boost your results on the track or road – whatever your preferred distance. Its nine chapters of up-to-date, expert and practical advice show you how to construct a 'pre-conditioning' routine, that will iron out the most common running injuries; how to improve and strengthen your running (and other) muscles in your warm ups and provide you with some great conditioning advice that will make you a stronger and faster runner.
The remaining chapters cover weight training, circuit training and plyometric training, and provide numerous, easy-to-implement examples of exercises and training programmes.
In all, you get 85 pages of expert strength training and conditioning advice that will keep you on the road... not on the physiotherapist's couch!
And right now you have a chance to steal a march on your competitors by pre-ordering your copy of this brand new report before it goes on more general release.
Whether you're an athlete or a coach, you'll find Strength Training for Runners maximises your understanding of a range of advanced strength conditioning methods.
And you can be sure every page of this brand new report is packed with high-level, practical information you can put to use right away because it's written by John Shepherd, a former international athlete who competed for Great Britain. John speaks from personal experience of elite level sports training and competition, and currently coaches elite athletes across the UK. John is also a long-standing contributor to Peak Performance and the author of 8 books, including '101 Athletic Drills for Young People' and 'The Complete Guide to Sports Training'.
Order your copy of Strength Training for Runners today, and you'll find out:
When's the best time to begin a 'pre-conditioning' programme (HINT: it is not the beginning of the training season)? (p. 11)
Which are the best exercises to 'innoculate' yourself against the most common running injuries? (p. 17)
Why is gender an issue not to be overlooked when planning a pre-conditioning programme? (p. 17)
Why is it sometimes a good idea to ditch the shoes, and run bare foot? (p. 27)
What are three reasons for including stretching in your training regime? (p. 33)
Why is it such a mistake for runners to ignore core training? (p. 39)
Can heavy weight training really boost the performance of an endurance runner? (pp. 56-57)
How stronger toes contribute to your overall running performance (p. 69)
It's essential information for athletes and their coaches – and anyone else with a serious interest in top-level running performance.
So here's a tip from me: reserve your copy TODAY, before the first printing is sold out and you have to wait for a reprint!
What's more, because you're signed up on our Peak Performance web site to receive our weekly email newsletter, I'll make sure you get Strength Training for Runners at a greatly reduced price – and with freepostage & packing.
Additional Bonus Report – worth $12 (£7.35) – but only if you're quick to act!
As if all that wasn't enough, I've also arranged for the first 250 readers who reserve their copy of Strength Training for Runners to receive – within one working day of placing their order – a 25-page PDF download of strength training programmes designed SPECIFICALLY with runners in mind. (You'll find more information on this Special Bonus Report at the end of this email.)
What if Strength Training for Runners doesn't meet your needs and expectations? No problem, you can return it for a full refund within 30 days. No quibbles, no questions asked.
NB: you still get to keep your special Bonus Report. So you've nothing to lose when you take action right away.
Jonathan Pye Publisher, Strength Training for Runners
'Preconditioning': how to minimise your risk of running injury
By its very nature running creates over-use injuries which usually manifest themselves in the lower limbs and back areas.
These most commonly include 'runner's knee' (illiotibial band friction syndrome), shin-splints (medial tibial stress syndrome), Achilles tendon problems and heel pain (plantar fasciitis).
Although these and other injuries are often the result of factors beyond the scope of this special report, such as running in the wrong (for your gait) or worn shoes, too great an increase in training volume, a change in regular running surface or poor biomechanics – the good news is that you can use so-called 'pre-conditioning' techniques and specific strength training exercises to reduce their incidence and keep them at bay.
Pre-conditioning or pre-training is a relatively new 'buzz' word in the world of sports training. It refers to the process of 'training to train' rather than training to compete. It can be likened to the preparatory processes followed in numerous manufacturing industries, whereby tolerances and tests are painstakingly devised for materials and structures, so that when they are finally incorporated into the product, the risks of failure is virtually nonexistent.
In Strength Training for Runners we explain how pre-conditioning works – and how you can put it to work for you. Along the way, you'll find out when to add pre-conditioning to your training and conditioning efforts (hint: it's not, as you might think, at the beginning of the training year), how to use your knowledge of how muscles work to fine-tune your pre-conditioning efforts, and what you can do to self-assess your potential for running injury.
We also identify eight exercises you can use to 'innoculate' yourself against future injury. It's worth getting the report for this information alone!
Drills and Conditioning Exercises to Make You Run Stronger
Putting one foot in front of the other should be simple. But if it were as easy as it sounds, we'd all be super fit runners striding purposefully around the streets and across the countryside powered by our endurance engine and benefiting from a silky smooth stride.
Sadly, that's far from the case.
So the next chapter of Strength Training for Runners focuses on running drills and specific weights exercises to improve your technique and strengthen key running muscles, thereby reducing injury potential.
In the first section of this chapter we look in detail at three crucial stages of the running cycle, and provide you with a number of drills and specific weight training exercises you can use to improve your running performance in each area.
Foot strike: on foot-strike the foot normally rolls in to absorb impact forces – this is known as pronation. If the foot rolls in too far this is known as over-pronation and injuries can result. It's therefore important to have your gait checked by a suitably qualified person. Many specialist-running stores offer foot scans and such analysis and will then recommend the right shoes for you. Improving your foot-strike will however improve your running performance, so we set out a number of conditioning drills that you can do for yourself.
Recovery: the recovery phase occurs when you are on one leg and moving into the next (known as the 'stance phase). Your legs will naturally flex, store energy and return this into the next stride by extending on each impact – the plyometric reaction. The hamstrings are important during the recovery phase as they contribute to lifting the leg up behind your body and then control its forward momentum once the foot moves to an in-front of the hips position, then pulls the foot back to the ground. It is at this point when the hamstring is working eccentrically (as was identified in the pre-conditioning chapter) when the majority of hamstring strains occur. These drills and exercises will improve specific hamstring strength.
Leg drive: the greater the force you exert against the running surface the faster runner you will be irrespective of your chosen running distance. The 'leg drive' is crucial in this respect. This occurs when the grounded leg extends to push you forward after foot strike and ends in 'toe off' i.e. with your ankles extended. When running it is best to avoid emphasising leg drive as this can invariably lead to your hips dropping and your running style becoming a bit slow and lengthy. You'll also expend more energy. However, by performing specific leg drive enhancing exercises you can increase your propulsion and therefore your running speed.
In all, you profit from eight carefully-selected drills and exercises that will greatly improve your running style, economy, strength and speed.
How This 'Dynamic' Warm-Up Routine Strengthens and Maximises Running Performance
The approach to warming up for sports activities has changed dramatically in recent years. For years a typical sports warm up would involve 5-15 minutes of gentle cardiovascular exercise to raise body temperature, such as jogging, followed usually by static (held) stretching movements.
More recently, exercise physiologists have challenged the physical value of a warm up; it has been suggested that in real terms there is little actual value to it. However, for an athlete from any sport to enter a competitive or training situation without prior preparation seems inconceivable.
The rationale behind the running specific warm up is at least a much stronger one, when compared with the older traditional warm up format. As a runner you might think that a gentle jog before commencing your faster run is all that is needed. Yes, you could probably get away with this, however by not warming up more extensively you are missing out on a prime opportunity to strengthen your running muscles and perform drills and exercises that will boost your performance over time and reduce injury.
What a running-specific warm up does is:
Raise body temperature - this process will 'switch on' numerous physiological processes that make subsequent vigorous exercise more effective and safer;
Fire up the neuromuscular system to unleash physiologically heightened performance (of which more later and particular relevant to sprinters);
Put you in the right frame of mind to get the best from your body (known to sports psychologists as being in the 'zone of optimal functioning' or simply 'in the zone');
Improve sport specific range of movement (SSROM) due to decreases in viscous resistance (muscles literally become more stretchy);
Increase oxygen utilisation in muscles, as haemoglobin release is facilitated at higher body temperatures;
So in the next chapter of Strength Training for Runners we take you through a number of short, running-specific warm-up drills – including several that you can perform bare foot in order to condition the 26 bones, 33 joints and 100+ muscles, tendons and ligaments that collectively make up the human foot!
We also address the contentious issue of stretching – before or after exercise, active or passive? We explain all...
Sprint Drills That Improve Your Endurance-Running Speed
Believe it or not, the faster your top speed, the easier it will be for you to maintain a slower pace.
We know this because there have been various examples of sports science research that indicate that the fastest 'endurance' runners over 40m are also the fastest over their normal event distance, yes even 10k runners and marathoners.
Because it is essential that you not neglect speed and sprinting as a strength developer for your running, whatever your chosen event, we devote a whole chapter of Strength Training for Runners to this crucial performance-enhancing issue.
Just adding one of these carefully-selected sprinting workouts to your existing training and conditioning efforts could radically transform your performance this year!
NB: It is important that you are in the right frame of mind before you sprint or do faster track and roadwork sessions. If you're not, then you won't get the maximum benefits from your workouts. That's why track sprinters (100m, 200m, 400m and hurdles) perform specific drills to 'turn up' their neuromuscular system. They know the importance of being in the right state of physical and crucially mental readiness to perform at 100% output.
Only a few repetitions (4-6) of these exercises should be performed prior to competitions, or workouts where flat out or near to top running speeds are required. They should form part of the later stage of the dynamic warm up, when the body is 'ready' for intense movements.
Although you might not appreciate it, your core is crucial for running. Because it transmits the forces generated by your limbs, if your core is not suitably conditioned it will reduce your running efficiency. Conversely, a strong core will also protect you against injury.
Sit-ups and crunches, although providing a valuable function when core training, are less effective as more static (isometric) exercises that target the deeper abdominal muscles, such as the transversus obliques.
So in Strength Training for Runners we delve deep into the issue of core training. And along the way we detail how to get the most out of seven selected core strength exercises.
They'll make you a far more efficient, more competitive runner.
Weight Training for Runners: how to get the best return on your efforts
Runners often neglect weight training, preferring to put in the miles on the road, track or country, rather than push out reps in the weights room. However, weight training can be very beneficial to the runner.
Here's why. In order to get better at running distance you need to improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs to pump blood around your body. Over time your heart will be able to pump more oxygenated blood ('stroke volume') at decreased effort ('heart rate'). Consequentially your VO2 max and your lactate threshold will improve – the former refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process and the latter to the maximum pace you can sustain aerobically. What is perhaps less well-known that your muscles and specifically their muscle fibres will also respond and adapt and this is where the 'debate' over the value of weight training for endurance running starts.
Endurance training will target your slow twitch muscle fibres. These are known as, Type1 or 'red' fibres. They are responsible for pre-longed muscular action – they're the ones you want to proliferate if you are training for a marathon for example. Steady-state aerobic running will increase their numbers and their ability to process oxygen (oxygen is the fuel, that ignites the chemical reactions within the muscle to produce constant muscular contractions).
Weight training and in particular heavier weight training using loads in excess of 60% of 1 Rep maximums will target fast twitch fibre. There are two types of these 'white' fibres, intermediate fast twitch ('Type IIa') and fast twitch ('Type IIb'). Twitch or more specifically 'twitch rate' refers to the contraction speed of the specific muscle fibre. Fast twitch fibres have a twitch rate three times greater than slow twitch fibres – specifically 30-70 twitches per second. It is argued that training for strength and power using weight training and endurance methods at the same time can be counter-productive i.e. the potential to increase the power producing capability of a muscle/muscle group through lifting weights is literally cancelled out by the endurance training.
This is known as the 'interference effect' and has led to many coaches and runners eschewing weight training.
While it is certainly the case that few research studies indicate a direct benefit to weight training for the endurance runner (or endurance athlete) in terms of specific enhancement of running endurance performance, what we might call the 'secondary' benefits are much less disputable.
The key argument here is in terms of injury avoidance and improvement in running technique. Weight training (and other resistance training methods, such as body weight exercises) will strengthen soft tissue (muscles, ligaments and tendons) and make them less prone to strain. They'll also increase your co-ordination and balance. And all this will make you a faster, stronger and less injury-prone runner.
NB: the two weight training workouts we set out in this chapter are specifically designed to target the key muscles used in running accordingly, and all the exercises we feature emphasise the legs and core. (Unless you are a sprint athlete there is much less of a need to develop arm power.)
Plyometric Training: how to add more power to your stride
Whether you run at a sprint or marathon pace you need power.
And one of the best ways of developing this most precious commodity is through plyometric (jumping) training. That's because the more dynamic your legs become the more power they will be able to supply for each and every stride, whether it be for the 40-45 odd strides that a male sprinter takes to complete the 100m or the 40 000 odd required for a 4 hour marathon. The increased dynamic ability of your legs will increase your stride length and decrease your ground contact times.
Plyometrics are based on the fact that a concentric (shortening) muscular contraction is much stronger if it immediately follows an eccentric (lengthening) contraction of the same muscle. It's a bit like stretching out a coiled spring to its fullest extent and then letting it go. Immense levels of energy will be released in a split second as the spring recoils. Plyometric exercises develop this recoil or more technically the 'stretch/reflex' capacity of muscles. With regular exposure to this training stimulus muscle fibre will be able to store more elastic energy and be able to transfer more quickly and powerfully from the eccentric to the concentric phase. Thus you'll develop a more powerful stride.
Plyometrics is strong medicine, however. So when it comes to selecting the best plyometric exercises for you, you should consider your running distance and training experience, your level of pre-conditioning and your ability to pick up what can be complex skills.
Previous injuries also need to be factored in.
Single leg exercises are more complex and more stressful than double leg exercises. Compare squat jumps to alternate leg bounding ('steps') over 20m. The complexity and speed component of the latter is significantly greater than the former. It's highly unlikely that even a moderately conditioned runner would be able to perform the bounding drill without 'collapsing'.
So always err on the side of caution when selecting plyometric exercises and always progress gradually and underestimate what you think you can achieve.
In Strength Training for Runners you'll find a very useful table that both ranks plyometric exercises via their intensity level (i.e. the stresses they place on the body) – and show you exactly how to incorporate these exercises into your all-year-round training and conditioning plan.
NB: It should be noted that in this instance intensity does not mean 'less beneficial'. Less stressful on the body exercises, such as side-side jumps are a very effective power developer, as are more intense depth jumps.
Circuit training provides a highly relevant method for developing running strength. Correctly done, it can develop local muscular endurance, running power, improve running technique and develop aerobic and anaerobic fitness and protect against injury.
But there's more to circuit training that perhaps meets the eye. So we devote a full chapter to this core training technique.
For example, there are numerous ways to design a circuit. Circuit style circuits are easier at least when starting a circuit training programme compared to In series circuits. This is because the former method allows for the muscle/muscles being worked greater recovery before they are worked specifically again. This is because you go through the circuit (and the other exercises) before returning to it, to perform it again
Aerobic circuit training is perhaps the toughest of all the options for the runners as it can tax all energy systems – aerobic, anaerobic, and develop lactate tolerance, VO2 max and local muscular endurance. Lactate is a chemical produced in the body at all times, its levels increase with increased exercise intensity. At a point the rate of its production will exceed the rate of its clearance and re-use for energy production – it's also at this point that its molecular structure changes and it turns into lactic acid. Circuit training can increase muscles' lactate usage and increase their ability to process this chemical, before it becomes lactic. (VO2max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen the body can process and local muscular endurance to the ability of a muscle to sustain repeated muscular contractions under conditions of fatigue.)
In the circuits that we feature in Strength Training for Runners, we provide a number of alternative progression options are provided. These will help you develop your circuit workouts, so that you increase your fitness over a period of time. Exercise descriptions are provided for exercises which you may be less familiar with.
Details of your pre-publication discount offer – PLUS your BONUS REPORT
As a registered member of our Peak Performance web site, you qualify for a copy of Strength Training for Runners at a special 50% discount.
Place your order today and you pay just $34.99 (£21.50) instead of the full price of $59.99 (£37).
And, as if this wasn't enough, I've also arranged for you to receive a copy of Strength Workouts for Runners– a Bonus Report containing 12 strength training programmes specially designed for runners.
This Bonus Report has been uniquely written for us at Peak Performance by one of the UK's leading exponents of strength training for athletes, Brendan Chaplin, who has worked with athletes at a number of different levels, from recreational to Olympians. Brendan is currently the head of Strength and Conditioning for Leeds Met Carnegie as well as the conditioner for Caged Steel MMA Fight-Team. His private clients include champion sprinters, triathletes and marathon runners. He previously worked as a strength and conditioning coach for Huddersfield Giants Rugby League, the English Institute of Sport, Durham University and British Tennis (the Lawn Tennis Association).
Brendan is an accredited strength and conditioning coach through the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA), he also holds the CSCS qualification through the National Strength and Conditioning Association
So whether you're a 100m sprinter or a distance athlete, a beginner or an advanced runner, you'll find plenty in this Bonus Report to make you stronger and faster – and keep you injury free: body weight exercises, endurance sessions, sprint strength, lower and upper body workouts for beginner, intermediate and advanced runners.
Your copy of Strength Workouts for Runners has a cover price of $12 (£7.35) and will be emailed to your preferred email address (it's a PDF format document) as soon as you've completed ordering your copy of Strength Training for Runners.
Strength Training for Runners is one of a series of special reports from Peak Performance, the sports science newsletter. This practical work book is not available elsewhere.
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