Strength Training Speeds Runners
From Ergo Log
You don't need a university degree to realise that sprinters can benefit from doing strength training. But you might not have expected that runners who do 3 and 5 km can also improve their times by doing strength training. Nevertheless, sports scientists at Appalachian State University suspect this is probably so.
The researchers monitored 33 runners who competed regularly. The group consisted of a variety of runners: for 60, 100, 200, 800, 3000 and 5000m. The researchers measured the fastest times for all runners of these distances.
Then the they got their subjects to do the 3-jump test. For this the runners had to keep both feet together and then jump forwards as far as possible, three times consecutively. The researchers then looked at the distance the subjects ran.
They found that the shorter the distance the runners covered, the further they were able to jump. The sprinters jumped on average 8.24 m, the middle-distance runners jumped 6.59 m and the long-distance runners jumped 5.61 m. All quite logical so far. Jumping requires explosive strength, which is also what sprinting requires.
But there was more to the story. The researchers discovered that the times for all distances were shorter, the further the relevant runners could jump. Among the sprinters the relationship was 1 to 1, for the runners in the 800, 3000 and 5000 distances the relationship was not so strong, but nevertheless noticeable.
"Due to the significant relationship found, strength and power training should be considered for both sprinters and middle- and long-distance running event athletes", the researchers conclude.
In fact, considerable experience has been built up doing strength training for runners and trainers have developed specific training schemes for endurance athletes. One way is to start with a phase in which runners develop strength by doing squats. In the second phase strength is converted to speed using plyometric exercises such as jump squats.
J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):563-7.