|Master of none|
Please, take all the time you need! I only bumped to make sure you saw the thread.
In case it's helpful to discuss a specific case: I'm 43, doing 50 to 60 miles per week, probably good for 16:45 on a 5K and maybe 60 to 62 for a 400. However, injury-prone hamstrings keep me away from hard work at the latter speed. I occasionally do body-weight lunges and squats but in a fairly haphazard way.
But if it's more convenient to speak in general terms, by all means do so!
OK, I'll try to make a start now, and come back and expand on things as I get gaps in my schedule.
My thoughts on this evolved a great deal this summer. Until then I was following "textbook" advice on strength training for runners - dedicated weights sessions, circuits when possible - and it certainly worked for a while, but I found it very hard to keep it up AND keep up the running training; I'd basically been on the same plateau the last two seasons.
This summer I did some serious research, reading and corresponding with strength coaches and digging deeper into what good athletes have actually done over the years. As Malmo would say with running, you need to know how sessions are supposed to "feel" and not just copy someone's set and rep schemes. It turns out that both I and 90% of the world have been missing some key points and tiring ourselves out quite unnecessarily. Following this new approach, I have hit personal bests just 3 weeks into a program so light it hardly feels like I'm training.
Before I spill the beans, I'm going to start off with a little 'history essay' and cite a few people who I think have 'got it right'. All but the first are around now, have forums and many articles online.
1. Percy Cerutty. If you actually read what he recommended in his books, all the latest ideas are there - low reps/heavy weights, exercises every day, 'standards' for athletes which are unchanged today, coupled with tons of hills. He was president of the Victoria Weightlifting Association at one time and knew his stuff.
2. George Gandy, at Loughborough Uni in the UK: his strength program worked for Coe and for generations of the UK's top runners from 400m up. It SOUNDS really tough but I interviewed a recent graduate.
3. The Russians. They were actually able to experiment in large, controlled groups on what worked and what didn't, and they never got caught up in the bodybuilding thing. They figured out that "little and often, never to fatigue" works best for mid/long distance runners. I have an article on the preparation of Svetlana Ulmasova (WR 3000m in the 1980s) which says she did a little bit of strength work every day - quite a lot of very easy plyos, never done to fatigue. And somewhere on LRC there's a thread interviewing Yuriy Borzakovskiy's coach, which says the same: a little bit of strength work (they like throwing rocks around!) most days.
4. Mike Boyle. Author of two key books with "Functional Strength" in the title, gets paid by professional NHL/hockey teams to condition their people. He's a physio and has decades of experience helping sportspeople fix imbalances and develop strength they can actually use. He's anti-back-squats and into doing single-leg movements and careful progressions, so you work on strength and balance before you start to leap around. Read his books; what he says applies even more to us oldsters than the youngsters.
5. Pavel Tsatsouline. Russian strength coach who has brought over an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of who does/did what in Russian sport and the strength world, and introduced Kettlebells to the west 13 years ago. His books are both very, very funny and incredibly well researched and informative. One of his first books, "Power to the People", showed how to get massively strong on two exercises per day (deadlift and one arm press) in about 10 minutes, done daily.
6. Barry Ross, who runners should have heard of, picked up Pavel's work and slimmed down his high school's strength program to the absolute minimum: 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps of deadlifts, a couple of times a week, before track work starts. He takes kids and adults and doubles their strength n a year. Allyson Felix is the star protege, and sprinters all know about his approach (and I know some who follow it).
I asked him and he also has his cross-country kids on the program. This is an absolutely minimal strength program that is intended to leave lots of energy for running.
7. My current favourite is Dan John. National standard discus thrower, weightlifter, Highland Games-er, but most of all he spent 18 years as a track and field coach. He's also a Fulbright scholar and immensely talented writer. Almost all his work is available online and free. His forum is full of polite, helpful people who never troll or slag each other off, and he answers questions himself.
Here is the canonical article...trust me, it works.
Dan and Pavel's book, "Easy Strength", came out as an eBook - it's really, really good - and will be in print and Kindle in a few more weeks. The exercises in there tend to be geared more towards people who throw objects, or even other humans ;-)
What I'm doing basically adapts the "easy strength" schedule to a runner's lifestyle, without needing access to a gym and Olympic bars, and trying to be a bit more running-specific.
More in a while....
Step 1: assessment
If you are basically injury-free, it would make a lot of sense to take some strength or power measurements before you change anything. If nothing else, you might get a buzz out of how fast you can improve in a few weeks.
(a) A good test anyone can do is a horizontal, two-footed jump. (Do it on grass). Record the length, and also the % of your body height. Dan John suggests doing 3 in succession and measuring the total, which will make it a bit easier to track small improvements.
(b) Vertical jump is easy to measure, and standards are widely known.
(c) If you have access to a gym and an instructor can help you out, you can see what you can deadlift comfortably. Do a succession of reps adding weight until it feels 'tough but comfortable' and we'll deem that your max for today. But unless you can do it supervised, don't bother.
(d) my club sometimes does standing-start 40m sprints. We do best of 3, self-timed from when you think 'go' and start to move. Only do this if you do speedwork regularly and are feeling healthy; if you're more used to training at marathon paces, skip this.
The basic theory is that as you get stronger all these will improve - and I have found it to be true. Even when tired doing 70 mile weeks in midwinter my 40m times dropped.
Finally, if you know anyone nearby who can give you a Functional Movement Screen, get one done. It is a standardised test which will reveal all kind of imbalances and mobility/coordination issues, and it yields a numeric score which can motivate you to improve it. Physios, coaches and personal trainers do these. Sadly it has yet to hit the UK in a big way but i wish we'd had this when I was a practicing sports massage therapist.
Step 2: maintenance program
The next step is to work out a basic program of exercises which will maintain your mobility and muscular health in minimal time while you are training hard at your running, hunching over desks for long hours etc etc.
As a former sports massage therapist, I have a different perspective here to many strength coaches who jump straight to the heavy stuff. Runners get a lot of overuse-type spasm coming and going in their muscles all the time. 20 years ago I found that if you exercised a muscle group through the full range of movement, slowly and carefully, 8-12 times, it helped bring a lot of the areas of spasm back into play and helped relax stiff muscle a great deal - not quite as good as a massage, but similar in effect. It is NOT necessary, or even helpful, to get into any fatigue to achieve this effect.
There are LOTS of ways to do this. It does NOT need to be a high-speed or fatiguing circuit. Some ideas...
(a) dynamic warmups. Athletes in our club do a supervised dynamic warmup with mobility exercises (circling ankles, hips, swinging legs etc), 'silly walks', hurdle mobility etc. If you have a group to train with, or time and good weather, this is a good option.
(b) Kettlebells. These are all the rage now. the "RKC Program Minimum" is a very simple weekly routine involving two sessions of swings and two of Turkish Get-Ups, a fiendish exercise that covers almost all major movements for hips, torso and stabiliser muscles. If you use a gym or fancy buying a kettlebell, this ticks almost all the boxes.
(c) Jay Johnson's general strength videos on Running Times (I like the Myrtl one), or any number of track coaches' dynamic warmup routines
(d) My wife keeps telling me I should try her Pilates class
(e) Your own 'indoor' exercises: I have a program of a few exercises I tend to do in the gym as a warmup, or at home in the evening. If making up your own, try to cover key movements.
Dan John's checklist of movements: a push, a pull, a squat, a 'hinge' or posterior chain, a 'loaded carry', a rotation or anti-rotation, and an 'anterior chain' - abs/hip flexors.
Some more I'd add for runners: a calf raise, a hip flexion,a 'split leg' movement, and something for shins and ankles.
So you might do one set each of a dozen of the following...
- Inverted rows (use two arms to pull from a doorframe, low bar, towel looped round a railing, with your body at 45' - think upside-down pushup)
- Deep squats with bodyweight or a light counterweight to your chest ("goblet squats"), or overhead squats with a broom handle held above you
- Swings with a kettlebell or dumbell; or swiss ball 'leg curls' (feet on ball, back on ground, hips held high so glutes and hams work together) or other bridging moves; or one-legged "Romanian deadlifts" with no weight (Google it)
- Walk around with a weight in one arm or overhead for 30sec, then the other. If you have a toddler, use him/her; my teenagers are a bit big now!
- Twists with a medicine ball, or attempts at a one-arm push-up off a wall (anti-rotation).
- Planks (although the pushups can cover this)
- Split squat with bodyweight (like a lunge but without stepping anywhere - one leg forward, one back, torso vertical, lower until back knee brushed the floor or a cushion)
- Calf raises slowly on a step, holding onto something.
- Leg raises: lie on back, raise legs to vertical and back down. Vary the angles
- Lean back on a wall, pull your toes up hard and slowly ten times. Or sit down and circle your feet hard in both directions of a good minute.
- Finish off with Mark Verstegen's "World's Greatest Stretch" routine on each side
Good toys you can buy or find in a gym include a swiss ball, a medicine ball (ones with handles are great), a light kettlebell, or a TRX suspension trainer (my favourite, a 2lb gym-in-a-bag I can travel with). The TRX basic circuit covers all the above moves in 5 minutes.
With each exercise you are NOT trying to tire yourself. You're trying to do perfect reps with a good range of movement. Think about "practicing movements", not "training". Take rests if you need to. 5 good reps is enough, 12 is the most you need. ONE set of each is fine if doing it most days.
Do this at least 5 days a week.
This would all make a good little warmup before or a run. Or you could do the standing ones and save the floor-based ones for later in the evening. It's also completely acceptable to spread it throughout the day. One or two sets will not make you sweat, so you can subtly break up a day at the office, do your calf raises on the stairs etc.
This may well be enough. Even if you want to go further, spend at least a few weeks nailing this routine, and really getting into the groove with the split squats and goblet squats.
Give your routine a cool name, record it in your training diary, and give yourself marks out of 5 for how well you adhered to it.
If you want to progress to the next level, this 5-minute routine becomes your warmup.
Step 3: strength program
Only get onto this after spending a while on Step 2. (Of course, you will ignore me).
Our main goal here is maximum strength in the running muscles, without any hypertrophy (increase in mass), and with the minimum fatigue possible. We want to put at least 80% of our weekly energy into running, NOT weightlifting.
If you have access to Olympic bars on a regular basis, and are able to drop the weights (as lowering is dangerous), I'd go with the Barry Ross program, or Pavel's "Power to the People" workout, which are well documented elsewhere. Gyms do not like you dropping 100kg weights, and wives like it even less.
If not, and/or you're stuck with working out at home, we go for single-leg or split-leg exercises. The great thing about this approach is that, once again, it only needs a few minutes and they don't have to be continuous.
At some point you may find some resistance useful: a dumbell set, a kettlebell. For a really cheap and really useful alternative, get a few bags of sand from the local DIY (USA="home improvement store"?) and an old day rucksack; you can wear it or hug it in your arms and pop extra bags in for weight.
Sets and reps
From this point on I am paraphrasing Dan and Pavel.
From now on, on the major exercises, we do no more than ten good reps for each exercise in total. 2 sets of 5 is the 'bread and butter' which you do when you just want to tick a box. On other occasions you can do things like 5 sets of 2 (good when you want to figure out a good working weight), 5-3-2 (if feeling good after 5, go up a weight..) and so on. When feeling lousy, do 10 extra-light reps to just rehearse the movement - think 'recovery jog' for lifters.
Always pick a weight you can handle, and always stop with a rep or two 'in the bank' before you lose form or slow down. The main risk with a runner is that you are more tired than you thought from your runs, so let the warmup provide clues.
Spent at least 5min between sets of like exercises. If not doing the household chores in between sets, use the time to stretch.
Personally I tend to pop out to the garden shed and do set #1 of 3 exercises - all done in 2min - then pop out again half an hour later.
Go totally by feel. I have given up trying to predict how strong I will be in relation to my harder running sessions. Always do some bodyweight moves first for warmup, go heavier when you feel good, go light when you feel weak. Write it down in the diary - odds are that you will make very rapid progress.
Here are three, there are many others that would work. Stick at the same exercises for most of your sessions for 2-4 weeks, then vary them a bit. The whole point of the daily practice is that your nervous system makes progress.
A. Single leg strength progression: start to work through these levels, moving up a level when you feel ready.
Level 1: Basic split squat as before, but holding a weight to your chest, pack on your back, or holding a dumbell in each hand.
Level 2: Rear-foot elevated split squat: one leg behind you, toes on a bench or wall (also called a Bulgarian Split Squat), drop down until rear knee nearly touches. This also gives you a great hip flexor stretch. Load up as for Level 1.
Level 3: Start progressing towards a genuinely single leg squat. Lots of articles online on this, and several variants (box squat, skater squat, pistol squat). Once you can do one, you are self sufficient and won't need any gym equipment any more!
B. Posterior chain: single leg deadlift
Hold a light counterweight, stand on one leg with it bent 20 degrees, tilt your whole body forwards (and the other leg back), then bring yourself back upright. Google it, great vid on YouTube. Progress by adding weight (dumbells, or bag held to chest).
This one is quite important if you are doing split squats or Bulgarians, but less so if you get as far as deep single-leg squats, which really work the hamstrings as well as quads.
C. Calves: progress to doing raises with only one leg on a step. Slow and deep. If 5 of those gets easy, add pauses at various points. Once you can do these really well, you could try holding a dumbell or wearing a loaded rucksack, or maybe it's time to move on.
For the upper body, your choice as to whether to try for maximum strength, or just maintain your basic push and pull from the maintenance routine. It won't affect your running much. Personally I am working on pullups (easy to do), and one-arm dumbell presses overhead. The last one is great for stability in the torso and needs only a medium dumbell. Trying to progress towards a one-arm push-up is a fun and worthy goal - I'm sure I'll never get there, but it really challenges all kind of stabiliser muscles in hips and torso even trying off a table or wall.
No doubt I have missed some key exercises, but these should get you a long way.
Finally, and this is important, we want power and some springiness as well as pure strength.
I highly recommend a few fast strides or sprints on a hill each week. This will give your nervous system a chance to integrate and train all the newly available fibres into your running action. Half a dozen Canova-style hill sprints is WAY more realistic and running-specific than any pseudo-running motions you could devise in the gym. Remember that gyms have treadmills so you can do these back to back with weights if you wish. This would count as one of your 5 running strength sessions.
If that doesn't work for whatever reason, there is the Litvinonv / Barry Ross approach: on a day when you feel good, about a minute after each squatting exercise, when your nervous system is highly activated, do a dozen explosive tuck jumps quickly.
I started the above routine 3 weeks ago, after an end-of-season break. I cannot believe how efficient it is compared to my previous "full sized sessions" approach, and I have bypassed my old PBs already.
I would love to hear from a few others if it works for them...
Just great advice. Thanks for sharing. I started running late in life after years of weight lifting, so it's wonderful to see sound advice about strength training here-- instead of the usual runner nonsense.
Do we have any volunteers to have a go at this over the next few weeks, and post their progress up here? This kind of routine is fairly new in the running world, and I'd be really interested to see how people get on with it.
This is great information. I have occasionally added the Loughborough plyometrics during base-training, and while it did improve my strength, it wasn't the right combination of things for me. I recently started doing Jay Johnson's Myrtl and Cannonball routines an average of 3 times per week, and I have only positive things to say. They really work the hip flexor/extensors/glutes, and these have been a weak spot of mine for a couple of years. I also think they the source of my piriformis issues on my right side. That is almost completely gone, and it doesn't bother me after speedwork like it used to. I like your comment about some of them functioning almost like a massage.
I generally do these either the evening or day after a hard workout, and any other time during the week I can make the time (as long as I get in at least 2 sets). I may be ready for some strength training in another month, but I need to work out some kinks in my back before I add more stress to it. My general sequence is:
Bench jumps (worked up to 24 inches)
Clamshells and leg raises
Donkeys (kicks, whips, hip rotations)
Lunges (front, back, sideways)
Single leg squats (great for balance)
Iron cross and other mobility exercises from Johnson
Hurdle drills (hips and glutes)
I do a few sets of push-ups in the middle, and can easily work in bench press or other weights if I do this at my gym. I also do strides or hills 2-3 times per week to work on my form and turnover. My opinion is the the 2-2,5 hours or so that these add to the time I spend working out are much more useful than running an additional 2 hours over the week.
|Master of none|
Thanks for all this information, which I'll keep studying and try to implement.
After reading step one this morning, I got fired up and went out for some assessment. My last hard-ish running effort was Tuesday morning, so my legs were reasonably fresh today.
Standing long jump: after a warm-up jump, my next three were all 6'4". I'm 6'1-1/2" tall, so I guess that works out to 106% of height. And 19' for the three jumps combined.
6.7 was my best of three attempts at the self-timed 40-meter dash from a standing start.
Vertical jump was 14". I did 25" in college, so it was somewhat dismal to see the decline quantified. But maybe I can improve.
Access to gym but no instructors, so I didn't do the dead lift. Ditto for Functional Movement Screen. I have however, done the following pared-down version:
Best I could tell, I passed all of them except the leg raise. On that one I'm pretty pathetic due to poor flexibility. Squat and rotary weren't exactly pretty, either, but they seem to pass according to the criteria.
I'll follow your advice and start with the "maintenance" stuff five days per week, focusing on range of motion and not striving for fatigue.
Once it's time for "strength program," is that also 5 per week? Or do them after the warm-up (maintenance) routine on days when you feel strong?
You've given a lot here. Thanks so much.
I'm impressed you did those tests. The point is not the score, it's the improvement over time. Or decline, over the decades :-(
The strength work is supposed to be 5x per week, if you are following Dan and Pavel's schedule. Part of the idea is that over the course of a full week, you're getting the same volume as a more 'traditional' lifter would get in a couple of sessions; and all that practice gives you the neural training to recuit more fibres on the good days. But, as I said, you can go easy on some of those days - very easy, in fact.
I also found that just deciding to do it almost every day solved my big problem of "when to lift". I stopped worrying and just get on with it, and decide in the warmup if it's a heavy day or a recovery one.
But I would personally say that if you do something else power- or strength-related on that day, it counts. So if you did some hill sprints that day, that's one of five ticked off.
|Master of none|
I always did like Cerutty. And what you said earlier is spot on for me: the problem is integrating the ancillary stuff into the running routine. I like your solution.
I'll try the assessment again, after three or so weeks of the maintenance program, and try to report back here.
How many minutes does your daily strength routine take?
Thank you very much for a wealth of good info on a topic of interest to me. I will digest and research this more for a start after my recovery from the ING NYCM in 3 weeks. Will post results here in a couple months if this thread still alive.
If I did everything in one go, I'd guess 20-30min, but I don't. About 10 total for the mobility/warmup, which I'm trying to do with my soccer-playing 12-year old; then I'll duck outside maybe twice for two 5-minute circuits at some point in the evening. Two one-arm presses, one set of pullups, single leg squat each side.
I also very much enjoy an hour on the gym floor when I can fit it in, but that happens once a week if I am lucky.
As a masters sprinter, I'm not going to chime in with my routine as it is much more extensive and uses progressive overload much more than a distance runner would need. But Captainrobbo's routines get a huge thumbs up from me. As we age, our body's amount of muscle can decline by as much as 8% per decade. Strength training is necessary to keep a spring in your step, and it can be through weights, body-weight resistance, and plyometrics --Captainrobbo covers all three. The one thing I would add is to insure adequate protein in your diet. Since I am building muscle my protein needs are fairly high, probably higher than that of a distance runner but in my experience and opinion, distance runners short themselves on protein in favor of carb intake. I would estimate the lower end of protein needs to be 1.1 to 1.2 grams per kilo of bodyweight. I eat 1.5 grams per kilo. Eat from a variety of sources, both plant and animal.
That's a pity - I'd really like to hear about it! You are the people who ought to know about strength and power, after all.
I'm with you there. I picked up on this issue this past season by tracking my diet with an online tool and realising I was often below 1.0g/kg. It does take a little effort to hit 1.5g/kg, but I have been making sure to do it at the same time as I have been gaining strength.
One unequivocal win/win has been using a recovery drink after sessions with some protein in it. Low fat milk shakes are dirt cheap - UK supermarkets frequently seem to have price wars on them - and have an ideal 25% protein / 75% carb mix, which is ideal for fast refuelling and muscle growth. I have found that if I chug one of these straight after a race or hard session I recover a LOT faster. I am guessing that this is even more relevant after a long endurance session (say an hour of hard running) than one of my minimal-neural-weights-sessions, as we tear down and repair fibres from the bigger sessions.
That's a pity - I'd really like to hear about it! You are the people who ought to know about strength and power, after all.
OK, here it is. Background: Female sprinter, age 51. Lift 3x week. A lifting session is a complete workout--I do not run or do track workouts on days I lift.
In the off-season (now) I lift slow and heavy with lower reps. I'm building strength. About 6 weeks out from my first indoor competition I will switch to lighter weights, more reps, with an explosive lifting technique in order to recruit my fast-twitch muscles. I also incorporate plyo exercises during this "explosive" phase. Today I did one set of 10 reps of the following: Weighted split squats, shoulder dumbbell press, glute press, bicep curls, deadlifts, then 100 crunches holding a 10# plate to my chest, a 3 minute wall sit with thighs parallel to floor, 20 pushups, 20 weighted lunges, 10 pullups, and 10 single leg squats on each leg. Then stretch everything thoroughly and eat a high protein meal. I'm always famished after lifting! I eat about 100 grams of protein a day.