Today’s blog is a continuation from yesterday and comes from Mark Toomey, Senior Instructor and CEO of StrongFirst Inc. StrongFirst operates on the simple principle that basic strength is the building block for whatever type of performance or athleticism you are trying to create within yourself. Yesterday, Mark started talking about why a strength program could benefit an endurance athlete. Today, he’s going to get down with the nitty gritty details of what science tells us is really going on when an trigeek picks up a barbell.–Joel
The Hard Science of Strength Training
In 2003, Jung observed that the by products of anaerobic activities (resistance training) would not hamper aerobic performance, but could in fact, improve it. How? Well, if one assumes that maximum oxygen consumption (the dreaded VO2 Max), lactate threshold and running economy are important determinants in running performance, consider some of the points from Jung’s writing.
-Although resistance training will not move an athlete’s VO2 Max beyond 50%, Jung noted that resistance training did not compromise it either.
-Jung noted that lactate threshold (LT) was not improved in highly trained aerobic athletes (in this case endurance runners), but that improvements in LT were shown in untrained individuals, similar to those first entering an endurance-training program.
-Jung pointed out that trained distance runners showed improvements of up to 8% in running economy after following a program of structured resistance training.
Improving performance through efficiency
Considering that even a small improvement in running economy could have a significant impact on long term events such as a marathon, and that VO2 Max and LT weren’t compromised, strength or resistance training’s by-products of improved motor unit recruitment and reduced ground contact time can indeed help the highly trained aerobic athlete.
In 1998, Tanaka and Swenson noted that strength training, when combined with aerobic activity, worked together to induce the transformation of type IIb myofibers into type IIa myofibers. The surprising result was that the study found the introduction of strength training program into an endurance exercise program (in their study, running and cycling) improved both short and long term endurance in both highly trained and untrained individuals. As in Jung’s later study, there also was evidence that LT was improved through a strength-training program in untrained individuals.
Assuming these types of studies have you thinking that improving strength may be positive impact in your activities on the road or trail, what’s next? Tomorrow, I’ll show you what a strength program should look like for an endurance athlete who doesn’t want to spend all their time in the gym.
Mark Toomey, BS, CSCS is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc and a Senior SFG Instructor. He serves as a Subject Matter Expert for the Department of the Navy and the United States Marine Corps and has written educational material for fitness companies worldwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org