#2. Explosive strength work for endurance sports
Strength training has a range of benefits on your physical activity. If you're a runner and you limit your focus to strength or explosiveness, you won't gain weight. So you don't need to worry about adding some strength training exercises to your routine. However, you should make sure not to neglect your aerobic capacity and power (VO2 max). The aim is to encourage runners to change up their training to cover all their bases in terms of performance. This type of work seeks to adapt your body's nerve responses. Runners surely won't mind a bit of extra muscle if it improves their performance and mechanical resistance during a long run (e.g. more than two to three hours).
Strength training (with resistance or plyometric bodyweight exercises) should be with light weights (i.e., half your single rep max). This is explosive strength work. Equipment such as push-up bars, push-up wheels, AB wheels, resistance bands and sliders are perfect for this type of work. Because running involves repeated, low intensity movements over a varied amount of time, the only relevant aspect of strength training is explosive strength work.
Footwork, responsiveness and neuromuscular activation are also important in explosive strength work. Explosive strength work has benefits:
- On your energy economy, by enhancing activation of your large muscle groups (quads, for running). Your feet will also spend less time in contact with the ground, because your intra- and intermuscular coordination will improve and your body will be better able to manage energy return/storage.
- On strengthening your type I muscle fibres. When jogging, your type I (slow-twitch) muscle fibres lose strength through overuse. This drop in strength is gradually offset by your type II (fast-twitch) muscles, which use more energy. This leads to fatigue after a boost in performance. Explosive strength work can help your type I muscles withstand more effort.
- Finally, you should note that the gains you achieve from explosive strength work are quickly lost if you stop (after about five weeks). If you have a race or competition coming up, simply follow tapering principles when planning your workout frequency and intensity.