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Strength Training in Running

While the question ‘do we need strength training in running?’ is not a question anymore, the question, ‘what kind of strength do we need there?’ is still unclear. That is why I would like to discuss this topic in a short description of the logic of strength exercise use in running.

It is no secret that muscle strength is necessary in running to provide for the body’s ability to interact with the ground while your body moves from one support to the other. During support time gravity manifests itself as the body weight and muscles provide for its ability to interact with the ground.

So the precision of muscles’ development according to the body’s needs of interaction, is directly related to the quality and efficiency of that interaction. We have also to take into account the skill of interaction, that is the skill of using muscular efforts and all other forces.

What are the main requirements for this type of interaction, and what kind of strength training do these requirements call for? In Pose Method we distinguish three major types of strength and the corresponding exercises that provide for the required level of skill of interaction with the ground. The first is hip strength, the second – hamstring strength and the third – muscle elasticity.

Why do we choose these types of strength and these exercises to develop it? The answer is directly related to the Pose Method of running technique. The performance of three major elements of Pose Method technique – the running Posefalling (leaning) forward from the Pose and pulling the support foot from the ground – depend on how well each specific strength is developed.

Hips

Hips strength provides for very efficient falling forward, because it allows you to keep the upper and low body well connected as one unit and therefore, fall forward faster. Hips exercises should be included in the training routine at least once a week, 4 to 6 different exercises according to your ability, with 10 to 20 reps in one set after the main training part.

  • at least once a week
  • 4 to 6 different exercises according to your ability
  • 10 to 20 reps per set, increase based on ability

Hamstrings

Hamstring strength is responsible for pulling the support foot from the ground, when the body ends its contact with the ground, and brings the foot under the hips in time for the next support, in order to start falling again. If hamstring strength is not developed enough, the support foot and the whole leg would be lagging behind until the next support and the body would not fall forward.

Consequently it would lead to reducing stride frequency and speed of running. The late (or ‘not on time’) pull of the support foot from the ground in sprint causes a hamstring injury. Exercises for hamstring strength development should be used at least once a week as well, with 10 to 20 reps in one set and up to 3-5 sets in one training session. It could be done as a main session together with other strength exercises, or after running training.

  • at least once a week
  • 10 to 20 reps per set
  • up to 3-5 sets in one training session, increase based on ability

Muscle Elasticity

Muscle elasticity or springiness is the ability of muscles to quickly return to the length previous to impact. The other name of it is stretch-shortening reflex. Elasticity, according to scientific data, provides for quick interaction with the support and reduces oxygen consumption and energy expenditures during running. Elastic condition is achieved by keeping the body in the S-like shape on support, or in layman terms, by keeping the knee bent and never straightened and maintaining a short support time. The latter is related to high (over 180 steps per minute) stride frequency, executed by pulling the support foot from the ground on time.

Elasticity exercises are simply jumping exercises. There is a great variety of them, on different levels of difficulty and complexity but most accessible for beginners would be jumps in place on two legs, with jump rope or light weights of your choice according to your level. Jumps could be done twice a week after the main running session. The number of reps would vary from 10 to 30 and more, depending on the type of jumps. Sets would depend on your level of preparedness.

  • twice a week after the main running session
  • 10 to 30 reps per set
  • 1-3 sets in one training session, increase based on ability

As you see, all these different types of strength, in the final account, are providing for one thing – the ability to fall forward more efficiently and be a better runner.

Here’s an example of a full strength training routine for runners.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

Muscle Elasticity

What is muscle elasticity? If you were to stretch a muscle you would see it shrink back a bit. In plain words, it’s a natural ability to recover to original form upon the removal of the force initially applied. In physical activity it is the ability of muscles to perform work, specifically, to contract rapidly after and immediately prior to extension.

A human body is a mix of physics, geometry, psychology and all that good stuff, so we should not talk about muscles and their function as separate from the whole. Muscles are a part of our entire system, and as such, whatever functions they perform or whatever is going on, it does not happen on its own. There is a whole chain of processes happening.

What is Muscle Elasticity

So, actually, ‘muscle elasticity’ is an incorrect term to use. Muscles do not work independently, nor do they work under our command. The sooner you let go of what you imagine you control, the sooner you will discover what you do control and consequently you will move better.

In Pose Method all of the key elements that are of any significance or benefit are brought together. Everything is connected. The center of the method, the Pose, is the most ‘ready to go’ pose of the body facilitating optimum elasticity allowing for the most effective interaction with the support where the entire musculoskeletal structure is ‘loaded’ with potential energy.

When we talk about muscle elasticity what we should be discussing is a ‘muscle-tendon complex’. Tendons play a very important and active role in this process, but the muscles run the show, yet let’s not forget that the true master is gravity.

Muscle-tendon Elasticity Complex

The concept of muscle-tendon elasticity complex is a relatively new one and research with the correct goals is much needed. There are, however, already some very certain and obvious facts about muscles and tendons and how they work together making for a unique system. For example, it is a fact that tendons can stretch more than muscles. It is most likely because tendons were meant to stretch and muscles weren’t as much, muscles were meant to contract and relax.

Speaking of tendons, let’s mention the Achilles tendon, the biggest tendon in our entire body, which just happens to be located at the ankle, which is part of the ‘mechanism’ of movement like walking, running. So instead of being concerned with overloading the largest tendon of the body during running (if it is the largest tendon, is it not logical to assume that it was meant to and it can handle the loading during running? It’s not the loading it is how it’s done that causes the problem), why not question the integrity of the idea of loading the joints (knees) that were obviously meant to simply bend, yet it is often recommended to actively use them in some many other ways.

It is a requirement in Pose Method of running to keep knees slightly bent at all times, why? Besides the fact that joints bend and should not be in locked positions when in motion, especially during running, bent knees help to absorb the shock during movement. It is also a part of the ‘rules’ of the muscle-tendon elasticity complex.

How It Works

Muscle-tendon elasticity complex is the natural ability of your musculoskeletal system to ‘return to its original state’. When the limb of your body is moved in any way in any direction for any purpose, muscles and tendons accommodate by elongating or shortening at various key spots. When we move our limbs back to where the movement had started, it is easy to notice how everything goes right back to its shape and form, and place. When we pull the foot up with the hamstring we work with this mechanism.

Muscles and tendons work in unison and in tandem, each one however, with its own timing doing its own job. As should be expected and as mentioned above, muscle-tendon complex has ‘rules’. In order to ‘activate’ the complex and benefit from it, one must adhere to those ‘rules’ otherwise the effectiveness of the complex is dramatically minimized or completely lost. And worst of all – injuries happen. Muscle tears and tendon ruptures are consequences of breaking those rules and performing moves out of synch with gravity.

Muscle-tendon complex, like so many other processes in our body, happens in space and time. It is a rhythmic work of muscles & tendons combined with rhythm of loading. And, it is a biomechanical law that guarantees the magic – with high cadence muscles ‘come to life’, so to say, and work at the highest level of their elastic function. Without much effort on your part your body continues forward movement. Elite athletes, most of whom are naturally highly talented, instinctively run with high cadence. Their perception allows them to naturally sense the ease of movement provided by it.

With age muscle-tendon complex naturally changes, but the decline in elasticity is less for active people than for non-active. So keep moving!

Check out progressions of drills and exercises in our video program for runners aimed at developing your muscles’ elasticity to help you become a better runner.

Read more about muscle-tendon elasticity complex in the Pose Method of Running.

Did you know? The payoff to “elastic” running is that you can maintain a high stride rate without “going anaerobic” and using up your body’s available energy supply of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the fuel of your highest intensity sprints. Elastic running gives you the ability to run faster for greater distances and still keep something in reserve.

References:

  1. Alexander, A.M., 1988, Springs as energy stores: running. Elastic mechanisms in animal movement. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 31-50.
  2. Cavagna, G.A., Saibene, F.P. and Margaria, R., 1964, Mechanical work in running, J. Appl. Physiol., 19:249-256
  3. Cavagna, G.A., 1977, Storage and utilization of elastic energy in skeletal muscle. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 5, 89-129.
  4. Cavagna, P.R., La Fortune M.A., 1980, Ground reaction forces in distance running, J. Biomech, 13:397-406.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]