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Running economy (RE) and velocity at maximal oxygen uptake (vVO2 max) are considered to be the best physiological performance indicators in elite distance runners. In addition to cardiovascular function, RE and vVO2 max are partly dictated by neuromuscular factors. One technique to improve neuromuscular function in athletes is through strength training. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a 40 week strength training intervention on strength (maximal- & reactive-strength), vVO2max, economy and body composition (body mass, fat & lean mass) in competitive distance runners. Twenty competitive distance runners were divided into an intervention group (n = 11; 29.5 ± 10.0 years; 72.8 ± 6.6 kg; 1.83 ± 0.08 m) and a control group (n = 9; 27.4 ± 7.2 years; 70.2 ± 6.4 kg; 1.77 ± 0.04 m). During week 0, 20 and 40, each subject completed three assessments: physiology (v2mmol/L BLa, v4mmol/L BLa, RE, vVO2max, VO2max), strength (1RM back squat; countermovement jump & 0.3m drop-jump) and body composition (body mass, fat mass, overall-lean & leg-lean). The intervention group showed significant improvements in maximal- and reactive-strength qualities, RE and vVO2max, at weeks 20 (p < 0.05) and 40 (p < 0.05). The control group showed no significant changes at either time point. There were no significant changes in body composition variables between or within groups. This study demonstrates that forty weeks of strength training can significantly improve maximal- and reactive-strength qualities, RE and vVO2max, without concomitant hypertrophy, in competitive distance runners.
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THE EFFECT OF STRENGTH TRAINING ON
PERFORMANCE INDICATORS IN DISTANCE RUNNERS
KRIS BEATTIE,
1
BRIAN P. CARSON,
1
MARK LYONS,
1
ANTONIA ROSSITER,
2
AND IAN C. KENNY
1
1
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland; and
2
National Sports
Campus, Irish Institute of Sport, Dublin, Ireland
ABSTRACT
Beattie, K, Carson, BP, Lyons, M, Rossiter, A, and Kenny, IC.
The effect of strength training on performance indicators in
distance runners. J Strength Cond Res 31(1): 9–23, 2017—
Running economy (RE) and velocity at maximal oxygen uptake
(
V
V
_
O
2
max) are considered to be the best physiological perfor-
mance indicators in elite distance runners. In addition to car-
diovascular function, RE and
V
V
_
O
2
max are partly dictated by
neuromuscular factors. One technique to improve neuromus-
cular function in athletes is through strength training. The aim
of this study was to investigate the effect of a 40-week strength
training intervention on strength (maximal and reactive
strength),
V
V
_
O
2
max, economy, and body composition (body
mass, fat, and lean mass) in competitive distance runners.
Twenty competitive distance runners were divided into an inter-
vention group (n= 11; 29.5 610.0 years; 72.8 66.6 kg; 1.83
60.08 m) and a control group (n= 9; 27.4 67.2 years; 70.2
66.4 kg; 1.77 60.04 m). During week 0, 20, and 40, each
subject completed 3 assessments: physiology (
V
2 mmol$L
21
BLa,
V
2 mmol$L
21
BLa [blood lactate],
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa, RE,
V
V
_
O
2
max, V
_
O
2
max), strength (1 repetition maximum back squat;
countermovement jump and 0.3 m drop jump), and body com-
position (body mass, fat mass, overall lean, and leg lean). The
intervention group showed significant improvements in maximal
and reactive strength qualities, RE, and
V
V
_
O
2
max, at weeks 20
(p#0.05) and 40 (p#0.05). The control group showed no
significant changes at either time point. There were no signif-
icant changes in body composition variables between or within
groups. This study demonstrates that 40 weeks of strength
training can significantly improve maximal and reactive strength
qualities, RE, and
V
V
_
O
2
max, without concomitant hypertrophy,
in competitive distance runners.
KEY WORDS running economy,
V
V
_
o
2
max, distance running
INTRODUCTION
Performance in distance running is multifaceted;
relying on an intricate interaction of physiological,
biomechanical, and psychological factors. Even
within the physiological domain, there is a com-
plex synergy between the central and peripheral system’s role
in facilitating adenosine triphosphate (ATP) regeneration for
sustained running locomotion (4). Since the original work of
Hill and Lupton (15), there has been an abundance of
research studies investigating the role of maximal oxygen
consumption (V
_
O
2
max) in distance running. Research has
shown strong relationships between V
_
O
2
max and middle-
(800 m, r= 0.75) and long-distance (marathon, r= 0.78)
performance in heterogeneous groups (17,37). Because of
this, maximal oxygen uptake (V
_
O
2
max) protocols have been
traditionally used in the laboratory to monitor and predict
the performance potential of both middle- and long-distance
runners. However, at elite long-distance level (marathon
time ,2 hours 30 minutes), the relationship between
V
_
O
2
max and performance is weak (r= 0.01), and it is likely
that this relationship is negligible at “world-class” standard
(marathon time ,2 hours 10 minutes) (37). A high V
_
O
2
max
(.70 ml$kg
21
$min
21
) may be a prerequisite to be an elite
distance runner, but additional physical qualities are needed
to succeed at this level. Key performance indicators such as
running economy (RE), velocity at maximal oxygen uptake
(
V
V
_
O
2
max), and anaerobic function (velocity during maxi-
mum anaerobic running test [
V
MART] and max velocity
sprinting) have been established as superior markers of suc-
cess in these elite populations (5).
Running economy is defined as the metabolic cost to cover
a given distance at a constant velocity (36). Running economy
represents the ability of a runner to translate cellular energy
production into running locomotion and is normally ex-
pressed as the volume of oxygen consumption per unit of
body mass required to run a kilometer (ml$kg
21
$km
21
)
(36). Running economy has been shown to be a stronger
indicator of performance than V
_
O
2
max alone within elite
homogenous populations, with interindividual variability
ranging between 20 and 30% (27). The east African domi-
nance in distance running has been partly attributed to their
superior economy (36). Running economy is determined by
the athlete’s physiology, anthropometrics, biomechanics, and
Address correspondence to Kris Beattie, kris.beattie@ul.ie.
31(1)/9–23
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VOLUME 31 | NUMBER 1 | JANUARY 2017 | 9
Copyright © National Strength and Conditioning Association Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.
environment; however, improvements in RE may be difficult
to obtain in trained runners, and therefore, any novel training
modality that results in marginal improvements may be cru-
cial for success (2,3).
The velocity attained at V
_
O
2
max (
V
V
_
O
2
max) is a “functional”
expression of maximal oxygen consumption in velocity units
(km$h
21
).
V
V
_
O
2
max is a composite of both maximal oxygen
consumption and economy. Because of this, the variable has
shown to be strongly associated with elite middle- (r= 0.71)
(17) and long-distance (r= 0.89–0.94) (27) running perfor-
mance. Although V
_
O
2
max may remain stable throughout an
elite distance runner’s career, research has shown that the
velocity at V
_
O
2
max can improve by approximately 14% (19).
This demonstrates that elite distance runners can improve
their ability to translate maximal aerobic energy production
into faster running velocities. During middle-distance events
(800 and 1,500 m), or sprint finishes in long-distance events
where velocities exceed
V
V
_
O
2
max, the contribution of the
anaerobic energy system is increased (27). Endurance-
specific “muscle power” is the ability of the neuromuscular
system to rapidly produce force after a sustained period of
high-intensity exercise (high glycolytic and oxidative energy
demand) (28). This ability may be the differentiating factor for
succeeding in elite distance running (i.e., sprint finish). There-
fore, rate of force development (RFD) is essential not only in
short-distance events (i.e., 100, 200, and 400 m) but also in
middle- and long-distance running. Consequently, in addition
to cardiovascular capacity, limitations to elite distance running
performance may be dictated by peripheral neuromuscular
force production ability.
One training technique for improving rate of force
production in athletes is strength training. Early work from
Paavolainen et al. (29,30) demonstrated that the neuromus-
cular adaptations from strength training (i.e., musculotendi-
nous stiffness, motor unit recruitment and synchronization,
rate coding, intramuscular coordination and intermuscular
coordination, and neural inhibition) (10,45) have the poten-
tial to improve performance in distance runners (44) by
improving RE (2),
V
V
_
O
2
max, and/or anaerobic function
(24). However, strength training is generally still an uncom-
mon physical preparation modality in the distance running
community. This is most likely due to the “hypertrophic”
connotations associated with lifting weights, with distance
runners inadvertently linking strength adaptations to
increased musculature and body mass—which would poten-
tially negatively affect relative physiological performance pa-
rameters (i.e., V
_
O
2
max, RE). Nonetheless, a recent systematic
review by Beattie et al. (5) in competitive distance runners
reported that strength training can improve 3 km (2.7%, effect
size [ES] = 0.13) (38) and 5 km time-trial performance (3.1%)
(30), economy (4.0–8.1%, ES: 0.3–1.03) (6,21,24,29,33,38,40),
V
V
_
O
2
max (1.2%, ES: 0.43–0.49) (6,24), and maximum anaer-
obic running velocity (
V
MART) (3%) (24,30). However,
Beattie et al.’s (5) review showed that the strength interven-
tions in these studies were relatively short-term (;8 weeks),
and used inadequate exercises (i.e., machine-based, isolated
exercises) that may have limited optimal strength develop-
ment of the leg musculature for distance running performance
(41). Therefore, this study addressed for the strength and
conditioning community, the uncertainty surrounding long-
term adaptations to strength training in trained distance run-
ners (1,500–10,000 m).
To our knowledge, the effects of a strength training
intervention longer than 10 weeks, on
V
V
_
O
2
max and RE in
distance runners, is unknown. Therefore, the aim of this study
was to investigate the effect of a 40-week (20-week preseason
and 20-week in-season) strength training intervention on
strength qualities (maximal and reactive strength), key phys-
iology performance indicators (
V
V
_
O
2
max and RE), and body
composition in collegiate and national-level distance runners
(1,500–10,000 m). The experimental approach to answer this
research question was to conduct a 40-week longitudinal
strength intervention study with a parallel control group, mea-
suring physiological, strength, and body composition variables
at weeks 0, 20, and 40. We hypothesized that a 40-week
strength intervention in distance runners would result in sig-
nificant changes in strength qualities (maximal and reactive
strength), key physiology performance indicators (
V
V
_
O
2
max
and RE), and body composition.
METHODS
Experimental Approach to the Problem
To investigate the hypothesis of the study, a longitudinal and
controlled experimental design was used to investigate the
effect of a 40-week (20-week preseason and 20-week in-
season) strength training intervention on strength qualities
(maximal and reactive strength), key physiology perfor-
mance indicators (
V
V
_
O
2
max and economy), and body com-
position in collegiate and national-level distance runners
(1,500–10,000 m). A 2-group, repeated measures (pretesting,
midtesting, and posttesting) design was used. After an
8-week off-season, subjects were divided into the 2 groups
based on their ability to adhere to the study conditions (i.e.,
time commitments and location relative to training facility).
The 2 groups consisted of an intervention group (endurance
training AND strength training: n= 11; 29.5 610.0 years;
72.8 66.6 kg; 1.83 60.08 m) and a control group (endur-
ance training ONLY: n=9;27.467.2 years; 70.2 66.4 kg;
1.77 60.04 m). There were no significant differences
between groups at baseline for all measures. All athletes
and coaches were instructed not to deviate from their nor-
mal 1,500–10,000 m endurance training. It is known that the
control group did not use any strength training as part of
their normal training programme. Because of the extensive
longitudinal nature of the study, endurance training (volume
and intensity) was not controlled.
In addition to their endurance training, the intervention
group strength trained twice a week during the preseason
period (weeks 1–20, December–March, winter months),
and once a week during the in-season “racing” period (weeks
Strength Training in Distance Runners
10
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20–40, April–July, summer months) (Figure 1). All strength
sessions were coached by an experienced UK Strength &
Conditioning Association (UKSCA) accredited coach (the
lead author). Each strength session lasted approximately
60 minutes (Table 1).
Subjects
Thirty competitive collegiate and national-level distance
runners (1,500–10,000 m) participated in the study; however
because of unrelated injury and time commitment, 20 sub-
jects (n= 20; 28.2 68.6 years; 71.6 66.6 kg; 1.80 60.07 m)
completed the study. The subjects had a mean maximum
oxygen uptake (V
_
O
2
max which is close to the British Asso-
ciation of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) “national-
level”) of 61.3 63.2 ml$kg
21
$min
21
, which is close to the
BASES “national-level” physiological standard (65–75
ml$kg
21
$min
21
) for male distance runners (20). It is also
important to note that all subjects had no strength training
experience. All subjects were recruited through poster and
email. After being informed of the benefits and potential risks
of the investigation, each subject completed a health-screening
questionnaire and signed an informed consent prior to partic-
ipation in the study. All experimental procedures were ratified
by the University of Limerick Research Ethics Committee in
accordance with the provisions of the most recent Declaration
of Helsinki.
Strength, Physiology, and Body Composition Assessment
During week 0, 20, and 40, each subject completed 3
assessment days: physiology, strength, and a body composition
assessment day. All strength, physiology, and body composi-
tion assessments were undertaken at the same time of day to
avoid diurnal variation in performance. There were 48 hours
between each testing day. To control the effect of diet and
physical readiness, each subject was asked to consume
a habitual diet and avoid alcohol (,48 hours), limit caffeine
ingestion (,4 hours), and avoid vigorous exercise (,24 hours)
before assessments. For body composition assessment, partic-
ipants reported to the laboratory after a 3-hour fast, having
consumed 500 ml of water, 1 hour before measurement.
Strength Assessment. Before the strength assessment day, each
subject performed a familiarization day to ensure habituation
with the back squat, countermovement jump (CMJ), and
drop jump tests. The familiarization day included the same
protocol as the strength assessment day. Also, all subjects
were familiarized with the physiological measurement
equipment during the warm-up period before physiological
measurements (
V
2 mmol$L
21
BLa,
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa, RE,
V
V
_
O
2
max, V
_
O
2
max) were taken. Before back squat 1 repeti-
tion maximum (RM) testing, each subject completed a 5-
minute warm-up (self-myofascial release, stretching, and
dynamic mobility exercises). After completion of the
warm-up, subjects started the back squat 1 RM testing pro-
tocol to assess maximal strength (25). This protocol con-
sisted of a warm-up of 10 repetitions at 50% of their
(estimated) 1RM load, 5 370% 1RM, 3 380% 1RM, and
1390% 1RM. Each participant’s 1RM was estimated by the
researcher based on the athlete’s body mass, age, and sex
(25). After the warm-up protocol, each subject had 3 at-
tempts to determine their actual 1RM (with 3 minutes in
between sets). To ensure safe conditions during testing,
a box was set at the lowest depth the athlete could squat
while keeping optimal lumbar spinal position. Therefore,
squat depth was specific to each subject, and knee angles
ranged from 90
o
to 120
o
flexion. Only trials in which the
subject touched the box were considered successful lifts. The
knee flexion angle was recorded to ensure the same squat
depth during week 0, 20, and 40 assessments.
Figure 1. A schematic of the 40-week research design. Physiology:
V
2 mmol$L
21
BLa,
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa, running economy,
V
V
_
O
2
max; strength: maximal
strength (1 repetition maximum back squat), slow stretch-shortening cycle reactive strength (countermovement jump), and fast stretch-shortening cycle reactive
strength (0.3 m drop jump reactive strength index); body composition: body mass, fat mass, overall lean, and leg lean. *2 3week strength training during
preseason. **1 3week strength training during in-season.
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TABLE 1. Preseason (2 3week) and in-season (1 3week) strength training programme.*
Preseason (weeks 1–20)
Day 1 (heavy) Block 1 Block 2 Block 3
Strength quality Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Reactive strength (fSSC) Pogo jumps 3 34334334334335335335335336336336336
Maximum strength Back squat 3 38338338338338336333235z338336333235z
Assistance 1 (posterior) RDL 2 310 2 310 3 310 3 310 3 310 3 383362312z3310 3 383362312z
Assistance 2 (SL) Split squat 2 310 2 310 3 310 3 310 2 312 3 310 3 381312 2 312 3 310 3 381312
Strength quality Week
Block 4 Block 5
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Reactive strength (fSSC) DJ 35 cm 3 35335335335335335335335
Maximum strength Back squat 3 38336333235z335333 5,3,2 2 35z
Assistance 1 (posterior) RDL 3 310 3 383362312z235335335135z
Assistance 2 (SL) SL squat 1 35235335135235336337135
Day 2 (light/medium) Block 1 Block 2 Block 3
Strength quality Week 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Reactive strength (sSSC) CMJ 2 332333333333
34334334334335335335335
Maximum strength Back squat 3 38338338338338336333235z338336333235z
Assistance 1 (posterior) RDL 2 310 2 310 3 310 3 310 3 310 3 383362310z3310 3 383362310z
Assistance 2 (SL) Rev lunge 2 310 2 310 3 310 3 310 2 312 3 310 3 381312 2 312 3 310 3 381312
Strength quality Week
Block 4 Block 5
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Reactive strength (sSSC) Cont. CMJ 3 35335335335336336336336
Maximum strength Back squat 3 38336333235z335333 5,3,2 2 35z
Assistance 1 (posterior) SL RDL 2 38338 10,8,6 2 38z238338 10,8,6 2 38z
Assistance 2 (SL) Skater squat 2 38 10,8,8 10,10,8 1 38238 10,8,8 10,10,8 1 38
Strength Training in Distance Runners
12
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In-season (weeks 21–40)
Day 1 (heavy) Block 6 Block 7 Block 8
Strength quality Week 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
Reactive strength (fSSC) DJ 45 cm 3 34534343351353345343433513533453434335135
Explosive strength Jump squat% 3 33333333133333333333133333333333133
Maximum strength Back squat 3 35333 5,3,2 1 35z335333 5,3,2 1 35z335333 5,3,2 1 35z
Assistance 1 (posterior) SL RDL 1 38236335135z138236335135z138236335135z
Assistance 2 (SL) SL squat 1 38138138138138138138138138
Notes Technique emphasis on ALL lifts Progressively load if competent
zdeload on lifts, 50% of week 5/25
loads
Progressively load if competent
zdeload on lifts, 50% of week 9/29
loads
In-season (weeks 21–40)
Day 1 (heavy) Block 9 Block 10
Strength quality Week 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Reactive strength (fSSC) DJ 45 cm 3 34 5,4,4 3 35135334 5,4,4 3 35135
Explosive strength Jump squat% 3 33333333133333333333133
Maximum strength Back squat 3 35333 5,3,2 1 35z335333 5,3,2 1 35z
Assistance 1 (posterior) SL RDL 1 38236335135z1382
36335135z
Assistance 2 (SL) SL squat 1 38138138138138138
Notes Progressively load if competent zdeload on lifts, 50%
of week 13/33 loads
Progressively load if competent zdeload on lifts,
50% of week 17/37 loads
*fSSC = fast stretch-shortening cycle; DJ 35 cm = drop jump from 35 cm; RDL = Romanian deadlift; SL = single-leg; Cont. CMJs = continuous countermovement jumps; Rev
lunge = reverse lunge; jump squat% = jump squat with 20% of 1 repetition maximum back squat; SSC = stretch-shortening cycle; sSSC = slow stretch-shortening cycle.
334: 3 sets of 4 repetitions. 5,3,2 = 1 35, 1 33, 1 32.
Preseason (weeks 1–20): maximum strength emphasis and developmental reactive strength (day 1: heavy maximum strength and fast SSC reactive strength focus; day 2: light/
medium maximum strength and slow SSC reactive strength focus. There were 48 hours of recovery between day 1 and day 2). In-season (weeks 21–40): reactive strength and
explosive strength emphasis, maximum strength maintenance.
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Approximately 10 minutes after the 1RM back squat,
subjects started the reactive strength assessment. Reactive
strength movements are categorized depending on their
slow or fast stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) characteristics
(34). Slow SSC function was assessed through a CMJ, and
fast SSC function was assessed through a 0.3-m drop jump.
Both jumps were performed on a force platform (AMTI
OR6-5; AMTI, Watertown, MA, USA) operating at a sam-
pling rate of 1,000 Hz. Each subject addressed the CMJ in
a standing position while keeping their hands on their hips
to restrict arm movement. After instruction, subjects initiated
the jump through a downward countermovement. All sub-
jects were instructed to choose a depth that they felt would
maximize jump height. For each trial, the subject was told to
“jump as high as possible.” Two minutes recovery was given
between jumps. Three jumps were performed with the high-
est value used for analysis. After CMJs, subjects performed 3
individual drop jumps from a 0.3 m box onto a force plat-
form. Each jump was separated by 2 minutes of recovery.
Before each drop jump, the subject was instructed to step
forward off the box, and on contact with the platform to
immediately jump as high as possible. They were also in-
structed to keep their hands on their hips to restrict arm
movement. Three drop jumps were performed with the
highest reactive strength index (RSI = jump height [m]/
contact time [s]) used for analysis.
Physiology Assessment. All physiological variables (V
_
O
2
max,
V
V
_
O
2
max, RE,
V
2 mmol$L
21
, and
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa) were
determined during a 2-part treadmill protocol (H/P/Cos-
mos Pulsar treadmill; H/P/Cosmos Sports & Medical gmbh,
Nubdorf, Germany). The treadmill was set at 1% gradient
throughout the protocol. Oxygen consumption was deter-
mined continuously using a gas analyzer (Moxus, Model
DC-3A; AEI Technologies, Naperville, IL, USA). Before
each test, the metabolic cart was calibrated for air flow,
and the gas analyzer was calibrated against a certified gas
mixture. Before the protocol, each subject warmed up on the
treadmill for 10 minutes. The first 5 minutes was completed
at a velocity that was 7 km$h
21
slower than their estimated
4 mmol$L
21
blood lactate velocity (
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa), and
the second 5 minutes at a speed that was 6 km$h
21
slower
than
V
4 mmol$L
21
. After the warm-up, a resting BLa sample
was taken using a Lactate Pro Analyser (Lactate Pro, AR-
KAY Europe, Amstelveen, the Netherlands).
The first part of the treadmill protocol consisted of a 20-
minute submaximal “step” test. The step test consisted of 5,
4-minute stages. Each stage was 4 minutes in length to allow
for steady-state oxygen consumption, heart rate, and BLa
levels. The first stage was performed at a velocity 5 km$h
21
slower than the subject’s estimated
V
4 mmol$L
21
. Each
stage increased by 1 km$h
21
every 4 minutes, so the final
stage was at estimated
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa. Heart rate (Polar
s610 HR Monitor, Kempele, Finland) and V
_
O
2
values used
for analysis were the mean values from the last minute of
each submaximal stage. Running economy, the oxygen cost
of running a kilometer at a specific velocity was calculated
using the following formula: V
_
O
2
(ml$kg
21
$min
21
)/(speed
[km$h
21
]/60). After every stage, the subject stepped off the
treadmill for 15–20 seconds to allow earlobe blood samples
to be taken for determination of BLa concentration. The
velocity at 2 mmol$L
21
and 4 mmol$L
21
of blood lactate
were calculated using Lactate-E 2.0 Software (26). The sub-
jects rested for 10 minutes after the submaximal treadmill
protocol.
The second part of the treadmill protocol consisted of
a maximal “ramp” test until exhaustion. The initial velocity
of the treadmill was set at 2 km$h
21
slower than the sub-
jects’ estimated
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa stage velocity, and
increased by 0.5 km$h
21
every 30 seconds until exhaustion.
To ensure that V
_
O
2
max was reached, each subject had to
meet the following criteria: respiratory exchange ratio
.1.00; heart rate within 5% of their age-predicted maxi-
mum; and/or BLa of 8–10 mM. Maximal oxygen uptake
was taken as the highest 60 seconds V
_
O
2
value. Velocity at
V
_
O
2
max was taken as the minimum velocity that elicited
V
_
O
2
max. After the maximal ramp test, the subject cooled
down for 10 minutes at a velocity that was 7 km$h
21
slower
than their estimated
V
4 mmol$L
21
velocity.
Body Composition Assessment. A Lunar iDXA (dual-energy X-
ray absorptiometry) scanner (GE Healthcare, Chalfont St
Giles, Bucks., United Kingdom) with enCORE 2007 v.11
software was used to perform total body scans. Each subject
was instructed to refrain from exercise for 12 hours, to refrain
from eating for 3 hours, and to consume 500 ml of water 1
hour before testing. Each subject emptied their bladder
immediately before the measurement. Participants were
positioned on the scanner bed according to the manufac-
turer’s recommendations and instructed to remain as still as
possible for the duration of the scan.
Strength Programme
The lead author, an experienced UKSCA accredited S&C
coach, designed and coached the strength programme over
the 40 weeks. The subcategories for strength training in this
programme included (a) maximal strength that targets max-
imal force development through high-load, low-velocity
movements (e.g., back squats); (b) explosive strength
(strength speed and speed strength) that improves RFD
and maximal power output through medium to high-load,
high-velocity movements (e.g., jump squats); and (c) reactive
strength that targets musculotendinous stiffness and SSC
function through low-load, high-velocity exercises (e.g., po-
go jumps, drop jumps) (12).
The programme’s aim can simplistically be described as to
increase the athlete’s motor potential and gradually improve their
capacity to use (this) motor potential during the performance of
specific competition exercises” (41). Reactive strength is the
most important strength quality for short-, middle- and
Strength Training in Distance Runners
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TABLE 2. Physiological, strength, and body composition values for weeks 0, 20, and 40.
Mean 6SD (95% CI)
W0 W20 W40
Strength Control Strength Control Strength Control
Physiology
V
2 mmol$L
21
Bla (km$h
21
) 14.47 61.25
(13.7–15.2)
15.40 61.23
(14.6–16.2)
14.78 61.45
(13.9–15.6)
15.78 61.29
(14.9–16.6)
14.70 61.19
(14.0–15.4)
15.76 61.49
(14.8–16.7)
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa (km$h
21
) 16.46 61.20
(15.8–17.2)
17.10 61.04
(16.4–17.8)
16.80 61.43
(16.0–17.6)
17.73 61.09
(17.0–18.4)
16.81 61.30
(16.0–17.6)
17.49 60.93
(16.9–18.1)
V
V
_
O
2
max (km$h
21
) 20.15 60.91
(19.6–20.7)
21.17 61.03
(20.5–21.8)
20.85 61.18*
(20.2–21.5)
21.56 61.24
(20.7–22.4)
20.95 60.96
(20.4–21.5)
21.50 61.03
(20.8–22.2)
Economy (ml$kg
21
$km
21
) 208.5 612.0
(201–216)
203.4 611.0
(196–211)
198.0 69.0*
(193–203)
199.9 612.0
(192–208)
201.2 611.1
(193–205)
199.0 69.3
(195–208)
V
_
O
2
max (ml$kg
21
$min
21
) 59.6 62.5
(58.1–61.1)
63.2 62.9
(61.3–65.1)
60.0 63.0
(58.2–61.8)
64.0 64.0
(61.4–66.6)
61.6 65.2
(58.5–64.7)
65.0 63.2
(62.9–67.1)
Strength
1RM Back Squat
(kg$kg
21
BW)
1.18 60.18
(1.07–1.29)
1.43 60.25
(1.27–1.59)
1.42 60.22z
(1.29–1.55)
1.50 60.26
(1.33–1.67)
1.39 60.24z
(1.25–1.53)
1.47 60.24
(1.31–1.63)
Countermovement jump (m) 0.26 60.06
(0.22–0.30)
0.27 60.03
(0.25–0.29)
0.29 60.06*
(0.25–0.33)
0.30 60.03
(0.28–0.32)
0.29 60.06*
(0.25–0.33)
0.28 60.02
(0.27–0.29)
Drop jump 30 cm (RSI) 1.10 60.28
(0.93–1.27)
1.28 60.31
(1.08–1.48)
1.18 60.26z
(1.03–1.33)
1.26 60.18
(1.14–1.38)
1.26 60.33z
(1.06–1.46)
1.16 60.12
(1.08–1.24)
Body composition
Body mass (kg) 73.0 66.6
(69.1–76.9)
70.4 66.7
(66.0–74.8)
74.1 64.0
(71.7–76.5)
70.3 66.7
(65.9–74.7)
71.7 67.3
(67.4–76.0)
70.6 66.1
(66.6–74.6)
Body fat (kg) 10.6 62.5
(9.1–12.1)
10.0 63.1
(8.0–12.0)
10.3 62.4
(8.9–11.7)
8.7 62.5
(7.1–10.3)
10.3 62.4
(8.9–11.7)
9.7 62.6
(8.0–11.4)
Overall lean (kg) 60.8 67.1
(56.6–65.0)
57.6 65.4
(54.1–61.1)
60.6 63.5
(58.5–62.7)
58.4 65.6
(54.7–62.1)
58.2 66.8
(54.2–62.2)
57.6 64.7
(54.5–60.7)
Leg lean (kg) 21.9 63.1
(20.1–23.7)
21.6 62.4
(20.0–23.2)
22.0 61.6
(21.1–22.9)
21.4 62.3
(19.9–22.9)
21.0 62.7
(19.4–22.6)
21.2 62.0
(19.9–22.5)
pand magnitude (d)
W0–20 W20–40 W0–40
Strength Control Strength Control Strength Control
Physiology
V
2 mmol$L
21
Bla (km$h
21
)p.0.05
small (0.2)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
small (0.2)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa (km$h
21
)p.0.05
small (0.2)
p.0.05
moderate (0.6)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
small (0.2)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
(continued on next page)
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V
V
_
O
2
max (km$h
21
)p.0.05
moderate (0.7)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
moderate (0.9)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
Economy (ml$kg
21
$km
21
)p= 0.01
moderate (1.0)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p= 0.183
moderate (0.6)
p.0.05
small (0.5)
V
_
O
2
max (ml$kg
21
$min
21
)p= 0.013
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p= 0.003
small (0.5)
p.0.05
moderate (0.6)
Strength
1RM back squat (kg$kg
21
BW) p= 0.001
large (1.2)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p= 0.052
moderate (0.7)
p.0.05
small (0.2)
Countermovement jump (m) p.0.05
small (0.5)
p.0.05
moderate (0.9)
p.0.05
trivial (0.6)
p.0.05
moderate (0.6)
p.0.05
moderate (0.6)
p.0.05
small (0.5)
Drop jump 30 cm (RSI) p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
moderate (0.7)
p.0.05
small (0.5)
p.0.05
small (0.5)
Body composition
Body mass (kg) p.0.05
small (0.2)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
small (0.2)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
Body fat (kg) p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
small (0.5)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
Overall lean (kg) p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
small (0.2)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
Leg lean (kg) p.0.05
trivial (0.0)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
small (0.4)
p.0.05
trivial (0.1)
p.0.05
small (0.3)
p.0.05
small (0.2)
*Significantly different from week 0 value, p#0.05.
Significantly different from week 0 value, p,0.01.
zSignificantly different from control group, p#0.05.
Strength Training in Distance Runners
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long-distance running events (42). The kinematic and kinetic
characteristics of “fast” SSC reactive strength exercises (i.e.,
knee and hip joint displacement, elastic musculotendinous
force production) are similar to those of running. However,
during the first 20 weeks (preseason, December–March), the
primary focus of the programme was maximal strength
development, with a secondary focus on developmental
reactive strength training (Table 1). There were 2 strength
sessions per week with at least 48 hours of recovery between
sessions during the preseason period. The rationale for
a “general” maximal strength emphasis is that (a) there is
a positive correlation between relative maximum strength
Figure 2. Maximum strength (1RM back squat) and fast stretch-shortening cycle reactive strength (RSI) percentage change. RM = repetition maximum; RSI =
reactive strength index. * Significantly different from control group, p,0.05; # significantly different from week 0 value, p,0.05, ## significantly different from
week 0 value, p,0.01.
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and reactive strength levels in athletes (r= 0.63) (11), (b)
a maximum strength programme can concurrently improve
maximal strength, explosive, and sSSC reactive strength
qualities in relatively “weak” athletes (7), (c) maximum
strength training improves stiffness (K
leg
) in relatively weak
athletes (8), and (d) relatively “strong” athletes adapt quick-
er to power training when compared with the “weaker”
athletes (9).
During the in-season racing period (weeks 20–40,
April–July), after an increased level of maximum strength
had been attained, the primary emphasis of the pro-
gramme changed to reactive and explosive strength devel-
opment, with the secondary focus on maintenance of
maximal strength adaptations. The frequency of strength
sessions decreased to 1 per week during the in-season
racing period.
Figure 3. Velocity at V
_
O
2
max and economy percentage change. * Significantly different from control group, p,0.05; # significantly different from week 0 value,
p,0.05, ## significantly different from week 0 value, p,0.01.
Strength Training in Distance Runners
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Assistance work throughout the 40 weeks consisted of
either single-leg squat (e.g., split squat, reverse lunge, and
single-leg squat) or single-leg deadlift variations (e.g., single-
leg Romanian deadlift) in the 5–12 repetition range to target
(a) additional strength development through the “submaximal
effort” method (45) and (b) gluteal strength and femoral con-
trol for knee stability (43). Supplementary gluteal and abdom-
inal strength work was performed during the warm-up and
“core circuit” at the end of each session. The strength pro-
gramme was designed and developed from the works of Haff
and Nimphius (12), Rippetoe and Baker (31), Verkhoshanky
and Verkhoshanky (41), and Zatsiorsky and Kraemer (45).
Statistical Analyses
Independent variables were defined in terms of the different
interventions (strength vs. control) and the 3 measurement
points (pretest vs. midtest vs. posttest). The dependent
variables were strength (maximum strength: 1RM back
squat; slow SSC reactive strength: CMJ; fast SSC reactive
strength: 0.3 m drop jump), physiology (2 and 4 mmol$L
21
BLa LT, V
_
O
2
max,
V
V
_
O
2
max, and economy), and body com-
position (body mass, body fat, overall lean, and leg lean). All
data sets are presented as mean 6SD or percentage change.
To test for differences between groups at week 0, an indepen-
dent t-test was used. For each group, variables (physiology,
strength, and body composition) at week 0, week 20, and
week 40 were compared using a 1-way repeated-measures
analysis of variance (ANOVA). To test for differences between
groups, 2-way repeated-measures ANOVA was used. Homo-
geneity of variance was evaluated using Mauchly’s test of
sphericity, and when violated, the Greenhouse-Geisser adjust-
ment was used. To determine the magnitude of within-group
change in variables, a Cohen’s dES was performed. The cri-
teria to interpret the magnitude of the ES were 0.0–0.2 trivial,
0.2–0.6 small, 0.6–1.2 moderate, 1.2–2.0 large, and .2.0 very
large (16). The level of significance was set at p#0.05. IBM
SPSS Statistics 22 software (IBM Corp. Released 2013. IBM
SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 22.0. Armonk, NY,
USA) was used for all statistical calculations. Reliability (coef-
ficient of variation %; intraclass correlation coefficient) values
for back squat 1RM (,4.3%; 0.91–0.99) (23), CMJ (,6.5%;
0.83–0.99) (23), 0.3 m drop jump RSI (,5%; .0.90) (22),
submaximal and maximal V
_
O
2
(,2.4%),
V
4mmol$L
21
BLa
(,6%), and
V
V
_
O
2
max (,2.4%) (32) are all within acceptable
ranges.
RESULTS
There were no significant differences between the strength and
control group at baseline (week 0) with respect to strength,
physiological, and body composition variables (Table 2).
Strength
No significant differences were observed for any strength
measures between the intervention and control groups at
baseline. The change in absolute maximal strength in the
intervention group (85.7 614.7 kg /99.3 619.0 kg) was
Figure 4. Body composition (body mass, body fat, overall lean, and leg lean) percentage change.
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not significantly different to the change in the control group
(100.0 618.4 kg /101.6 617.1 kg) throughout the 40
weeks (p= 0.116) (Figure 2). However, the change in relative
maximum strength (1RM back squat) in the intervention
group was significantly different to that in the control group
throughout the 40 weeks (p= 0.039). Specifically, there was
a 19.3 624.1% increase in the intervention group maximum
strength from week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.7, p= 0.052), largely
accounted for by week 0–20 increases (d= 1.2, p= 0.001).
The control group had a 3.1 69.2% increase in maximum
strength from week 0–40 (d= 0.2, p.0.05); however, these
changes were not significantly different. There was a signifi-
cant 12.7 613.2% increase in sSSC reactive strength from
week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.6, p= 0.007), largely accounted for
by week 0 to week 20 increases (11.2 615.2%; d= 0.5, p=
0.009). The change in sSSC reactive strength in the inter-
vention group was not significantly different to that in the
control group. The change in fast stretch-shortening cycle
(fSSC) reactive strength (drop jump RSI) in the intervention
group was significantly different to that in the control group
(p= 0.035). Specifically, there was a 7.2 620.1% increase in
fSSC reactive strength in the intervention group from week
0 to week 20 (d= 0.3, p= 0.596), and a 14.7 627.8% increase
from week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.5, p= 0.155). However, in the
control group, fSSC reactive strength deteriorated by 1.6 6
22.4% from week 0 to week 20 (d= 0.9, p.0.05), and by 9.5
624.0% from week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.5, p= 0.793).
Physiology
No significant differences were observed for any physiolog-
ical measures between the intervention and control groups at
week 0. Throughout the 40-week intervention period, the
increases in
V
2 mmol$L
21
BLa,
V
4 mmol$L
21
BLa, and
V
_
O
2
max for both intervention and control groups were not
significant (all p.0.05) (Figure 3). There was a 3.5 62.9%
increase in
V
V
_
O
2
max in the intervention group from week
0 to week 20 (d= 0.7, p= 0.013), and a 4.0 63.1% increase
from week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.9, p= 0.003). The control
group demonstrated no significant increase from week 0 to
week 20 (d= 0.3, p= 0.579) or week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.3, p
= 0.507). There was a 3.5 63.2% increase in RE in the
intervention group from week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.6, p=
0.183), largely accounted for by week 0–20 increases (d=
1.0, p=.01). The control group had a 1.7 62.2% increase
from week 0 to week 20 (d= 0.3, p= 0.648), and a 2.3 6
4.4% increase from week 0 to week 40 (d= 0.5, p=
0.353). These changes were not significantly different from
week 0 values.
Body Composition
No significant differences were observed for any body
composition measures (body mass, fat, overall lean, and leg
lean) between intervention and control groups at week 0.
Over the 40-week intervention period, there were no
significant changes in body composition variables between
or within groups (Figure 4).
DISCUSSION
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a 40-
week strength training intervention on key physiological
performance indicators, strength, and body composition in
competitive distance runners. The main finding of this study
was that strength training can significantly improve strength
(maximal and reactive strength) and key physiological
performance indicators, specifically RE and
V
V
_
O
2
max, in
competitive distance runners. Interestingly, the improve-
ments in strength, RE, and
V
V
_
O
2
max were attained without
significant changes in body composition (body mass, fat, and
lean tissue mass). These results strongly support the applica-
tion of strength training within the distance running commu-
nity; demonstrating that to optimize endurance performance,
strength training should be a vital component in the physical
preparation of distance runners.
Economy and
V
V
_
O
2
max
Running economy and
V
V
_
O
2
max are accepted as the 2 most
important performance indicators in elite distance running
(5). Running economy represents the ability of a runner to
translate energy production at a cellular level into running
locomotion (36). An economical runner will use less energy
for any given workload and spare vital reserves for maximal
and supramaximal stages of competition (i.e., a sprint finish).
Running economy is dictated by a complexity of factors such
as volume and intensity of endurance training, nutrition, and
environment (2). In this study, the strength training group
displayed a significant 3.5 63.2% improvement in economy
from week 0 to week 40, largely accounted for by week 0 to
week 20 increases (4.8 63.2%). These improvements in RE
occurred without significant changes in
V
2mmol$L
21
BLa,
V
4
mmol$L
21
BLa, and V
_
O
2
max. The control group showed no
change in RE throughout the 40 weeks (Figure 3). The results
support previous research that noted similar improvements
(4.0–8.1%) in RE after strength training in competitive distance
runners albeit in shorter time frames (6,21,24,29,33,38,40).
Velocity at V
_
O
2
max (
V
V
_
O
2
max) has strong associations
with both middle- (r= 0.71) (17) and long-distance (r=
0.89–0.94) (27) performance in elite running populations.
These relationships are most likely due to
V
V
_
O
2
max being
a composite variable of both economy and maximal oxygen
consumption. Interestingly, the maximal anaerobic running
test (
V
MART) was found to be strongly associated with
V
V
_
O
2
max (r= 0.85) and maximal velocity sprinting (r=
0.96) (30); emphasizing the anaerobic system’s contribution
in providing energy production for race velocities at, and
above, V
_
O
2
max (28). In this study, the strength training
group showed a significant improvement in
V
V
_
O
2
max
(3.5 62.9%) during the first 20 weeks of strength training
(week 0/20), and a significant (4.0 63.1%) improvement
throughout the 40 weeks (Figure 3). The control group how-
ever showed no significant changes in
V
V
_
O
2
max throughout
the 40 weeks. The change in
V
V
_
O
2
max in the strength group
most likely resulted from an accumulation of improvements
Strength Training in Distance Runners
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in economy (3.5%), V
_
O
2
max (3.4%), and potentially other
anaerobic factors that were not assessed in this study (i.e.,
V
MART and maximum velocity sprinting). The results support
the work of Mikkola et al. (24) and Berryman et al. (6) who
found similar improvements (1.2–4.2%) in
V
V
_
O
2
max in compet-
itive distance runners after an 8-week strength intervention.
Strength Qualities
Elite endurance running performance is not only influenced
by cardiopulmonary factors that dictate oxygen transport
and utilization, but also peripheral aspects relating to
neuromuscular force production. Reactive strength is the
most important strength quality in middle- and long-
distance running events, as athletes need to have proficient
leg musculotendinous stiffness and SSC function to rapidly
absorb and use the elastic energy during each stance-phase
ground contact (42). Because of this, the primary aim of the
strength programme in this study was to increase the sub-
ject’s reactive strength ability over the 40-week intervention
period. However, during the preseason period (week 0/20),
the author designed the programme to focus on maximal
strength development (see “Strength Programme” in Meth-
ods for rationale), with a secondary focus on reactive strength
(Table 1). This study showed that a maximal strength–
emphasized programme in competitive distance runners
resulted in a significant increase in sSSC reactive strength
(11.2 615.2%), an increase in fSSC reactive strength (7.2 6
20.1%), and a significant increase in maximal strength (21.1 6
16.3%) throughout the preseason period (Figure 2).
During the in-season period (week 20/40), the primary
emphasis of the programme shifted toward reactive strength
development (especially fSSC), with the secondary focus on
maintenance of maximal strength. Because the intervention
group increased their level of maximal strength at the end of
the preseason training (1.18 60.18/1.42 60.22 kg$kg
21
BW), this change in programming focus was deemed appro-
priate. This focus on plyometric development was reflected in
the results as the intervention group increased their fSSC reac-
tive strength by a further 6.8% throughout the racing season,
while their maximal strength levels were maintained (Figure 2).
Interestingly, the control group’s fSSC reactive strength
decreased by 9.4% throughout the 40-week period (1.28 6
0.31/1.16 60.12 RSI). This highlights the importance of
strength training to “maintain” reactive strength ability and
musculotendinous elastic properties throughout the season.
Mechanisms
There are various potential mechanisms on how strength
training can improve both economy and
V
V
_
O
2
max. Strength
training increases maximal peak force and RFD (45), and
therefore, the force required during each stride to produce
a desired running velocity may decrease to a lower percent-
age. Theoretically, this would lower the relative exercise
intensity and overall metabolic strain. However, the adapta-
tions that result in increased maximal peak force and RFD
are complex. Strength training, whether maximal, explosive, or
reactive, can result in morphological (muscle fiber type, archi-
tecture, and tendon properties) and neural (motor unit recruit-
ment and synchronization, firing frequency, intermuscular
coordination) changes to the musculotendinous system (10).
However, the physiological adaptations that aid economy and
V
V
_
O
2
max (and maximal velocity sprinting) most likely come
from a mixture of both neural and morphological adaptations.
From a neural perspective, a more efficient recruitment pat-
tern of leg musculature may decrease running cost. Aligning
with size principle of motor units of Henneman et al. (14),
strength training may increase the neural recruitment of type I
fibers, thereby decreasing their time to exhaustion and delay
the activation of the aerobically “inefficient” type II fibers. This
would reduce submaximal oxygen consumption (economy)
and increase the capacity for high-intensity (
V
V
_
O
2
max) and
anaerobic-dominant sections of a race (i.e., sprint finish). How-
ever, the most important morphological adaptation from
strength training may be from improved stiffness and elasticity
of tendon structures. Theoretically, improved utilization of
elastic energy from the tendon would reduce the demand of
ATP from the musculature, thus improving RE,
V
V
_
O
2
max, and
maximum-velocity sprinting.
Body Composition and “Concurrent” Training
Despite increasing evidence supporting the positive effect of
strength training on endurance performance, it is still an
uncommon or less emphasized physical preparation modality
in the distance running community (5). One possible reason
maybeduetothehypertrophicconnotationsassociatedwith
lifting weights, with distance runners inadvertently linking
strength training to increased musculature and body mass.
Increased body mass can negatively affect relative physiological
parameters (i.e., V
_
O
2
max, economy) that would inevitably affect
running performance. However, this study demonstrates that
when a strength programme is designed and implemented
appropriately (Table 1), 40 weeks of strength training can result
in significant improvements in maximum (19.3 624.1%) and
reactive strength qualities (14.7 627.8%), RE (3.5 64.4%) and
V
V
_
O
2
max (4.0 64.0%), without significant changes in body
composition variables (body mass, fat mass, overall lean, and
leg lean) (Figure 4). Recently, there has been a growth in the
literature investigating the compatibility of concurrent training
methodologies and their underpinning mechanisms for protein
synthesis (e.g., Baar 2014) (1). Molecular physiologists have
found that there is an “interference” effect, where signalling path-
ways activated by endurance training inhibit skeletal muscle
hypertrophy from strength training. However, the concurrent
training literature only discusses myofibrillar hypertrophy as
thesoleadaptationfromstrength training. They do not
acknowledge other neural adaptations that contribute to
increased rate of force production (i.e., musculotendinous stiff-
ness, motor unit recruitment, intermuscular and intramuscular
coordination) (10).
Some applied sport scientists argue that low-intensity
aerobic endurance training (i.e., zone 1–3/,LT2/,80%
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V
_
O
2
max) is compatible with maximal strength and speed
development (18). Both of these modes of training are phys-
iologically harmonious as they mutually target central mech-
anisms; low-intensity aerobic training increasing blood/
oxygen transport (cardiac dimension enlargement and capil-
larization), whereas maximal strength and maximal speed
sprinting improve the rate of neuromuscular force produc-
tion and absorption qualities (39). Research has found that
successful elite endurance athletes spend approximately 80%
of their training in these low-intensity, aerobic-dominant
training zones (zone 1–3, ,lactate threshold 2/,80%
V
_
O
2
max) (35)—which gives opportunity to appropriately
program strength training sessions without hampering the
preparation or recovery of more specific and intense “thresh-
old,” “race pace,” and/or maximum-aerobic sessions (zone 4
and 5/.lactate threshold 2/.80% V
_
O
2
max). In fact, elite
sprint coaches over the last few decades have placed a large
emphasis on programming low-intensity aerobic running,
termed “extensive tempo,” to complement maximal speed
development by increasing work capacity and enhancing
recovery from intense sessions, thereby demonstrating the
compatibility of both low-intensity aerobic and strength/
power training in an elite setting (13).
This study demonstrated that 40 weeks of strength
training can significantly improve maximal and reactive
strength qualities, as well as physiological markers of
economy and
V
V
_
O
2
max in competitive distance runners.
Therefore, the research hypothesis of significant changes in
maximal strength, reactive strength,
V
V
_
O
2
max, and economy
is accepted; the research hypothesis for a significant change
in body composition is rejected. Interestingly, the improve-
ments in strength were attained without significant changes
in body composition (body mass, fat, and lean). A large pro-
portion of the maximal strength improvements were gained
through the preseason period, and then maintained through-
out the racing season as programming shifted toward reac-
tive strength development. However, within the control
group, fSSC reactive strength ability, arguably the most
important strength quality in running, deteriorated through-
out the 40-week period. It is important to note that the main
limitation to this study was that we did not control for each
participant’s endurance training (volume or intensity), nutri-
tion, or randomization of groups (as per methods section).
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
A general maximal strength–orientated programme (2 3
week, with low-volume plyometrics) during the preseason is
an appropriate and efficient method for improving both max-
imal and reactive strength capabilities in distance runners. This
study demonstrated that this structure of strength program-
ming can significantly improve economy and
V
V
_
O
2
max over
a 20-week preseason period. It is advised that during the racing
season, strength sessions are performed once per week to main-
tain strength qualities, especially reactive strength. In fact, the
intervention group in this study were able to improve reactive
strength by a further 6.8% with only 1 session per week, while
maintaining maximal strength. This study showed that in dis-
tance runners who do not perform strength training, reactive
strength can deteriorate by 7.9% throughout the racing season
period. Distance runners who are already strong and have high
force capabilities may need to place a greater emphasis on
specific reactive strength training (9) and maximal velocity
sprinting (13) to gain further improvements in economy and
V
V
_
O
2
max. It is important to note that for optimal adaptation
and development of endurance and strength qualities, strength
sessions should be carefully programmed around “intense” aer-
obic (i.e., race pace/.lactate threshold 2/.80% V
_
O
2
max) and
anaerobic endurance training.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors would like to thank all the runners who
participated in this study, Caroline MacManus of the Irish
Institute of Sport for guidance and physiological testing
support, and Dr. Will McCormack of the University of
Limerick for body composition testing support. The authors
have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the
content of this article. This research is supported by
a University of Limerick Physical Education and Sport
Science (PESS) Scholarship awarded in 2012. The results
of this study do not constitute endorsement of the product
by the authors or the NSCA.
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... The treadmill's initial velocity was set at 2 km/h slower than the subjects´ estimated 4 mmol when the test started. Then, the speed was increased by 0.5 km/h every 30 s until exhaustion [32]. ...
... Furthermore, the effect sizes of the modifications produced in this parameter between the baseline and the post-test were trivial in all three cases. These results are consistent with previous recent studies [12,32,35]. Thus, on the one hand, it can be expected that the exclusive practice of endurance training may promote muscular catabolism and increase mitochondrial density and activity. ...
... These results coincide with the study carried out by Eklund et al. (2016) [40]. In contrast, the BFP remained unaffected in some studies after applying a concurrent training protocol [12,32]. Furthermore, Blagrove et al. (2018c) conducted a systematic review to analyze the effects of adding strength training to the endurance training programs of medium-and long-distance athletes. ...
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