The World is Not Black and White

author : TINKARRA
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By Martina Young
D3 Multisport Coach

The world is not black and white. Albeit with all the information available things can get confusing and strength training is no exception. “Should I do strength training, if yes, when and what should I do?” are questions that I often encounter as a coach. The answer is "yes," endurance athletes can benefit from strength training.

Not too long ago I read a blog by a wellness professional who said that running in a long run will make you fat and that lifting weights alone will get anyone more return on their investment. When I read that I felt frustrated because the information he offered was incorrect and simplified so that he could prove his point. If an athlete runs the same distance, at the same speed, on the same terrain every day, he or she will eventually plateau and the progress will stall. Luckily there are an array of possibilities when it comes to running: hill repeats, tempo runs, intervals, trail running, sprinting, easy runs. Mixing it up is the key to beating the personal record. The same is true with strength training. A training routine (not schedule routine) is the enemy to progress and a waste of time.

Functional training

A strength training program should be put together thoughtfully and tailored to an individual athlete based on his or her weaknesses, abilities and goals. The body is only as strong as its weakest link therefore a proper functional assessment is a critical prerequisite. “Functional training” has generated a lot of buzz in the past and continues to be a popular way of training. The principle of functional training is that the movements mimic stresses put on the body during the primary activity. Proponents of functional training claim that instead of muscles, an athlete should train movements. A typical functional training plan applies a lot of movements with single limb support, stability balls, medicine balls and dumbbells but very rarely, if ever, a machine.  Also, movements are multiplanar and multidirectional. Functional training is good but it has one flaw. Because the athlete is using a single limb support and an unstable surface for example, he or she will not be able to generate as much strength and power as if he or she did heavy weight strength training, which also has its benefits. On the grand yearly training plan, functional training should fall into the preparatory phase in order to get the body ready for heavy loads that are yet to come.

Weightlifing

Did you know that competitive weightlifters achieve some of the highest absolute and relative peak power outputs reported in related literature1? Competitive weightlifters perform multi-joint, whole body lifts called snatch and clean and jerk. The power generated during maximal attempts jerk can reach from 2140 watts in a 130 lbs male up to 4786 watts in a male weighing +200lbs1. The study by Hori, Newton, Andrews et al., reports significant relationships between weightlifting ability and power output during sprinting1.

Further, the cross sectional area of fast twitch, type II, muscle fibers are larger in weightlifters. Type II muscle fibers have a greater capacity to generate power when compared to slow twitch (type I) fibers. Studies have also shown a correlation between maximal voluntary peak force and weightlifting performance1 attributed among others to neural activation of motor units. In other words, weight lifting has shown to train the body to recruit more motor units. More motor units recruited means more strength and power. Even long distance runners need to produce force rapidly and repeatedly2. Sprinting ability and other anaerobic characteristic can come in handy when sprinting at the end of a race (remember the women Olympic race in London). Mikkola et al.,2 report a study in which recreational runners were divided into three training groups: heavy resistance training, explosive training and endurance training. After a six week preparatory session and eight week trial period, the heavy resistance training group generated less lactic acid at same speed when compared to pre-test. Being able to run at a higher percentage of VO2 max with less lactate and/or better lactate tolerance is a desirable adaptation to training. The fact that heavy strength training can accomplish that is exciting and provides yet another option for an already dynamic triathletes tool box.

Applying strength training

To answer the question on how to apply strength training benefits to a recreational and competitive triathlete I would recommend the following:

1)   Get assessed by a trained professional to uncover your weak links.

2)   Spend the preparatory period correcting the imbalances with functional training including exercises such as single leg dead lift, single leg push press with step-up, stability ball walk out, windmill, and lunges in transverse plane.

3)   Embark on an eight week journey and lift with the big boys (assuming that they are professional and trained) for some heavy lifting: clean and jerk, snatch, dead lift, leg press, front squat at 3-4 x 1 repetitions maximum with 2-3 minutes rest.

If the above does not sound feasible I have one more piece of advice: I would avoid the circuit training! instead of several sets of one exercise find multiple exercises for the targeted muscle group. And steer clear from isolated exercises such as latissimus pull down, biceps curl or triceps extensions, leg extension machine etc. There are more economical ways to get stronger.

Martina Young
Doctor of Physical Therapy
USAT Certified Triathlon Coach
D3 Multisport coach
CU Triathlon Team Assistant Coach
NASM CES, PES
martindd3boulder@gmail.com

REFERENCES:
  1. Storey A, Smith K. “Unique Aspects of Competitive Weightlifting”. Sports Med (2008); 769-790
  2. Mikkola et al. Effect of resistance training regimens on treadmill running and neuromuscular performance in recreational endurance runners. Journal of Sports Science. (2011); 1359-1371
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date: October 30, 2013

Author


TINKARRA

Being an athlete, mother, wife and a working individual I am aware that time limitations can be a struggle and a source of frustration for most typical age group athletes. Therefore I place a lot of importance not only in gathering objective data, such as lactate threshold, from the athlete but also subjective information such as routines and stressors that an athlete faces on a daily basis.

Finding a healthy balance to fulfill the needs of “athletic” and “non-athletic” self is a form of art that requires attention to detail and commitment to perfection, both of which I am proud to offer.

Author

avatarTINKARRA

Being an athlete, mother, wife and a working individual I am aware that time limitations can be a struggle and a source of frustration for most typical age group athletes. Therefore I place a lot of importance not only in gathering objective data, such as lactate threshold, from the athlete but also subjective information such as routines and stressors that an athlete faces on a daily basis.

Finding a healthy balance to fulfill the needs of “athletic” and “non-athletic” self is a form of art that requires attention to detail and commitment to perfection, both of which I am proud to offer.

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