Strength training in running
While the question ‘do we need strength 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 the 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 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 these? The answer is directly related to the Pose Method of running technique. The performance of three major elements of Pose Method technique – the running Pose, falling (leaning) forward from the Pose and pulling the support foot from the ground – depend on how well each specific strength is developed.
Hips strength provides for a very efficient falling forward, because it allows us 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.
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.
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, by many scientific researches data, provides for a 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, 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.
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.