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Subject: RE: Captainrobbo/Eurodonkey: strength for masters
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....
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