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Effects of Strength Training on the Physiological Determinants of Middle- and Long-Distance Running Performance: A Systematic Review


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Background Middle- and long-distance running performance is constrained by several important aerobic and anaerobic parameters. The efficacy of strength training (ST) for distance runners has received considerable attention in the literature. However, to date, the results of these studies have not been fully synthesized in a review on the topic. Objectives This systematic review aimed to provide a comprehensive critical commentary on the current literature that has examined the effects of ST modalities on the physiological determinants and performance of middle- and long-distance runners, and offer recommendations for best practice. Methods Electronic databases were searched using a variety of key words relating to ST exercise and distance running. This search was supplemented with citation tracking. To be eligible for inclusion, a study was required to meet the following criteria: participants were middle- or long-distance runners with ≥ 6 months experience, a ST intervention (heavy resistance training, explosive resistance training, or plyometric training) lasting ≥ 4 weeks was applied, a running only control group was used, data on one or more physiological variables was reported. Two independent assessors deemed that 24 studies fully met the criteria for inclusion. Methodological rigor was assessed for each study using the PEDro scale. ResultsPEDro scores revealed internal validity of 4, 5, or 6 for the studies reviewed. Running economy (RE) was measured in 20 of the studies and generally showed improvements (2–8%) compared to a control group, although this was not always the case. Time trial (TT) performance (1.5–10 km) and anaerobic speed qualities also tended to improve following ST. Other parameters [maximal oxygen uptake (\(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{2{ \hbox{max} }}}\)), velocity at \(\dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{2{ \hbox{max} }}}\), blood lactate, body composition] were typically unaffected by ST. Conclusion Whilst there was good evidence that ST improves RE, TT, and sprint performance, this was not a consistent finding across all works that were reviewed. Several important methodological differences and limitations are highlighted, which may explain the discrepancies in findings and should be considered in future investigations in this area. Importantly for the distance runner, measures relating to body composition are not negatively impacted by a ST intervention. The addition of two to three ST sessions per week, which include a variety of ST modalities are likely to provide benefits to the performance of middle- and long-distance runners.
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Effects of Strength Training on the Physiological Determinants
of Middle- and Long-Distance Running Performance:
A Systematic Review
Richard C. Blagrove
Glyn Howatson
Philip R. Hayes
Published online: 16 December 2017
The Author(s) 2017. This article is an open access publication
Background Middle- and long-distance running perfor-
mance is constrained by several important aerobic and
anaerobic parameters. The efficacy of strength training
(ST) for distance runners has received considerable atten-
tion in the literature. However, to date, the results of these
studies have not been fully synthesized in a review on the
Objectives This systematic review aimed to provide a
comprehensive critical commentary on the current litera-
ture that has examined the effects of ST modalities on the
physiological determinants and performance of middle-
and long-distance runners, and offer recommendations for
best practice.
Methods Electronic databases were searched using a
variety of key words relating to ST exercise and distance
running. This search was supplemented with citation
tracking. To be eligible for inclusion, a study was required
to meet the following criteria: participants were middle- or
long-distance runners with C6 months experience, a ST
intervention (heavy resistance training, explosive resis-
tance training, or plyometric training) lasting C4 weeks
was applied, a running only control group was used, data
on one or more physiological variables was reported. Two
independent assessors deemed that 24 studies fully met the
criteria for inclusion. Methodological rigor was assessed
for each study using the PEDro scale.
Results PEDro scores revealed internal validity of 4, 5, or
6 for the studies reviewed. Running economy (RE) was
measured in 20 of the studies and generally showed
improvements (2–8%) compared to a control group,
although this was not always the case. Time trial (TT)
performance (1.5–10 km) and anaerobic speed qualities
also tended to improve following ST. Other parameters
[maximal oxygen uptake (
VO2max), velocity at
blood lactate, body composition] were typically unaffected
by ST.
Conclusion Whilst there was good evidence that ST
improves RE, TT, and sprint performance, this was not a
consistent finding across all works that were reviewed.
Several important methodological differences and limita-
tions are highlighted, which may explain the discrepancies
in findings and should be considered in future investiga-
tions in this area. Importantly for the distance runner,
measures relating to body composition are not negatively
&Richard C. Blagrove
Glyn Howatson
Philip R. Hayes
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences, School of
Health Sciences, Birmingham City University, City South
Campus, Westbourne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 3TN, UK
Division of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of
Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University,
Northumberland Building, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 8ST,
Water Research Group, Northwest University,
Potchefstroom, South Africa
Sports Med (2018) 48:1117–1149
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impacted by a ST intervention. The addition of two to three
ST sessions per week, which include a variety of ST
modalities are likely to provide benefits to the performance
of middle- and long-distance runners.
Key Points
Strength training (ST) appears to provide benefits to
running economy, time trial performance and
maximal sprint speed in middle- and long-distance
runners of all abilities
Maximal oxygen uptake, blood lactate parameters,
and body composition appear to be unaffected by the
addition of ST to a distance runner’s program
Adding ST, in the form of heavy resistance training,
explosive resistance training, and plyometric training
performed, on 2–3 occasions per week is likely to
positively affect performance.
1 Introduction
Distance running performance is the consequence of a
complex interaction of physiological, biomechanical, psy-
chological, environmental, and tactical factors. From a
physiological perspective, the classic model [1,2] identi-
fies three main parameters that largely influence perfor-
mance: maximal oxygen uptake (
VO2max), running
economy (RE), and fractional utilization (sustainable per-
centage of
VO2max). Collectively, these determinants are
capable of predicting 16 km performance with more than
95% accuracy in well-trained runners [3]. The velocity
associated with
VO2max (v
VO2max) also provides a com-
posite measure of
VO2max and RE, and has been used to
explain differences in performance amongst trained dis-
tance runners [3,4]. Whilst
VO2max values differ little in
homogenous groups of distance runners, RE displays a
high degree of interindividual variability [5,6]. Defined as
the oxygen or energy cost of sustaining a given sub-max-
imal running velocity, RE is underpinned by a variety of
anthropometric, physiological, biomechanical, and neuro-
muscular factors [7]. Traditionally, chronic periods of
running training have been used to enhance RE [8,9];
however, novel approaches such as strength training (ST)
modalities have also been shown to elicit improvements
For middle-distance (800–3000 m) runners, cardiovas-
cular-related parameters associated with aerobic energy
production can explain a large proportion of the variance in
performance [1117]. However a large contribution is also
derived from anaerobic sources of energy [14,18].
Anaerobic capabilities can explain differences in physio-
logical profiles between middle- and longer-distance run-
ners [14] and are more sensitive to discriminating
performance in groups of elite middle-distance runners
than traditional aerobic parameters [19]. Anaerobic
capacity and event-specific muscular power factors, such as
VO2max and the velocity achieved during a maximal
anaerobic running test (vMART) have also been proposed
as limiting factors for distance runners [12,20,21]. For an
800-m runner in particular, near-maximal velocities of
running are reached during the first 200 m of the race [22],
which necessitate a high capacity of the neuromuscular and
anaerobic system.
Both RE and anaerobic factors, (i.e., speed, anaerobic
capacity and vMART) rely on the generation of rapid force
during ground contact when running [23,24]. Programs of
ST provide an overload to the neuromuscular system,
which improves motor unit recruitment, firing frequency,
musculotendinous stiffness, and intramuscular co-ordina-
tion, and therefore potentially provides distance runners
with a strategy to enhance their RE and event-specific
muscular power factors [19]. In addition, an improvement
in force-generating capacity would theoretically allow
athletes to sustain a lower percentage of maximal strength,
thereby reducing anaerobic energy contribution [25]. This
reduction in relative effort may therefore reduce RE and
blood lactate (BL) concentration. As v
VO2maxis a function
of RE,
VO2max and anaerobic power factors, it would also
be expected to show improvements following an ST
intervention. Several recent reviews in this area have pro-
vided compelling evidence that a short-term ST interven-
tion is likely to enhance RE [10,26], in the order of *4%
[10]. Whilst these reviews have provided valuable insight
into how ST specifically impacts RE, studies also typically
measure other important aerobic and anaerobic determi-
nants of distance running performance, which have not
previously been fully synthesized in a review. Body com-
position also appears to be an important determinant of
distance running performance, with low body mass con-
ferring an advantage [27,28]. Resistance training (RT) is
generally associated with a hypertrophic response [29];
however, this is known to be attenuated when RT and
endurance training are performed concurrently within the
same program [30]. Changes in body composition as a
consequence of ST in distance runners have yet to be fully
addressed in reviews on this topic.
1118 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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There are also a number of recent publications [3138]
that have not been captured in previous reviews [10,26]on
this topic, which potentially provide valuable additional
insight into the area. Previous papers that have reviewed
the impact of ST modalities on distance running perfor-
mance have done so alongside other endurance sports
[23,39] or are somewhat outdated [4042]. Furthermore,
although improvements in RE would likely confer a benefit
to distance running performance, the outcomes from
studies that have used time trials have not been compre-
hensively reviewed. Performance-related outcome mea-
sures provide high levels of external validity compared to
physiological parameters, therefore it is likely that a col-
lective summary of results would be of considerable
interest to coaches and athletes.
Consequently the aim of this review was to systemati-
cally analyze the evidence surrounding the use of ST on
distance running parameters that includes both aerobic and
anaerobic qualities, in addition to body composition and
performance-related outcomes. This work also provides a
forensic, critical evaluation that, unlike previous work,
highlights areas that future investigations should address to
improve methodological rigor, such as ensuring valid
measurement of physiological parameters and maximizing
control over potential confounding factors.
2 Methods
2.1 Literature Search Strategy
The PRISMA statement [43] was used as a basis for the
procedures described herein. Electronic database searches
were carried out in Pubmed, SPORTDiscus, and Web of
Science using the following search terms and Boolean
operators: (‘‘strength training’’ OR ‘‘resistance training’
OR ‘‘weight training’’ OR ‘‘weight lifting’’ OR ‘‘plyo-
metric training’’ OR ‘‘concurrent training’’) AND (‘‘dis-
tance running’’ OR ‘‘endurance running’’ OR ‘‘distance
runners’’ OR ‘‘endurance runners’’ OR ‘‘middle distance
runners’’) AND (‘‘anaerobic’’ OR ‘‘sprint’’ OR ‘‘speed’
OR ‘‘performance’’ OR ‘‘time’’ OR ‘‘economy’ OR ‘‘en-
ergy cost’’ OR ‘‘lactate’’ OR ‘‘maximal oxygen uptake’
OR ‘
VO2max’’ OR ‘‘aerobic’’ OR ‘‘time trial’’). Searches
were limited to papers published in English and from 1
January 1980 to 6 October 2017.
2.2 Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria
For a study to be eligible, each of the following inclusion
criteria were met:
Participants were middle- (800–3000 m) or long-dis-
tance runners (5000 m–ultra-distance). Studies using
triathletes and duathletes were also included because
often these participants possess similar physiology to
distance runners and complete similar volumes of
running training.
A ST intervention was applied. This was defined as
heavy (less than 9 repetition maximum (RM) loads and/
or 80% of 1RM) or isometric resistance training (HRT),
moderate load (9–15 RM and/or 60–80% 1RM) RT,
explosive resistance training (ERT), reactive ST or
plyometric training (PT). Sprint training (SpT) could be
used in conjunction with one or more of the above ST
methods, but not exclusively as the only intervention
The intervention period lasted 4 weeks or longer. This
criteria was employed as neuromuscular adaptations
have been observed in as little as 4 weeks in non-
strength trained individuals [44,45].
A running only control group was used that adopted
similar running training to the intervention group(s).
Data on one or more of the following physiological
parameters was reported:
VO2max, RE, velocity associ-
ated with v
VO2max, time trial (TT) performance, time to
exhaustion (TTE), BL response, anaerobic capacity,
maximal speed, measures of body composition.
Published in full in a peer-reviewed journal.
Studies were excluded if any of the following criteria
Participants were non-runners (e.g., students, untrai-
ned/less than 6 months running experience). Further
restrictions were not placed upon experience/training
The running training and/or ST intervention was poorly
controlled and/or reported.
The intervention involved only SpT or was embedded
as part of running training sessions.
Participants were reported to be in poor health or
Ergogenic aids were used as part of the intervention.
Using the mean
VO2max values provided within each
study, participants training status was considered as mod-
erately-trained (male
VO2max B55 ml kg
), well-
trained (male
VO2max 55–65 ml kg
), or highly-
trained (male
VO2max C65 ml kg
)[10,46]. For
female participants, the
VO2max thresholds were set
10 ml kg
lower [46]). In the absence of
values, training status was based upon the training or
competitive level of the participants: moderately-
trained =recreational or local club, well-
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1119
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trained =Collegiate or provincial, highly-trained =na-
tional or international.
2.3 Study Selection
Figure 1provides a visual overview of the study selection
process. Search results were imported into a published software
for systematic reviews [47], which allowed a blind screening
process to be performed by two independent reviewers (RB and
PH). Any disagreements were resolved by consensus. The
initial search yielded 454 publications. Following the removal
of duplicates (n=190), publications were filtered by reading
the title and abstract [inter-rater reliability (IRR): 95.3%,
Cohens k=0.86] leaving 19 review articles or commentaries,
and 47 potentially relevant papers, which were given full con-
sideration. Five additional records were identified as being
potentially relevant via manual searches of previously
published reviews on this topic and the individual study cita-
tions. These 52 studies were considered in detail for appropri-
ateness, resulting in a further 26 papers [34,37,4871]being
excluded (IRR: 94.2%, Cohens k=0.88) for the following
reasons: not published in full in a peer-reviewed journal
[50,52,60,61], absence of a running only control group
[48,49,54,57,59,6267,69], participants were non-runners
[51,53,56,68], no physiological parameters were measured
[55], dissimilar running training was applied between groups
[71], the ST intervention was poorly controlled [54], and ST did
not involve one of the aforementioned types [34,37,58,70].
2.4 Analysis of Results
The Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale was
subsequently used to assess the quality of the remaining 26
records [3133,36,38,7292] by the two independent
reviewers. Two studies reported their results across two
papers [32,38,90,92], therefore both are considered as
single studies hereafter, thus a total of 24 studies were
analyzed. The PEDro scale is a tool recommended for
assessing the quality of evidence when systematically
reviewing randomized-controlled trials [93]. Each paper is
scrutinized against 11 items relating to the scientific rigor
of the methodology, with items 2–11 being scored 0 or 1.
Papers are therefore awarded a rating from 0 to 10
depending upon the number of items which the study
methodology satisfies (10 =study possesses excellent
internal validity, 0 =study has poor internal validity). No
studies were not excluded based upon their PEDro scale
score and IRR was excellent (93.2%, Cohens k=0.86).
Results are summarized as a percentage change and the p
value for variables relating to: strength outcomes, RE,
VO2max, BL response, time trial, anaerobic per-
formance, and body composition. Due to the heterogeneity
of outcome measures in the included studies and the limi-
tations associated with conditional probability, where pos-
sible, an effect size (ES) statistic (Cohens d) is also provided.
Effect size values are based upon those reported in the studies
or were calculated using the ratio between the change score
(post-intervention value minus pre-intervention value) and a
pooled standard deviation at baseline for intervention and
control groups. Values are interpreted as trivial\0.2; small
0.2–0.6; moderate 0.6–1.2; and large[1.2.
3 Results
3.1 Participant Characteristics
A summary of the participant characteristics for the 24
studies which met the criteria for inclusion in this review is
presented in Table 1. A total of 469 participants (male
Fig. 1 Search, screening and selection process for suitable studies
1120 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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Table 1 Participant characteristics and design of each study
Study Participant characteristics Study design
n(I/C) Sex Age (years) _
(mL kg
Training background (event
Randomized? Running
ST added or
Albracht &
26 (13/13) MI=27,
Recreational (C3 runs wk
30–120 km wk
14 No No Added 5
Beattie et al.
20 (11/9) M=19
Collegiate and national level
(1500 m–10 km)
40 No No Added 4
et al. [80]
28 (HRT
n=12, PT
n=11, C
MHRT =31,
PT =29,
HRT =57.5,
PT =57.5,
3–7 runs wk
. Provincial
level (5 km–marathon)
8 Yes Yes Added 5
Bertuzzi et al.
22 (RT
n=8, RT
n=8, C
RT =31,
RT =57.4,
Local 10 km (35–45 min)
race competitors
6 Yes No
Added 6
Bonacci et al.
8 (3/5) M=5
21.6 Moderately-trained triathletes
(34.8 km wk
8 Yes No
Added 5
et al. [89]
18 (9/9) MI=34.1,
Local 10 km (35–45 min)
race competitors
8 Yes No
Added 6
Ferrauti et al.
20 (11/9) M=14
40.0 I=52.0,
Experienced (8.7 years)
recreational (4.6 h wk
8 Yes No
Added 6
Fletcher et al.
12 (6/6) MI=22.2,
international level (1500 m–
8 Yes No Added 6
et al. [36]
25 (13/12) MI=36.3,
(11.7 years,[60 km wk
ultra-distance competitors
12 Yes No
Added 6
et al. [72]
12 (6/6) F30.3 I=50.5,
[1 year experience, 20–30
miles wk
, 4–5 days wk
10 Yes No
Added 6
Karsten et al.
16 (8/8) M=11F=5I=39,
Recreational triathletes
([2 years, 3–5 days wk
180–300 min wk
6 Yes No Added 6
Mikkola et al.
25 (13/12) M=18
High-school runners
([2 years)
8No No
Replace (I:
19%, C: 4%)
Millet et al.
15 (7/8) MI=24.3,
Experienced (6.8 years)
triathletes (n=7 national/
14 Yes No
Added 6
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1121
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Table 1 continued
Study Participant characteristics Study design
n(I/C) Sex Age (years) _
(mL kg
Training background (event
Randomized? Running
ST added or
et al. [73]
18 (10/8) MI=23,
Experienced (8 years) cross-
country runners
(545 h year
9 Unclear
(matched on
VO2max and
5 km)
Yes Replace (I:
32%, C: 3%)
et al. [91]
22 (11/11) M=14
Experienced recreational
(local clubs and races)
6 Yes No Added 6
et al. [86]
16 (HRT
n=6, RT
n=5, C
HRT =44.2
RT =44.8
Local ([5 years,
4–5 days wk
) masters
runners (10 km – marathon)
6 Yes No Added 4
et al. [87]
32 (17/15) M=9
22.1 – National/international
competitive level (1500 m –
6 Yes No
Added 6
et al. [77]
15 (7/8) MI=23.4,
competitive level (3 km)
9 Yes No
Added (but C
et al.
27 (13/14) M 33 Recreational
([12 months; C2
runs wk
24 Unclear
(matched by
Yes Added 5
et al. [88]
21 (12/9) M31.1 59.4 Experienced (7.5 years)
recreational (29.7 km wk
3.3 runs wk
8 Yes Yes (I only) Replace (I:
Spurrs et al.
17 (8/9) M25 I=57.6,
Experienced (10 years);
60–80 km wk
6 Yes No
Added 6
Støren et al.
17 (8/9) M=9
Well-trained (5 km:
M=18.42, F=19.23)
8 Yes No
Added 6
Turner et al.
18 (10/8) M=8
Basic training
([6 months; C3
runs wk
6 Yes No
Added 6
et al.
19 (11/8) FI=31.5,
53.3 Well-trained (duathletes) 11 Yes Yes Added 5
Ccontrol group, CS core stability, Ffemale, hhours, HRT heavy resistance training, Iintervention group, Mmale, PT plyometric training, RT resistance training, RT
resistance training with
whole body vibration,
VO2max maximal oxygen uptake, wk week
1122 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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n=352, female n=96) are included, aged between 17.3
and 44.8 years. Maximal oxygen uptake data was reported
for all but five studies [83,84,86,87,90,92] and ranged
from 47.0 to 70.4 mL kg
. Based upon weighted
mean values in the studies that reported participant char-
acteristics for each group, age (30.2 vs. 29.0 years), body
mass (68.1 vs. 70.0 kg), height (1.74 vs. 1.74 m), and
VO2max (57.3 vs. 57.7 mL kg
) appeared to differ
little at baseline for ST groups and control groups respec-
tively. Moderately trained or recreational level runners
were used in nine studies [31,72,76,81,83,84,86,
9092], well-trained participants in ten studies [32,33,
36,38,73,75,79,80,85,88,89], and highly-trained or
national/international runners were used in four studies
[74,77,82,87]. National caliber junior runners were also
used in one investigation [78]. Participants took part or
competed in events ranging from the middle-distances to
ultra-marathons, and several studies used triathletes
[31,74,83] or duathletes [32,38].
3.2 Study Design and PEDro Scores
Table 1also provides an overview of several important
features of study design, including PEDro scale scores.
Studies lasted 6–14 weeks with the exception of two
investigations, which lasted 24 [90,92] and 40 weeks [33].
Fourteen studies provided detailed accounts of the running
training undertaken by the participants. However, these
were usually reported from monitoring records, thus only
three studies were deemed to have appropriately controlled
for the volume and intensity of running in both groups
[32,38,73,80,90,92]. Six studies provided little or no
detail on the running training that participants performed
[31,33,82,84,86,91]. Strength training in all but three
investigations [73,78,88] was supplementary to running
training, and one paper provided the control group with
alternative activities (stretching and core stability) matched
for training time [77].
Studies were all scored a 4, 5, or 6 on the PEDro scale.
All investigations had points deducted for items relating to
blinding of participants, therapists, and assessors. Differ-
ences in the scores awarded were mainly the result of
studies not randomly allocating participants to groups and
failing to obtain data for more than 85% of participants
initially allocated to groups; or this information not being
explicitly stated.
3.3 Training Programs
Table 2provides a summary of the training characteristics
associated with the ST intervention and running training
used concurrently as part of the study period. The ST
activities used were RT or HRT [31,32,38,72,
78,79,81,82,8486,89], PT [75,76,80,87,91], ERT
[80], or a combination of these methods [33,36,77,
83,90,92], which in some cases also included SpT
All studies utilized at least one multi-joint, closed
kinetic chain exercise with the exception of two studies that
used isometric contractions on the ankle plantarflexors
[82,84]. One study employed only resistance machine
exercises for lower limb HRT [81], whereas all other
studies used free weights, bodyweight resistance or a
combination of machines and free weights. Strength
training (using lower limb musculature) was scheduled
once [33,80,81], twice [3133,38,75,78,8587,
89,90,92], three times [36,72,7477,79,82,83,88], or
four times [84] per week. One study used 15 sessions over
a 6-week period [91] and one study reported 2.7 h of ST
activity per week [73].
Heavy RT was typically prescribed in 2–6 sets of 3–10
repetitions per exercise at relatively heavy loads (higher
than 70% 1RM or to repetition failure). Plyometric training
prescription consisted of 1–6 exercises performed over 1–6
sets of 4–10 repetitions, totaling 30–228 foot contacts per
session. Most studies applied the principle of progressive
overload and some authors reported periodized models for
the intervention period [32,33,36,38,77,88,89]. Studies
which included SpT tended to utilize short distances
(20–150 m), over 4–12 sets at maximal intensity
[73,74,88]. Strength training was supervised or part-su-
pervised across all studies with the exception of three, one
that was unsupervised [76] and two where it was unclear
from the report [73,74].
Running training varied considerably (16–170 km
, 3–9 sessions week
) across the studies, with
various levels of detail provided regarding weekly volume
and intensity. Importantly, all studies that added ST
reported that running training did not differ between
3.4 Strength Outcomes
All but two studies [31,83] measured at least one strength-
related parameter (Table 3). Across all studies that used
1RM testing [33,72,74,78,79,85,86,8890,92], the
intervention produced a statistically significant improve-
ment (4–33%, ES: 0.7–2.4). Maximal voluntary contraction
(MVC) was also used to assess strength capacity in seven
papers, with the majority reporting improved (7–34%, ES:
0.38–1.65) scores following ST [73,75,78,81,84] but
others reporting no difference compared to a control group
[81,82,90,92]. Performance on a jump test was shown to
improve (3–9%, ES: 0.25–0.65) in some studies
[32,73,74,80,87]; however, other studies showed no
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1123
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Table 2 Intervention and running training variables
Study Intervention
Main exercises Frequency Volume per session Intensity ST
Recovery between
Running training
Albracht &
Ankle plantarflexion
knee extended, 40
hip flexion)
4 per week 4 sets 94 reps (3 s loading,
3 s relaxation)
90% MVC
Yes I: 66 km wk
C: 62 km wk
Beattie et al.
PT: pogo jumps,
depth jumps, CMJ
HRT: back squat,
RDL, lunge
ERT: jump squats
Wk 1–20: 2
per week;
Wk 21–40:
1 per week
9–12 sets (2–3 sets per
exercise); PT: 4–5 reps,
HRT: 3–8 reps, ERT: 3
Load progressed
Yes C48 h between
sessions (wk
1–20). Separate
session to
Not reported (usual running
et al. [80]
ERT and PT ERT: concentric
1 per week ERT and PT: 3–6 sets 98
ERT:[95% PPO
PT: 20–60 cm so
Yes 2 9AIT (1 9peak speed,
1980% peak speed)
19LSD (30–60 min)
Bertuzzi et al.
RT and
Half-squats 2 per week 3–6 sets 94–10 reps
70–100% 1RM
over 12 wk
Yes Different days to
57–61 km wk
Bonacci et al.
PT/ERT PT: CMJ, knee lifts,
ankle jumps,
bounds, skips,
hurdle jumps
ERT: Squat jumps,
back ext.,
hamstring curls
3 per week PT: 1–5 sets 95–10 reps or
20–30 m
RT: 2–5 sets 98–15 reps
Max height/fast
Yes Same as previous 3 months. I:
swim (7.3 km), cycle
(137.6 km), run (34.8 km)
C: swim (10.1 km), cycle
(147.5 km), run (29.0 km)
et al. [89]
HRT Half-squat, leg press,
calf raise, knee ext
2 per week 2–3 sets 93–10 reps 10RM periodized
to 3RM
Yes 72 h between
HRT sessions.
Different days to
36–41 km wk
Ferrauti et al.
HRT Machines: leg press,
knee ext., knee
flexion, hip ext.,
ankle ext.; UB
1 per week
LB; 1 per
week UB
LB: 4 sets 93–5 reps 3–5 RM Yes I: 240 min wk
276 min wk
Fletcher et al.
Plantarflexions 3 per week 4 sets 920 s 80% MVC Yes 70–170 km wk
1124 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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Table 2 continued
Study Intervention
Main exercises Frequency Volume per session Intensity ST
Recovery between
Running training
et al. [36]
PT (8wk)
CS: 6 exercises (e.g.,
RT/HRT: single leg
half-squat, step-up,
ERT: CMJ, split
PT: jump rope, high
3 per week 5–8 exercises, 1–3
sets 96–15 reps (30 s rest)
Partly (only
wk 1 and
C48 h between
sessions. Not
day after races/
I: normal running training
C: 70–140 km wk
, 5–7
sessions wk
et al. [72]
HRT Squats, lunge, heel
raises (straight- and
bent-leg), knee
ext./flexion, 8xUB
3 per week 3 sets 96 reps squat and
lunge; 2 sets 920/12 reps
bent–/straight–leg heel
raise; 3 sets 98 reps knee
RM each set Yes C48 h between
sessions. C5h
between HRT
and running
4–5 days wk
32–48 km wk
Karsten et al.
HRT RDL, squat, calf
raises, lunges
2 per week 4 sets 94 reps 80% 1RM Yes C48 h between
HRT sessions.
3–5 sessions/
180–300 min wk
Mikkola et al.
HRT Hamstring curl, leg
press, seated press,
squat, leg ext., heel
2 per week 3–5 sets 93–5 reps [90% 1RM
every 3 wk)
Yes Separate session
to running
Total: I=7hwk
C=6.6 h wk
Running: I=48 km wk
C=44 km wk
Millet et al.
PT: alternative, calf,
squat, hurdle jumps
ERT: Squat, calf
raise, hurdle jump,
leg ext./curl
3 per week
type once)
SpT: 5–10 sets 930–150 m
PT/ERT: 2–3 sets 96–10
ERT: low load,
high velocity
Unclear – I: 8.8 h wk
C: 8.5 h wk
et al. [73]
PT: alternative, drop
and hurdle jumps,
CMJ, hops
ERT: leg press, knee
ext. and flexion
Not reported;
2.7 h per
SpT: 5–10 sets 920–100 m
PT/ERT: 5–20 reps.set
30–200 reps.session
PT: BW or
ERT: 0–40%
Unclear – I: 8.4 h wk
(9 sessions) C: 9.2 h wk
et al. [91]
PT Modified version of
Spurrs et al.
(jumps, bounds,
15 sessions
60–228 foot contacts Progressively
Yes I: 34.4–36.2 km wk
C: 29.5–31.3 km wk
et al. [86]
HRT and RT Squat, calf press,
lunges, eccentric
quad, calf raise, leg
press ?UB
2 per week HRT: 4 sets 93–4 reps
RT: 3 sets 910 reps
HRT: 85–90%
RT: 70% 1RM
Yes 4–5 days wk
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1125
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Table 2 continued
Study Intervention
Main exercises Frequency Volume per session Intensity ST
Recovery between
Running training
et al. [87]
PT DJ 2 per week 60 contacts (6 sets 910
20 reps @20 cm,
20 reps
@40 cm, 20
reps @60 cm
Yes C48 h between
PT sessions.
before runs.
I: 64.7 km.wk
C: 70.0 km.wk
et al. [77]
PT/HRT PT: CMJ, ankle
jumps, bounds,
skips, hurdle
jumps, scissor
HRT: back ext., leg
press, hamstring
3 per week PT: Progress from 1 to 6
sets 96–10 reps/10–30 m
HRT: 1–5 sets 96–10 reps
(except back ext.)
PT: fast GCT
HRT: Leg press
60% 1RM
Yes 107 km.wk
(3x AIT,
19LSD 60–150 min,
39LSD 30–60 min,
3–6 9LSD 20–40 min)
et al.
HRT: leg press, knee
flexion, calf raise
ERT: Squat jumps,
PT: Drop jumps,
hurdle jumps
2 per week HRT (wk 5–24): 5–12 reps
per set
HRT (wk 5–24):
60–85% 1RM
ERT: 20–30%
Yes Same session as
[48 h between
Weekly: 2x run (35–45 min/
65–85% HR
), 2 9LSD
(35–40 min & 70–125 min/
60–65% HR
1–2 9AIT and HIIT
et al. [88]
SpT/HRT HRT: squat, deadlift,
leg press
SpT 92 per
HRT 91 per
SpT: 4–12 sets 930 s
(3 min rest)
HRT: 3–4 sets 96–8 reps
wk 1–4; 4 sets 94 reps wk
SpT: maximal
HRT: 15RM to
8RM wk 1–4;
4RM wk 5–8
Yes 3–4 d between
Different days to
I: AIT (4 94?2 min @85%
); 50 min @75–85%
C: 40 km total (4 km AIT)
Spurrs et al.
PT Jumps, bounds, hops 2–3 per week 60–180 foot contacts Bilateral
progressed to
unilateral and
greater height
Yes Separate session
to running
60–80 km per week
Støren et al.
HRT Half-squats 3 per week 4 sets 94 reps 4RM Yes I: 253 min wk
(?119 min
other ET)
C: 154 min wk
(?120 min
other ET)
Turner et al.
PT Vertical jumps and
hops (continuous
and intermittent),
split jumps, uphill
3 per week 40–110 foot contacts (5–30 s
per exercise)
short contact
Performed in
running sessions
Continued regular running
(C3 runs wk
miles wk
1126 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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change compared to a control group [33,7678,9092]
and in one study the control group improved to a greater
extent than the intervention group [86]. Changes in an
ability to produce force rapidly also showed mixed results,
with some studies showing improvements in peak power
output [80] and rate of force development [78,79] and
others showing no change in these parameters [36,75,77].
Similarly, stiffness, when measured directly or indirectly
(using reactive strength index) during non-running tasks,
has been shown to improve (ES: 0.43–0.90) [75,84,86,87]
and remain unchanged [33,74,89] following ST. Vertical
or leg stiffness during running showed improvements
(10%, ES: 0.33) at relatively slow speeds [36] and also at
3 km race pace (ES: 1.2) following ST [74].
3.5 Running Economy
An assessment of RE was included in all but four
[31,85,87,90,92] of the studies in this review (Table 3).
Running economy was quantified as the oxygen cost of
running at a given speed in every case, except in three
studies where a calculation of energy cost was used
[82,84,91]. Statistically significant improvements (2–8%,
ES: 0.14–3.22) in RE were observed for at least one speed
in 14 papers. A single measure of RE was reported in four
of these papers [31,79,80,88], and a further four studies
assessed RE across multiple different speeds and found
improvements across all measures taken [72,74,75,84].
Six papers reported a mixture of significant and non-sig-
nificant results from the intensities they used to evaluate
RE [36,73,7678,86]. Six studies failed to show any
significant improvements in RE compared to a control
group [32,8183,89,91].
3.6 Maximal Oxygen Uptake
No statistically significant changes were reported in
VO2max or
VO2peak for any group in the majority of studies
that assessed this parameter [31,32,36,72,74,75,
7780,85,88,89]. Three papers observed improvements
VO2max in the intervention group, but the change in
score did not differ significantly from that of the control
group [33,81,91]. One study detected a significant
improvement (4.9%) in
VO2max for the control group
compared to the intervention group [73].
3.7 Velocity Associated with
Nine studies provided data on v
VO2max or a similar metric
[3133,36,74,78,80,85,89]. Just two of these papers
reported statistically significant improvements (3–4%, ES:
0.42–0.49) in the ST group compared to the control group
Table 2 continued
Study Intervention
Main exercises Frequency Volume per session Intensity ST
Recovery between
Running training
et al.
HRT Machines: Half-
squats, unilateral
leg press, cable hip
flexion, calf raises
2 per week 3 sets 94–10 reps
(periodized 3wk cycles)
Sets performed to
RM failure
Partly (1
per wk
HRT first session
or performed on
different days
4.3 sessions wk
; 3.7 h
@60–82% HR
, 1.1 h
@83–87% HR
, 0.8 h
@[87% HR
AIT aerobic interval training, BW body weight, CMJ counter-movement jump, Ccontrol group, CS core stability, DJ drop jump, ERT explosive resistance training, ET endurance training (e.g.,
cycling, swimming, roller skiing), GCT ground contact time, hhours, HIIT high-intensity interval training, HR
maximum heart rate (predicted from 220-age), HRT heavy resistance training,
Iintervention group, LB lower body, LSD long slow distance run, MVC maximum voluntary contraction, PPO peak power output, PT plyometric training, RDL Romanian deadlift, RM
repetition maximum, RT resistance training, SpT sprint training, ST strength training, UB upper body, RT
resistance training with whole body vibration
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1127
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Table 3 Outcomes of the studies. Percentage changes, effect size (ES) and pvalue only reported for statistically significant group results or ES[0.2. All results presented are for the
intervention (I) group unless stated (e.g., C =control). Variables measured where no-significance (NS) difference for time (pre- vs. post-score) and no group 9time (G 9T) interaction was
detected, are also listed
Study Main strength outcomes Economy _
VO2peak v
VO2max Blood lactate Time trial Anaerobic
Body composition
Albracht and
Plantarflexion MVC
(6.7%, ES =0.56,
p=0.004), max
Achilles tendon force
(7.0%, ES =0.55,
p\0.01), Tendon
stiffness (15.8%,
ES =0.90, p\0.001)
VO2@10.8 km h
ES =0.79)
@12.6 km h
ES =0.51)
EC@10.8 km h
ES =0.61)
@12.6 km h
ES =0.50), all p\0.05
BL@10.8 and
12.6 km h
Body mass, NS
Beattie et al.
1RM back squat (wk
0–20: 19.3%,
ES =1.2, p=0.001)
(wk 0–20: 7.3%,
ES =0.3, NS G 9T;
wk 0–40: 14.6%,
ES =0.5, NS G 9T)
CMJ (wk 0–20: 11.5%,
ES =0.5, NS G 9T;
wk 0–40: 11.5%,
ES =0.6, NS G 9T)
Ave. of 5 speeds
Wk 0–20: 5.0%, ES =1.0,
Wk 0–40: 3.5%, ES =0.6,
Wk 0–20: 0.1%,
ES =0.1,
Wk 0-40, I:
ES =0.5,
p=0.003, C:
ES =0.6, NS
Wk 0-20:
ES =0.7,
Wk 0-40:
ES =0.9,
v2 mmol L
v4 mmol L
Body mass, fat and
lean muscle, NS
et al. [80]
PPO (ERT: 15.4%,
ES =0.98, p\0.01;
PT: 3.4%, ES =0.24,
CMJ (ERT: 4.5%,
ES =0.25, p\0.01;
PT: 6.0%, ES =0.52,
@12 km h
ERT: 4%, ES =0.62,
PT: 7%, ES =1.01,
NS ERT: 4.2%,
ES =0.43,
PT: 4.2%,
ES =0.49,
3 km TT
ERT: 4.1%,
ES =0.37.
PT: 4.8%,
ES =0.46.
C: 3.0%,
ES =0.20;
all p\0.05,
Body mass, NS
Bertuzzi et al.
1RM half squat (RT:
17%, pB0.05;
: 18%,
Bonacci et al.
@12 km h
(after 45 min
AIT cycle) NS
Body mass, skinfolds,
thigh and calf girth,
1128 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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Table 3 continued
Study Main strength outcomes Economy _
VO2peak v
VO2max Blood lactate Time trial Anaerobic
Body composition
et al. [89]
1RM half–squat (23%,
ES =1.41, p\0.05),
, wingate test NS
@12 km h
ES =0.42,
speed in
final 7 laps
30 s Wingate
test, NS
Body mass and
skinfold, NS
Ferrauti et al.
Leg extension MVC
(33.9%, ES =1.65,
p\0.001); leg flexion
MVC (9.4%,
ES =0.38, NS)
@LT (ES =0.40, p\0.05,
NS G 9T)
@8.6 and 10.1 km h
FU@10.1 km h
(ES =0.61, p=0.05 G
ES =0.40,
BL@10.1 km h
13.1%, C: 12.1%,
NS G 9T).
v4 mmol L
4.2%, C: 2.6%, NS
Body mass, NS
Fletcher et al.
Isometric MVC (I:
21.6%, C: 13.4%), NS
EC@75,85,95% sLT, NS BL@ 75,85,95% sLT,
–– –
et al. [36]
@10 km h
, (9.5%,
ES =0.33,
@12 km h
ES =0.33,
@8,10,12,14 km h
@8 km h
ES =0.43, p=0.005),
@10 km h
ES =0.48, p=0.032),
@12 km h
ES =0.34, p=0.020),
@14 km h
ES =0.35, p=0.022),
NS NS Body mass, FFM, fat
mass, NS
et al. [72]
1RM squat (40%,
p\0.05), knee flexion
(27%, p\0.05)
@12.8 km h
ES =1.76, p\0.05),
@13.8 km h
ES =1.61, p\0.05)
NS Body mass, fat mass,
FFM, limb girth,
Karsten et al.
NS NS 5 km TT
ES =1.06,
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1129
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Table 3 continued
Study Main strength outcomes Economy _
VO2peak v
VO2max Blood lactate Time trial Anaerobic
Body composition
Mikkola et al.
MVC (8%), 1RM (4%),
RFD (31%) on leg
press; all p\0.05.
CMJ and 5–bounds, NS
@14 km h
ES =0.32, p\0.05),
@10,12,13 km h
NS NS BL@12 km h
(12%, p\0.05),
@14 km h
v30 m sprint
Body mass (2%,
ES =0.32,
Thickness of QF (I:
3.9%, ES =0.35,
p\0.01; C: 1.9%,
ES =0.10,
p\0.05); fat %,
lean mass, NS
Millet et al.
1RM half–squat (25%,
p\0.01), 1RM heel
raise (17%, p\0.01),
hop height (3.3%,
@3 km pace
(ES =1.2, p\0.05)
GCT, hop stiffness, NS
@75% v
VO2max (7.4%,
ES =1.14, p\0.05)
VO2max (5.9%,
ES =1.15, p\0.05)
NS 2.6%,
ES =0.57,
Body mass, NS
et al. [73]
MVC knee extension
(7.1%, p\0.01), 5BJ
(4.6%, p\0.01)
@15 km h
ES =3.22, p\0.001)
@13.2 km h
C: (4.9%,
p\0.05, NS
–– 5kmTT
v20 m (3.4%,
ES =0.77,
(ES =1.98,
Body mass, fat %,
calf and thigh girth,
et al. [91]
CMJ (5.2%, p=0.045,
NS G 9T)
@10.6 km h
p\0.05 group) NS G 9
T @7.7, 9.2, 12.1, 13.5,
15.0, 16.4 km h
, NS.
ES =0.49,
p=0.03, NS
sLT, NS 3 km TT
ES =0.20,
et al. [86]
1RM leg press (HRT:
17%, ES =0.69,
p\0.05), CMJ (C: 7%,
ES =0.63, p\0.05),
SJ (C: 13%,
ES =0.83, p\0.01),
Stiffness (RT: 13%,
ES =0.64, p\0.05)
@10.75 km h
pace (HRT: 6.2%,
@9.75,11.75 km h
Body mass, fat mass,
et al. [87]
CMJ (8.9%, ES =0.51,
p\0.01), DJ @20 cm
(12.7%, ES =0.43,
p\0.01), DJ @40 cm
(16.7%, ES =0.6,
2.4 km TT
ES =0.4,
20 m sprint
ES =0.3,
Body mass, NS
1130 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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Table 3 continued
Study Main strength outcomes Economy _
VO2peak v
VO2max Blood lactate Time trial Anaerobic
Body composition
et al. [77]
SJ RFD and peak force,
@18 km h
ES =0.35, p\0.05)
@14,16 km h
@14,16,18 km h
Body mass, NS
et al.
1RM leg press (I: NS, C:
–4.7%, p=0.011),
MVC leg flexion (–
9.7%, p=0.031,
ES =0.96, NS G 9
T), MVC leg press NS,
MVC knee ext. NS,
BL during 6 91km
(I: NS, C:, 21%, NS
v4 mmol L
(I: 6%,
C: 8%, NS G 9T).
1 km TT after
5x 1 km,
60 s rec. (I:
9%, C: 13%,
NS G 9T)
Body mass, NS;
CSA vastus lateralis
(group diff. I: 7%,
C: -6%, NS G 9T);
Total and leg lean
mass (I: 2%, NS G
et al. [88]
1RM squat (wk 4: 3.8%,
wk 8: 12%, p\0.001);
1RM leg press (wk 4:
8%, p\0.05; wk 8:
18%, p\0.001), 5RM
deadlift (wk 4: 14%,
wk8: 22%, p\0.001)
@12 km h
(wk 8: 3.1%,
ES =1.53, p\0.01)
NS 10 km TT
(wk 4:
ES =1.50,
1500 m TT
(wk 8:
ES =0.67,
Body mass, NS
Spurrs et al.
MTS @75% MVC (left:
14.9%, right: 10.9%,
p\0.05), Calf MVC
(left: 11.4%, right:
13.6%, p\0.05).
@12 km h
ES =0.45), 14 km h
(6.4%, ES =0.45),
16 km h
ES =0.30), all p\0.01
NS 3 km TT
ES =0.13,
p\0.05, NS
Body mass, NS
Støren et al.
1RM (33.2%, p\0.01)
and RFD (26%,
p\0.01) half–squat
VO2max (5%,
ES =1.03, p\0.01)
NS sLT, LT %
Body mass, NS
Turner et al.
CMJ and SJ, NS Ave. of 3 speeds: M=9.6,
11.3, 12.9, F=8.0, 9.6,
11.3 km h
@9.6 km h
––– –
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1131
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[80,89]. One study [74] reported a 2.6% improvement (ES:
0.57) and another [33] a 4.0% increase (ES: 0.9) after a
40-week intervention; however, these changes were not
significantly different to the control group.
3.8 Blood Lactate Parameters
Blood lactate value was measured at fixed velocities in six
studies [77,78,81,82,84,92] and velocity assessed for
fixed concentrations of BL (2–4 mmol L
) or lactate
threshold (LT) in six studies [32,33,79,81,90,91]. One
study using young participants observed significantly
greater improvements (11–12%) at two speeds compared to
the control group [78]. Other studies found no significant
changes following the intervention [32,33,77,79,
82,84,91] or a change which was not superior to the
control group [81,90,92].
3.9 Time-Trial Performance
To assess the impact of ST directly upon distance running
performance, studies utilized time trials over 1000 m
(preceded by 5 91 km) [90,92], 1500 m [88], 2.4 km
[87], 3 km [75,80,91], 5 km [31,73], 10 km [88,89],
5 min [32], and 40 min [38]. There were similarities to
competitive scenarios in most studies, including perfor-
mances taking place under race conditions [31,75,
87,9092], on an outdoor athletics track [31,8789], on
an indoor athletics track [73,75,80,9092], and fol-
lowing a prolonged (90-min) submaximal run [38]. Per-
formance improvements were statistically significant
compared to a control group for eight of the 12 trials. The
exceptions were a 40-min time trial [38], a 1000-m rep-
etition [90,92], and two studies that used a 3 km time trial
[75,80]. Statistically significant 3 km improvements were
observed for all groups in one case [80]; however, the ES
was larger for the two intervention groups (0.37 and 0.46)
compared to the control group (0.20). Improvements over
middle-distances (1500–3000 m) were generally moderate
(3–5%, ES: 0.4–1.0). Moderate to large effects (ES:[1.0)
were observed for two studies [31,88] that evaluated
performance over longer distances (5–10 km); however,
the relative improvements were quite similar (2–4%) over
long distances compared to shorter distances
3.10 Anaerobic Outcomes
Tests relating to anaerobic determinants of distance run-
ning performance were used in five investigations. Sprint
speed over 20 m [73,87] and 30 m [78] showed statis-
tically significant improvements following ST (1.1–3.4%).
Two studies provided evidence for enhancement of
Table 3 continued
Study Main strength outcomes Economy _
VO2peak v
VO2max Blood lactate Time trial Anaerobic
Body composition
et al.
1RM half–squat (45%,
ES =2.4, p\0.01), SJ
(8.9%, ES =0.83,
p\0.05), CMJ (5.9%,
ES =0.65, p\0.05)
@10 km h
, NS NS NS v3.5 mmol L
, NS 5 min TT
ES =0.95,
40 min TT,
I: Leg mass (3.1%,
ES =1.69,
p=p\0.05), body
mass, NS
C: Leg mass (-2.2%),
body mass decrease
(-1.2%, p\0.05)
ARD anaerobic running distance, BJ broad jump, BL blood lactate, CMJ counter-movement jump, Ccontrol group, DJ drop jump, DJ
drop jump reactive strength index, EC energy cost,
EMG electromyography, ERT explosive resistance training, FFM fat-free mass, FU fractional utilization, GCT ground contact time, GRF ground reaction force, HR heart rate, HRT heavy
resistance training, Iintervention group, k
leg stiffness, k
vertical stiffness, (s)LT (speed at) lactate threshold, MAS maximal aerobic speed, MTS musculotendinous stiffness, MVC
maximum voluntary contraction, PPO peak power output, PT plyometric training, QF quadriceps femoris, RCP respiratory compensation point (V
), RFD rate of force development, RM
repetition maximum, RMR resting metabolic rate, RT resistance training, RT
resistance training with whole body vibration, SJ squat jump, TT time trial, TTE time to exhaustion, vvelocity,
vMART velocity during maximal anaerobic running test,
VO2oxygen uptake,
VO2peak highest oxygen uptake associated with a maximal aerobic exercise test, v
VO2max velocity
associated with
VO2max,wk week
1132 R. C. Blagrove et al.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
vMART [73,78], and one further study showed no
change in anaerobic running distance after 6 weeks of
HRT [31]. A 30-s Wingate test was also used in one
paper; however, no differences in performance were noted
3.11 Body Composition
Body mass did not change from baseline in 18 of the
studies [32,33,36,38,7275,77,7981,83,84,8689];
however, one investigation reported a significant increase
(2%, ES: 0.32) following ST [78]. This study also docu-
mented changes in the thickness of quadriceps femoris
muscle in both the intervention (3.9%, ES: 0.35) and
control group (1.9%, ES: 0.10) [78]. Similarly, an increase
in total lean mass (3%) and leg lean mass (3%) was found
following 12 weeks of ST despite little alteration in cross-
sectional area of the vastus lateralis and body mass being
noted [90,92]. Another study observed a significant
decrease (-1.2%) in body mass in the control group, with
no change in the intervention group [32]. A significant
increase in leg mass (3.1%, ES: 1.69) was also noted in this
study [32,38]. Other indices of body composition that
exhibited no significant changes were: fat mass
[33,36,72,73,78,86], fat-free mass [36,72,86], lean
muscle mass [33,78], skinfolds [83,89], and limb girth
measurements [72,73,83].
4 Discussion
The aim of this systematic review was to identify and
evaluate current literature which investigated the effects of
ST exercise on the physiological determinants of middle-
and long-distance running performance. The addition of
new research published in this area, and the application of
more liberal criteria provided results for 50% more par-
ticipants (n=469) compared to a recent review on RE
[10]. Based upon the data presented herein, it appears that
ST activities can positively affect performance directly and
provide benefits to several physiological parameters that
are important for distance running. However, inconsisten-
cies exist within the literature, that can be attributed to
differences in methodologies and characteristics of study
participants, thus practitioners should be cautious when
applying generalized recommendations to their athletes.
Despite the moderate PEDro scores (4, 5, or 6), the quality
of the works reviewed in this paper are generally consid-
ered acceptable when the unavoidable constraints imposed
by a training intervention study (related to blinding) are
taken into account.
4.1 Running Economy
Running economy, defined as the oxygen or energy cost to
run at a given sub-maximal velocity, is influenced by a
variety of factors, including force-related and stretch–
shortening cycle qualities, which can be improved with ST
activities. In general, an ST intervention, lasting
6–20 weeks, added to the training program of a distance
runner appears to enhance RE by 2–8%. This finding is in
agreement with previous meta-analytical reviews in this
area that show concurrent training has a beneficial effect
(*4%) on RE [10,26]. In real terms, an improvement in
RE of this magnitude should theoretically allow a runner to
operate at a lower relative intensity and thus improve
training and/or race performance. No studies attempted to
demonstrate this link directly, although inferences were
made in studies, which noted improvements in RE and
performance separately [73,80,88]. Other works provide
evidence that small alterations in RE (*1.1%) directly
translate to changes (*0.8%) in sub-maximal [94] and
maximal running performance [95]. The typical error of
measurement of RE has been reported to be 1–2% [9699]
and the smallest worthwhile change *2% [94,98,100],
which is thought to represent a ‘‘real’’ improvement and
not simply a change due to variability of the measure.
Taken together, it is therefore likely that the improvements
seen in RE following a period of concurrent training would
represent a meaningful change in performance.
Improvements were observed in moderately-trained
[72,76,84,86], well-trained [33,36,73,75,79,80,88]
and highly-trained participants [74,77], suggesting runners
of any training status can benefit from ST. Different modes
of ST were utilized in the studies, with RT or HRT
[72,78,79,84,86], ERT [80], PT [75,76,80], and a
combination of these activities [33,36,77], all augmenting
RE to a similar extent. Single-joint isometric RT may also
provide a benefit if performed at a high frequency (4
day week
)[84]. Several studies adopted a periodized
approach to the types of ST prioritized during each 3- to
6-week cycle [33,36,77,88], which is likely to provide the
best strategy to optimize gains long-term [101].
Six studies [32,8183,89,91] failed to show any
improvement in RE and a further six [36,73,7678,86]
observed both improvements and an absence of change at
various velocities. This implies benefits are more likely to
occur under specific conditions relating to the choice of
exercises, participant characteristics, and velocity used to
measure RE. In most studies that observed a benefit,
exercises with free weights were utilized
[33,36,72,74,86,88]. Multi-joint exercises using free
weights are likely to provide a superior neuromuscular
stimulus compared to machine-based or single-joint exer-
cises as they demand greater levels of co-ordination, multi-
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1133
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planar control, activation of synergistic muscle groups
[102,103] and usually require force to be produced from
closed-kinetic chain positions. These types of exercise also
have a greater biomechanical similarity to the running
action so are therefore likely to provide a greater level of
specificity and hence transfer of training effect [104]. An
insufficient overload or a lack of movement pattern
specificity may therefore be the reason for the absence of
an effect in studies that used only resistance machines
[32,81] or a single-joint exercise [82]. These studies were
also characterized by a lower frequency of sessions com-
pared to studies that used similar RT exercises but did
observe an improvement in RE [78,84].
Moderately-trained runners were used in three of the six
studies showing an absence of effect [81,83,91] and one
used triathletes who performed a relatively low volume of
running (34.8 km week
) as part of their training [83].
However, a similar number of studies who used recre-
ational athletes did show a positive effect [72,76,84,86],
suggesting that training level is unlikely to be the reason
for the lack of response in these studies. This is also con-
firmed by recent observations that showed improvement in
RE following a period of concurrent training was similar
across individuals irrespective of training status and the
number of sessions per week ST was performed [10].
The velocity used to assess RE may also explain the
discrepancies in results across studies. It has been sug-
gested that runners are most economical at the speeds they
practice at most [98], and for investigations that utilized
PT, stretch–shortening cycle improvements are likely to
manifest at high running speeds where elastic mechanisms
have greatest contribution [83,105]. Therefore a velocity-
specific measurement of RE may be the most valid strategy
to establish whether an improvement has occurred. For
example, Saunders and associates [77] observed an
improvement (p=0.02, ES: 0.35) at 18 km h
in elite
runners, but an absence of change at slower speeds. Sim-
ilarly, Millet and colleagues [74] noted large (ES:[1.1)
improvements at speeds faster than 75% v
(*15 km h
) in highly-trained triathletes, and Paavo-
lainen et al. [73] detected changes at 15 km h
but not
slower speeds in well-trained runners. Furthermore, Pia-
centini and co-workers [86] found improvement at race-
pace in recreational marathon runners but not at a slower
and a faster velocity. Improvements observed at faster
compared to slower speeds may also reflect improvements
in motor unit recruitment as a consequence of ST. As
running speed increases there is a requirement for greater
peak vertical forces due to shorter ground contact times,
which elevates metabolic cost [25]. To produce higher
forces, yet overcome a reduction in force per motor unit as
a consequence of a faster shortening velocity, more motor
unit recruitment is required [106]. Thus, an increase in
absolute motor unit recruitment following a period of ST
would result in a lower relative intensity reducing the
necessity to recruit higher threshold motor units during
running [25]. Several studies that failed to show any
response used a single velocity to assess RE [32,83,89],
perhaps indicating that the velocity selected was unsuit-
able to capture an improvement. Furthermore, only a small
number of studies used relative speeds [33,74,79,81,82],
with most choosing to assess participants at the same
absolute intensity. A given speed for one runner may rep-
resent a high relative intensity, whereas for another runner
it may be a relatively low intensity. Therefore selecting the
same absolute speed in a group heterogeneous with respect
VO2max, may not provide a true reflection of any changes
which take place following an intervention. Moreover, this
may also confound any potential improvements observed
in fractional utilization of
Several common procedural issues exist in the studies
reviewed, which may influence the interpretation of results
and therefore conclusions drawn. The majority of studies
quantified RE and
VO2max as a ratio to body mass; how-
ever, oxygen uptake does not show a linear relationship
with increasing body size [107]. It is also known that the
relationship between body size and metabolic response
varies across intensities, with a trend for an increasing size
exponent as individuals move from low-intensity towards
maximal exercise [108,109]. Moreover, allometric scaling
is likely to decrease interindividual variability [110],
potentially improving the reliability of observations [99].
Ratio-scaling RE for all velocities to body mass is therefore
theoretically and statistically inappropriate [111]. Just two
studies [79,80] used an appropriate allometric scaling
exponent (0.75) to account for the non-linearity associated
with oxygen uptake response to differences in body mass,
both establishing a large ES in their results. The unsuit-
ability of ratio-scaling as a normalization technique when
processing physiological data is likely to have influenced
the statistical outcomes of some studies and thus inaccurate
conclusions may have been generated.
Running economy was expressed as oxygen cost in all
but three studies [82,84,91], which quantified RE using
the energy cost method. As the energy yield from the
oxidation of carbohydrates and lipids differs, subtle alter-
ations in substrate utilization during exercise can confound
measurement of RE when expressed simply as an oxygen
uptake value. Energy cost is therefore the more valid
[112,113] and reliable [99] metric for expressing econ-
omy, compared to traditional oxygen cost, as metabolic
energy expenditure can be calculated using the respiratory
exchange ratio, thus accounting for differences in substrate
utilization. Despite attempts to control for confounding
1134 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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variables such as diet and lifestyle in most studies, equiv-
alence in inter-trial substrate utilization cannot be guaran-
teed, which may have impacted upon the measurement of
4.2 Maximal Oxygen Uptake
Maximal oxygen uptake is widely regarded as one of the
most important factors in distance running success [114],
therefore the objective for any distance runner is to maxi-
mize their aerobic power [9]. An individual’s
VO2max is
limited by their ability to uptake, transport and utilize
oxygen in the mitochondria of working muscles. Endur-
ance training involving prolonged continuous bouts of
exercise or high intensity interval training induces adap-
tations primarily within the cardiovascular and metabolic
systems that results in improvements in
VO2max [9,115].
Conversely, ST is associated with a hypertrophy response
that increases body mass and has been reported to decrease
capillary density, oxidative enzymes and mitochondrial
density [116118], which would adversely impact aerobic
performance. Theoretically there is therefore little basis for
ST as a strategy to enhance aerobic power. However it is
important to address whether in fact
VO2max is negatively
affected when distance running is performed concurrently
with ST.
Thirteen works in this review found no change in
VO2max following the intervention period, demonstrating
that although ST does not appear to positively influence
VO2max, it also does not hinder aerobic power. Although
ST in most studies was supplementary to running training,
it appears that the additional physiological stimulus pro-
vided by ST was insufficient to elicit changes in cardio-
vascular-related parameters [119]. Three studies did
observe significant increases in aerobic power that did not
differ to the change observed in the control group [33,81,
91], and one further study found an improvement in
VO2max in the control group only [78]. It is perhaps sur-
prising that more studies did not find an increase in
(in any group) given that participants continued their nor-
mal running training through the study period. Improve-
ments in
VO2max of 5–10% have been shown following
relatively short periods (\6 weeks) of endurance training
[9]; however, the magnitude of changes is dependent upon
a variety of factors including the initial fitness level of
individuals and the duration and nature of the training
programoo [120]. Maximal oxygen uptake is known to
have an innate upper limit for each individual, therefore in
highly-trained and elite runners, long-term performance
improvement is likely to result from enhancement of other
physiological determinants, such as RE, fractional
utilization and v
VO2max [4,121,122]. A number of studies
used moderately-trained participants [23,72,76,81,91],
who would be the most likely to show an improvement in
VO2max following a 6- to 14-week period of running, with
two investigations demonstrating improvements for both
groups [81,91]. The absence of
VO2max improvement in
other papers suggests that the duration of the study and/or
the training stimulus, was insufficient to generate an
improvement [120]. Indeed, one study of 40 weeks’ dura-
tion in Collegiate level runners observed similar improve-
ments (ES: 0.5–0.6) in
VO2max in both groups [33],
suggesting a longer time period may be required to detect
changes in runners with a higher training status. High-in-
tensity aerobic training ([80%
VO2max) is a potent stim-
ulus for driving changes in
VO2max[123]; however, some
studies reported runners predominantly utilized low-inten-
sity (\70%
VO2max) continuous running [74,78,89],
which may also explain the lack of changes observed.
4.3 Velocity Associated with
An individual’s v
VO2max is influenced by their
and anaerobic factors including neuromuscular capacity [4,
124]. The amalgamation of several physiological qualities
into this single determinant appears to more accurately
differentiate performance, particularly in well-trained run-
ners [3,98,125,126], therefore v
VO2max has been labelled
as an important endurance-specific measure of muscular
power [127].
Improvements for v
VO2max (3–4%, ES: 0.42–0.49) were
found in two investigations [80,89], with a further two
studies observing improvements (2.6–4.0%, ES: 0.57–0.9)
that could not be ascribed to the training differences
between the groups [33,74]. A number of studies also
found little change in v
VO2max following an intervention
[31,32,36,78,85]. As v
VO2max is the product of the
interaction between aerobic and anaerobic variables, a
small improvement in one area of physiology may not
necessarily result in an increase in v
VO2max. Damasceno
et al. [89] found an improvement in v
VO2max (2.9%,
p\0.05, ES: 0.42) despite detecting no change in
RE or Wingate performance, therefore attributed the
change to the large improvements (23%, ES: 1.41) in the
force-producing ability they observed in participants.
Conversely, Berryman and associates [80] found changes
in v
VO2max (4.2%, ES: 0.43–0.49) alongside improvements
in RE (4–7%, ES: 1.01), moderate increases in power
output, and no change in
VO2max scores. Beattie and co-
workers [33] credited the change in v
VO2max they observed
(20-weeks: 3.5%, ES: 0.7) to the accumulation of
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1135
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improvements in RE,
VO2max and anaerobic factors; how-
ever, these were not sufficiently large enough to provide a
significant group 9time interaction. Millet and colleagues
[74] found notable improvements in RE (7.4%, ES: 1.14);
however, changes in RE could not explain the changes
observed in v
VO2max (r=-0.46, p=0.09). It may also
be the case that longer periods of ST are required before an
improvement in v
VO2max is detected, as studies showing an
improvement (2.6–4.0%, ES: 0.57–0.9) from baseline las-
ted 14 weeks or more [33,74], and studies showing little
change tended to be 6–8 weeks in duration [31,78,85].
The conflicting results could also be explained by the
inconsistency in methods used to define v
number of different protocols and predictive methods have
been suggested to assess v
VO2max [4], including determi-
nation from the
VO2-velocity relationship [128] and the
peak running speed attained during a maximal test using
speed increments to achieve exhaustion [21,127]. All
studies that measured v
VO2max in this review did so via an
incremental run to exhaustion progressed using velocity.
Velocity at
VO2max was taken as the highest speed that
could be maintained for a full 60-s stage [78,80,85], an
average of the final 30-s [31,36], the mean velocity in the
final 120-s [32], or the minimum velocity that elicited
VO2max [33,74]. Although a direct approach to the mea-
surement of v
VO2max has been recommended [4], due to
the velocity increments (0.5–1.0 km h
) used in these
investigations, this may not provide sufficient sensitivity to
detect a change following a short- to medium-term inter-
vention. Damasceno and associates [89] calculated
VO2max using a more precise method based upon the
fractional time participants reached through the final stage
of the test multiplied by the increment rate. This perhaps
provided a greater level of accuracy which allowed the
authors to identify the differences in changes which existed
between the groups. Taken together, there is weak evidence
that v
VO2max can be improved following an ST interven-
tion, despite constituent physiological qualities often
exhibiting change. Differences in the protocols used to
determine v
VO2max makes comparison problematic; how-
ever, a more precise measurement of v
VO2max that
accounts for partial completion of a final stage is likely to
provide the sensitivity to identify subtle changes that may
The critical velocity model, which represents exercise
tolerance in the severe intensity domain, potentially offers
an alternative to measurement of v
VO2max that is currently
uninvestigated in runners [35,129]. Two main parameters
can be assessed using the critical velocity model; critical
velocity itself, which is defined as the lower boundary of
the severe intensity domain which when maintained to
exhaustion leads to attainment of
VO2max, and the curva-
ture constant of the velocity–time hyperbola above critical
velocity, which is represented by the total distance that can
be covered prior to exhaustion at a constant velocity [130].
Middle-distance running performance (800 m) is strongly
related to critical velocity models (r=0.83–0.94) in
trained runners [131], and may be more important than RE
in well-trained runners [35]. Evidence from studies using
untrained participants has demonstrated that the total
amount of work that can be performed above critical power
during high-intensity cycling exercise is improved
(35–60%) following 6–8 weeks of RT [132,133]. Future
investigations should therefore address the dearth in liter-
ature around how ST might positively influence parameters
related to the critical velocity model [35].
4.4 Blood Lactate Markers
A runner’s velocity at a reference point on the lactate-
velocity curve (e.g., LT) or BL for a given running speed
are important predictors of distance running performance
[134136]. A runners LT also corresponds to the fractional
utilization of
VO2max that can be sustained for a given
distance [114], therefore an increase in LT also allows a
greater proportion of aerobic capacity to be accessed.
In contrast to RE, ST appears to have little impact upon
BL markers. This is quite surprising as an improvement in
RE should theoretically result in an enhancement in speed
for a fixed BL concentration. This suggests that adaptations
to RE can occur independently to changes in metabolic
markers of performance. An absence of change in BL also
implies that ST does not alter anaerobic energy contribu-
tion during running, thus assuming aerobic energy cost of
running is reduced following ST, it can be inferred that
total energy cost (aerobic plus anaerobic energy) is also
likely to be reduced. Previous studies have shown as little
as 6 weeks of endurance training can improve BL levels or
the velocity corresponding to an arbitrary BL value in
runners [137139]. The intensity of training is important to
elicit improvement in BL parameters [140], therefore it
appears that the running training prescription may have
been insufficient to stimulate improvements, or the training
status of participants meant a longer period was required to
realize a meaningful change. In addition, the inter-session
reliability of BL measurement between 2–4 mmol L
is *0.2 mmol L
[99], therefore over a short study
duration this metric may not provide sufficient sensitivity
to detect change.
Training at an intensity above the LT is likely to result
in a reduction in the rate of BL production (and therefore
accumulation), or an improved lactate clearance ability
from the blood [9]. Short duration high-intensity bouts of
1136 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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activity generate high levels of BL so drive metabolic
adaptations which can result in an improvement in per-
formance [141143]. Studies that have utilized high-repe-
tition, low-load RT in endurance athletes therefore have the
potential to produce high BL concentrations so may pro-
vide an additional stimulus to improve performance via BL
parameters. This theory is supported by works that have
demonstrated improvements in BL-related variables in
endurance athletes following an intervention that uses a
strength-endurance style of conditioning with limited rest
between sets [54,62,144]. The ST prescription in the
studies reviewed was predominantly low-repetition, high-
intensity RT or PT, which is unlikely to have provided a
metabolic environment sufficient to directly enhance
adaptations related to BL markers.
4.5 Time-Trial Performance
Physiological parameters such as
and LT are clearly important determinants that can be
quantified in a laboratory; however, for a runner, TT per-
formance possesses a far higher degree of external validity.
Similar improvements in TT performance were observed
for middle-distance events (3–5%, ES: 0.4–1.0) and long-
distance events up to 10 km (2–4%, ES: 1.06–1.5). In the
majority of these studies, time trials took place in a similar
environment and under comparable conditions to a race,
therefore these findings have genuine applicability to ‘‘real-
life’’ scenarios. These improvements are likely to be a
consequence of significant enhancements in one or more
determinants of performance. Interestingly, Damasceno
and co-authors [89] found an improvement in 10 km TT
performance due to the attainment of higher speeds in the
final 3 km, despite observing no change in RE during a
separate assessment. This suggests that greater levels of
muscular strength may result in lower levels of relative
force production per stride, thereby delaying recruitment of
higher threshold muscle fibers and thus providing a fatigue
resistant effect [145]. This subsequently manifests in a
superior performance during the latter stages of long-dis-
tance events [89].
Four studies observed no difference in performance
change compared to a control group [38,75,80,90,92].
Vikmoen and colleagues [38] attributed a lack of effect in
their 40 min TT to the slow running velocity caused by the
5.3% treadmill inclination used in the test. This was also
the only study to use a treadmill set to a pre-determined
velocity which participants could control once the test had
commenced. The absence of natural self-pacing may
therefore have prevented participants achieving their true
potential on the test. Spurrs et al. [75] and Berryman et al.
[80] both found improvements in 3 km performance
compared to a pre-training measure of a comparable
magnitude to other studies (2.7–4.8%, ES: 0.13–0.46);
however, changes were not significantly different to a
control group, suggesting ST provided no additional benefit
or there was a practice effect associated with the test.
It could be possible that enhancement of physiological
qualities in some studies could be attributed to RT being
positioned immediately after low-intensity, non-depleting
running sessions [146]. This arrangement of activities in
concurrent training programs has been shown to provide a
superior stimulus for endurance adaptation compared to
performing separate sessions, and without compromising
the signaling response regulating strength gains [147,148].
This, however, appears not to be the case, as most studies
reported ST activities took place on different days to run-
ning sessions [85,88,89] or were at least performed as
separate sessions within the same day [33,36,38,72,75,
78]. Only three studies performed ST and running imme-
diately after one another, with one positioning PT before
running [87] and one lacking clarity on sequencing [76].
Schumann and colleagues [90,92] observed no additional
benefit to both strength and endurance outcomes compared
to a running only group, when ST was performed imme-
diately following an incremental running session (65–85%
maximal heart rate), citing residual fatigue which com-
promised quality of ST sessions as the reason.
4.6 Anaerobic Running Performance
The contribution of anaerobic factors to distance running
performance is well established [127,149]. In particular,
anaerobic capacity and neuromuscular capabilities are
thought to play a large role in discriminating performance
in runners who are closely matched from an aerobic per-
spective [124,150]. An individual’s v
VO2max perhaps
provides the most functional representation of neuromus-
cular power in distance runners; however, measures of
maximal running velocity and anaerobic capacity are also
potentially important [127].
Tests for pure maximal sprinting velocity (20–30 m)
were used in three studies [73,78,87] and showed
improvements (1.1–3.4%) following ST in every case. This
confirms results from previous studies that have shown
sprinting performance can be positively affected by an ST
intervention in shorter-distance specialists [151153]. This
finding has important implications for distance runners, as
competitive events often involve mid-race surges and
outcomes are frequently determined in sprint-finishes,
particularly at an elite level [154157]. Middle-distance
runners also benefit from an ability to produce fast running
speeds at the start of races [158], therefore improving
maximum speed allows for a greater ‘‘anaerobic speed
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1137
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reserve’’ [159], resulting in a lower relative work-rate, and
thus decreasing anaerobic energy contribution [41]. Inter-
estingly, endurance training in cyclists has been shown to
improve critical power [160] but reduce work capacity for
short duration exercise [161,162]. It is unknown whether
long-term aerobic training has a similar effect on anaerobic
running qualities; however, ST offers a strategy to avoid
this potential negative consequence.
The velocity attained during a maximal anaerobic run-
ning test provides an indirect measure of anaerobic and
neuromuscular performance, and has a strong relationship
(r=0.85) to v
VO2max [19]. The vMART is particularly
relevant to middle-distance runners because it requires
athletes to produce fast running speeds under high-levels of
fatigue caused by the acidosis and metabolites derived
from glycolysis [163]. Both studies that included this test
observed significant improvements in vMART (1.1–3.4%),
which can be attributed to changes observed in neuro-
muscular power as a result of the ST intervention [73,78].
One study showed no alteration in the predicted distance
achieved on an anaerobic running test following 6 weeks
of HRT; however, the validity and reliability of the test was
questioned by the authors [31]. Performance on a 30 s
Wingate test was also unchanged following 8 weeks of
running training combined with HRT in recreational par-
ticipants [89]. This finding perhaps underlines the impor-
tance of selecting tests which are specific to the training
which has been performed in the investigation.
4.7 Strength Outcomes
Changes in strength outcomes were evident in most studies
despite all but one [78] observing no change in body mass.
Since strength changes can be ascribed to both neurological
and morphological adaptations [164], it is therefore likely
that improvements are primarily underpinned by alterations
in intra- and inter-muscular co-ordination. It is also known
that initial gains in strength in non-strength trained indi-
viduals are the consequence of neural adaptations rather
than structural changes [118]. An improvement in force
producing capability is perhaps expected in individuals
who have little or no strength-training experience [165];
however, concurrent regimens of training have consistently
been shown to attenuate strength-related adaptation [30].
The seminal paper published by Hickson et al. [48] was
the first to identify the potential for endurance exercise to
mitigate strength gains, when both training modalities were
performed concurrently within the same program. Follow-
up investigations have since shown mixed results
[166171], but evidence from this review clearly demon-
strates that, for the distance runner at least, strength-related
improvements are certainly possible following a concurrent
period of training. Nevertheless, the study designs adopted
by the works under review did not include a strength-only
training group, thus it is not possible to determine whether
strength adaptation was in fact negated under a concurrent
regimen. One study using well-trained endurance cyclists
with no ST experience, observed a blunted strength
response in a group who added ST to their endurance
training compared to a group who only performed ST
[170]. Based upon this finding and other similar observa-
tions [167,172,173] it seems likely that although distance
runners can significantly improve their strength using a
concurrent approach to training, strength outcomes are
unlikely to be maximized. Moreover, the degree of inter-
ference with strength-adaptation also appears to be exac-
erbated when volumes of endurance training are increased
and the duration of concurrent training programs is longer
4.8 Body Composition
Resistance training performed 2–3 times per week is
associated with increases in muscle cross-sectional area as
a principal adaptation [174]. Although gains in gross body
mass may appear to be an unfavorable outcome for dis-
tance runners, the addition of muscle mass to proximal
regions of the lower limb (i.e., gluteal muscles) should
theoretically provide an advantage, via increases in hip
extension forces, minimizing moment of inertia of the
swinging limb, and reducing absolute energy usage [25]. It
is somewhat surprising that virtually all studies demon-
strated an absence of change in body mass, fat-free mass,
lean muscle mass, and limb girths. Other than one inves-
tigation [33], the duration of the studies that observed no
effect on measures of body composition was\14 weeks,
suggesting this may not have been sufficiently long to
demonstrate a clear hypertrophic response. There is also a
possibility that small increases in muscle mass within
specific muscle groups (e.g., gluteals) were present, and
contributed to the improvements observed in RE, but these
may not have been detectable using a gross measure of
mass. Evidence for this may have occurred in the Schu-
mann et al. study [90,92], who observed increases in total
lean mass (3%) despite noting no significant change in
body mass or cross-sectional area of the vastus lateralis
compared to baseline measures.
The interference effect observed during concomitant
integration of endurance and ST as part of the same pro-
gram may also provide an explanation for the lack of
change in measures of mass. Following a bout of exercise,
a number of primary and secondary signaling messengers
are up regulated for 3–12 h [175], which initiate a series of
molecular events that serve to activate or suppress specific
1138 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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genes. The signaling messengers which are activated, relate
to the specific stress which is imposed on the physiological
systems involved in an exercise bout. Strength training
causes mechanical perturbation to the muscle cell, which
elicits a multitude of signaling pathways that lead to a
hypertrophic response [176]. In particular, the secretion of
insulin-like growth factor-1 as a result of intense muscular
contraction is likely to cause a cascade of signaling events
which increase activity of phosphoinositide-3-dependent
kinase (Pl-3 k) and the mammalian target of Rapamycin
(mTOR) [177179]. There is strong evidence that mTOR is
responsible for mediating skeletal muscle hypertrophy via
activation of ribosome proteins which up regulate protein
synthesis [180]. Prolonged exercise bouts, such as those
associated with endurance training, activate metabolic
signals related to energy depletion, uptake and release of
calcium ions from the sarcoplasmic reticulum and oxida-
tive stress in cells [181]. Adenosine monophosphate acti-
vated kinase (AMPK) is a potent secondary messenger
which functions to monitor energy homeostasis [182] and
when activated, modulates the release of peroxisome pro-
liferator co-activator-1a, which along with calcium-
calmodulin-dependent kinases increase mitochondrial
function to enhance aerobic function [181,183,184].
Crucially though, AMPK also acts to inhibit the Pl-3 k/
mTOR stage of the pathway via activation of the tuberous
sclerosis complex thereby suppressing the ST induced up
regulation of protein synthesis [185,186]. This conflict
arising at a molecular signaling level therefore appears to
impair the muscle fiber hypertrophy response to ST and
attenuate increases in body mass [186].
4.9 Muscle–Tendon Interaction Mechanisms
The potential mechanisms for the positive changes
observed in physiological parameters underpinning running
performance were directly investigated in three studies [82,
84,91], and were inferred from gait measures [36,7375,
77] and strength outcomes in others. It is well documented
that muscle–tendon unit stiffness correlates well with RE
[187189]. Tendons are also highly adaptable to mechan-
ical loading and have been shown to increase in stiffness in
response to HRT and PT [84,190,191]. Despite observing
no statistical effect for HRT on RE, Fletcher and col-
leagues [82] also found a relationship between the change
in RE and the changes observed in Achilles tendon stiff-
ness. Despite these associations, it is likely that improve-
ments in RE are a consequence of the interaction between
adaptations to tendon properties and improvements in
motor unit activation which influence behavior of force–
length-velocity properties of muscles [25]. It tends to be
assumed that improved tendon stiffness allows the body to
store and return elastic energy more effectively, which
results in a reduction in muscle energy cost due to a greater
contribution from the elastic recoil properties of tendons
[192]. Indeed, authors of studies in the present review have
argued that the improvements observed in RE following a
period of ST are due to an enhanced utilization of elastic
energy during running [36,7375]. An alternative pro-
posal, based upon more recent evidence, suggests the
Achilles tendon provides a very small contribution to the
total energy cost of running therefore improvements in
stiffness provide a negligible reduction in energy cost [193,
194]. Instead, a tendon with an optimal stiffness con-
tributes to reducing RE by minimizing the magnitude and
velocity of muscle shortening, thus allowing muscle fas-
cicles to optimize their length and remain closer to an
isometric state [25]. A reduction in the amount and velocity
of fiber shortening therefore reduces the level of muscle
activation required and hence the energy cost of running
The improvements observed in maximal and explosive
strength, which can be attributed to increases in motor unit
recruitment and firing frequency, enable the lower limb to
resist eccentric forces during the early part of ground
contact [165] and thus contribute to the attainment of a
near isometric state during stance. As the force required to
sustain speed during distance running performance is
submaximal, the level of motor unit activation needed can
be minimized when fascicles contract isometrically [25].
This enables the Achilles tendon in particular to accom-
modate a greater proportion of the muscle–tendon unit
length change during running thereby reducing metabolic
cost [194]. Variables which provide an indirect measure of
the neuromuscular systems ability to produce force rapidly
and utilize tendon stiffness were found to improve in other
studies that showed improvements in running performance
and/or key determinants [73,74,7880,87]. However,
some studies found improvements in running-related
parameters despite observing no alterations in jump per-
formance [33,7678,91], rate of force development [36,
75,77], or stiffness [33,74,89] illustrating that measures
were insufficiently sensitive to detect change, or a combi-
nation of mechanisms is likely to be contributing towards
the enhancements observed.
Heavy RT causes a shift in muscle fiber phenotype, from
the less efficient myosin heavy chain (MHC) IIx to more
oxidative MHC IIa, [195,196]. A higher proportion of
MHC IIa has been shown to relate to better running
economy [91,197,198]; however, whether changes to
MHC properties as a result of ST contribute to an
improvement in RE and performance remains to be deter-
mined. One previous study provided evidence that 4 weeks
of sprint running (30-s bouts) improve RE and also the
percentage of MHC IIx [199]; however, the absence of
endurance training may partly explain the shift in
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1139
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phenotype. Over a longer period (6 weeks), Pellegrino and
co-workers [91] found no measurable changes in MHC
isoforms following a PT intervention despite a significant
improvement in 3 km TT performance, suggesting that a
contribution from this mechanism is unlikely for distance
It could also be speculated that improvements in RE due
to improved strength might have resulted in subtle changes
to running kinematics, thus enabling participants to per-
form less work for a given submaximal speed [72]. There is
currently little direct support for this conjecture; however,
previous work has shown that running technique is an
important component of RE [200,201], and improving hip
strength can reduce undesirable frontal and transverse
plane motion in the lower limb during running [202]. One
study in this review did observe a reduction in EMG
amplitude in the superficial musculature of the lower limb
following ST; however, this wasn’t accompanied by an
improvement in RE [83]. This suggests that favorable
adaptations in neuromuscular control do not necessarily
translate to reducing the metabolic cost of running. Addi-
tionally, two studies showed significant increases
(3.0–4.4%) in ground contact time during submaximal
running after an ST intervention [36,81]; however, only
Giovanelli and colleagues [36] found a corresponding
improvement in RE. Several papers have demonstrated an
inverse relationship between RE and ground contact times
[201,203,204], since a lower peak vertical force is
required to generate the same amount of impulse during
longer compared to short ground contacts [25]. Although
there is currently minimal evidence to suggest an ST
intervention increases ground contact time during sub-
maximal running, this mechanism may in part explain the
improvements in RE.
4.10 Strength-Training Prescription
4.10.1 Modality and Exercise Selection
The works included in this review used a variety of ST
modalities; however, the most effective type of training is
currently difficult to discern. Adaptations are specific to the
demands placed upon the body, therefore it would be
expected that HRT, ERT and PT produce somewhat dif-
ferent outcomes [205]. This can be observed in the study by
Berryman and co-workers [80], who observed larger
improvements in explosive concentric power in a group
following an ERT program compared to a group who used
PT. The opposite result occurred for the counter-movement
jump, which places a greater reliance on a plyometric
action; the PT group displayed greater improvements than
the ERT group [80]. Heavy RT, which is characterized by
slow velocities of movement, is likely to improve agonist
muscle activation via enhanced recruitment of the motor
neuron pool, whereas ERT, which involves lighter loads
being moved rapidly, tends to enhance firing frequency and
hence improve rate of force development [164,165]. Ply-
ometric training develops properties related to the stretch–
shortening cycle function [206], and uses movements pat-
terns which closely mimic the running action (e.g., hopping
and skipping). It is therefore likely that although a variety
of ST methods are capable of improving physiological
parameters relating to distance running performance, the
mechanisms underpinning the response may differ.
In less strength-trained individuals, such as those used in
the studies reviewed, any novel ST stimulus is likely to
provide a sufficient overload to the neuromuscular system
to induce an adaptation in the short term [207]. This is
perhaps why ST is effective even in highly-trained distance
runners [74,77,87]. Studies that have attempted to com-
pare ST techniques in distance runners have generally
shown HRT to be superior to ERT or a mixed methods
approach at improving aerobic parameters [57,63] and
maximal anaerobic running speed [62]. Plyometric training
has also shown superiority to ERT for improvement of RE
in moderately trained runners [80]. Other investigations
have found no differences in the physiological changes
between groups using HRT, ERT or a mixture of modali-
ties [62,65]. A number of studies have also shown HRT
and/or ERT to be more beneficial to a muscular endurance
style of ST [59,64,65,67,86]. The addition of whole body
vibration to RT also provides no extra benefit [85].
Although ERT and PT may have more appeal compared to
HRT due to their higher-level of biomechanical similarity
to running, an initial period of HRT is likely to provide an
advantage long-term in terms of reducing injury risk [208]
and eliciting a more pronounced training effect [209].
Taken together, it seems that long-term, a mixed modality
approach to ST is most effective, as this provides the
variety and continual overload required to ensure the
neuromuscular system is constantly challenged. One study
that used a longer intervention period lends support to this
notion, as significant improvements were observed in
strength and physiological measures after 20 and 40 weeks
with a periodized methodology that used several types of
ST [33]. Further research is required to ascertain the long-
term benefits of various ST modalities and the relative
merits of different approaches to sequencing and pro-
gressing these modalities.
As discussed in Sect. 4.1, the exercises selected in an ST
program can potentially influence the magnitude of neu-
romuscular adaptation and thus the impact on physiological
determinants of performance. Exercises using free weights,
which require force to be generated from the leg extensor
muscles in a close-kinetic chain position, are the most
likely to positively transfer to running performance [210].
1140 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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Examples of RT exercises commonly used include: barbell
squat, deadlifts, step-ups and lunging movement patterns
[31,33,36,72,79,85,88]. Isometric HRT may also have
value for the plantarflexors [84]. Explosive RT, by its very
nature, should avoid a deceleration phase, therefore exer-
cises such as squat jumps and Olympic weightlifting
derivatives should be utilized [33,80]. To maximize
transfer to distance running performance, particularly at
faster speeds, PT exercises should exhibit short ground
contact times (\0.2 s) [36,72], which approximates the
contact times observed in competitive middle- [211] and
long-distance running [212], and encourages a rapid exci-
tation–contraction coupling sequence and improved mus-
culotendinous stiffness [36,7375]. Exercises which
possess a low to moderate eccentric demand such as depth
jumps (from a 20–30 cm box), skipping, hopping, speed
bounding appear most suitable [33,73,75,77,80,83].
4.10.2 Intra-Session Variables
For non-strength trained individuals, exercise prescription
and gradual progression is important to avoid injury and
overtraining [213]. Most studies initially used 1–2 sets and
progressed to 3–6 sets over the course of the intervention
period for HRT, ERT and PT, which appears appropriate to
circumvent these risks. Several studies utilized a low (3–5)
repetition range in every HRT session [31,79,81,86]at
loads which approached maximum (C80% 1RM or repe-
tition failure), but did not observe superior benefits com-
pared to investigations that prescribed RT at moderate
loads (60–80% 1RM) and higher repetition ranges (5–15
repetitions). Sets were performed to RM in a number of
studies [32,38,72,79,81,88,89], which was likely
employed as a means of standardizing the intensity of each
set in the absence of 1RM data for participants. Performing
sets which leads to repetition failure induces a high level of
metabolic and neuromuscular fatigue, which may delay
recovery [214]. Although training to repetition failure may
be more important than the load lifted for inducing a
hypertrophy response [215], this is both unfavorable and
unnecessary to optimize gains in strength compared to a
non-repetition failure strategy [216]. Not working to rep-
etition failure also appears to become a more important
feature of RT as ST status increases [216]. Participants
were often instructed to move the weights as rapidly as
possible when performing the concentric phase of RT
exercises, which increases the likelihood of maximizing
neuromuscular adaptations [217]. Plyometric training is
characterized by high eccentric forces compared to running
and RT, therefore repetitions per set were typically low
(4–10 repetitions). Total foot contacts progressed from 30
to 60 repetitions in the first week of an intervention up to
110–228 repetitions after 6–9 weeks [73,75,76,91].
Plyometric exercises were all performed without additional
external resistance in all but one study [73] and in many
cases a short ground contact time [76,77,83] and maximal
height [80,83] were cued to amplify the intensity. An inter-
set recovery period of 2–3 min was typical for HRT, ERT
and PT, which is in line with recommendations for these
training techniques [213]. Where SpT was incorporated
into ST programs, repetition distances were short
(20–150 m) and performed at or close to maximal running
speed [73,74,88].
4.10.3 Inter-Session Variables
The majority of studies that demonstrated improvements in
running physiology scheduled ST 2–3 times per week,
which is in line with the guidelines for non-strength trained
individuals [213]. One study used just one session per week
(ERT or PT) and achieved moderate improvements in
strength outcomes and RE after 8 weeks of training [80].
Beattie and associates [33] observed small improvements
(ES: 0.3) in RE using a single ST session (mixed activities)
each week for 20 weeks; however, the participants had
already experienced moderate improvement (ES: 1.0) in
this parameter using a twice weekly program in the
20 weeks prior. For well-trained runners who complete
8–13 running sessions per week [73,77], it would be useful
to establish the minimal ST dosage required to elicit a
beneficial effect to reduce the risk of overtraining. Equally,
for the recreational runner, ST may take up valuable leisure
time that could be spent running, therefore identifying the
optimal volume and frequency of ST to achieve an
improvement in performance would be desirable. A pre-
vious meta-analysis indicated that two or three sessions per
week provides a large effect on strength, but for the non-
strength trained individual, three sessions is superior to two
sessions per week [218]. More recently, a weak relation-
ship was established between improvement in RE and
weekly frequency of ST sessions in 311 endurance runners
[10]. This suggests that higher weekly volumes of ST
would not necessarily provide greater RE improvements,
therefore two sessions per week is likely to be sufficient
Given the volume of endurance training participants
were exposed to and the duration of each study, it seems
likely that an attenuation of strength-related adaptation
would have occurred. To minimize this interference phe-
nomenon, it is therefore recommended that a recovery
period of[3 h is provided following high-intensity run-
ning training before ST takes place [146]. In many studies
running training and ST took place on different days [33,
36,85,88,89], and several papers noted a gap of[3h
between running and ST on the same day [32,38,72,78,
79]. This feature of concurrent training prescription
Effects of Strength Training on Distance Running 1141
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therefore appears important in ensuring sufficient strength-
adaptations are realized but without compromising running
training. Although there is very little evidence that the
dosage of ST prescribed impaired any endurance-related
adaptations, recent work has highlighted that acute bouts of
RT may cause fatigue sufficient to impair subsequent
running performance, which long term may result in sub-
optimal adaptation [219]. It is therefore recommended that
this potential fatigue is accounted for by allowing at least
24 h recovery between an ST session and an intensive
running session [33,85,88,89].
The results provide compelling evidence that a rela-
tively short period (6 weeks) of ST can enhance physio-
logical qualities related to distance running performance.
Improvements in RE [57] and 10 km TT performance [88]
have also been shown in as little as 4 weeks. A relationship
between intervention duration and improvement in RE has
previously been reported [10], suggesting that longer
periods of ST provide a larger benefit. The same may be
true for v
VO2max; however, more research using longer
periods of ST is required to establish if this is indeed the
case. The benefits to performance also seem to be depen-
dent on study duration as most short interventions
(6 weeks) tended to produce small TT improvements
(2.4–2.7%, ES: 0.13–0.4) [75,87,91], whereas longer
programs (8–11 weeks) resulted in moderate or large per-
formance effects (3.1–5.5%, ES: 0.67–1.50) [32,73,88]. It
would seem reasonable to assume that highly-trained dis-
tance runners would require a higher volume of ST to
achieve the same benefit as less experienced runners;
however, this does not appear to be the case. Relatively
short (6–9 weeks) periods of ST improved RE and TT
performance to a similar extent in highly-trained individ-
uals [77,87] and recreational runners [76,86,91]. It is
therefore recommended that future investigations use
periods of 10 weeks or longer to provide further insight
into how ST modalities may impact physiological param-
eters long-term in different types of distance runner.
The time of year or phase of training when the research
was conducted was not reported in the majority of studies.
Several papers indicated that the intervention formed part
of an off-season preparation period [73,74,78,82,86], but
others scheduled the intervention within the competition
period [32,38,87]. Based upon the literature reviewed, it is
currently not possible to provide specific recommendations
for ST in different phases of a runners training macrocycle,
as most studies found at least some physiological or per-
formance benefits to concurrent training. Importantly
though, evidence suggests that choosing to exclude ST
following a successful intervention period results in a
detraining effect which causes improvements to return to
baseline levels within 6 weeks [31]. The 40-week
intervention conducted by Beattie and colleagues [33]
provides evidence that reducing ST volume from two
sessions per week (both with a lower limb HRT emphasis)
during the preparatory phase to one weekly session (ERT
and PT emphasis) during the in-season racing period is
sufficient to at least maintain previous strength and phys-
iological gains. This finding corroborates with a mainte-
nance effect observed in cyclists [220,221] and soccer
players [222] showing one ST session per week is sufficient
to preserve the strength qualities developed during a pre-
ceding phase of training. Therefore, runners can decrease
ST volume from 2–3 sessions per week (each with a lower
limb focus) in preparatory phases of training to a single
session each week during the competitive season without
fearing a loss of adaptation as a consequence of the
reduction in training density.
It is currently uncertain what volume and intensity of
running and ST are most likely to avoid the interference
effect associated with concurrent training practices. One
option to minimize attenuation of strength development is
to organize activities into periods that concentrate on
developing either strength or endurance adaptation [223].
This polarized approach to planning seems unnecessary
and counterintuitive for distance runners who generally
possess little ST experience, therefore require a minimal
stimulus to create an adaptation. Indeed, studies that
replaced running training with ST [73,78,88] found no
greater benefit than those which included ST in a supple-
mentary manner.
4.10.4 Training Supervision
In most studies, the ST routine was supervised and tightly
monitored; however, similar controls were often absent for
the running training participants performed. It seems rea-
sonable to assume that any errors in participants training
logbooks would be similar across intervention and control
groups; however, validity of findings would be improved if
the running component of training had been more tightly
defined. Where supervision of the ST exercises was not
included [76] or only included for the first 2 weeks [36],
strength measures did not improve following the inter-
vention period. This indicates that a suitably qualified
coach is an important feature of an ST programme for a
distance runner who lacks ST experience.
4.11 Limitations
In addition to the limitations already highlighted in this
review, there are other weaknesses that should be
acknowledged. For many of the studies reviewed, calcu-
lation of an ES was possible for the variables measured,
which provides insight into the meaningfulness and
1142 R. C. Blagrove et al.
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substantiveness of results. However, despite the qualitative
nature of this review, interpretation of findings was pre-
dominantly based upon reported probability values, which
can be misleading due to low sample sizes and the
heterogeneity in the pool of participants studied. A rela-
tively large number of studies have been included in this
review; however, several parameters (e.g., v
VO2max and
BL) were measured in only a small number of studies,
which increases the possibility that false conclusions may
be drawn.
There was also a lack of detail concerning several
important confounding variables in studies, such as the
nature of running training prescription and participant’s
previous experience in ST. All but seven studies [31,73,
74,76,84,86,90,92] identified that participants had not
been engaged in a program of ST for at least 3 months prior
to the study commencing. Although it is perhaps unlikely
that participants in these seven studies were strength-
trained, this cannot be discounted and may therefore have
influenced findings in these investigations.
5 Conclusion and Future Research
This review is the most comprehensive to date surrounding
the potential impact of ST on the physiological determi-
nants of distance running. The research reviewed suggests
that supplementing the training of a distance runner with
ST is likely to provide improvements to RE, TT perfor-
mance and anaerobic parameters such as maximal sprint
speed. Improvements in RE in the absence of changes in
VO2max, BL and body composition parameters suggests
that the underlying mechanisms predominantly relate to
alterations in intra-muscular co-ordination and increases in
tendon stiffness which contribute to optimizing force–
length-velocity properties of muscle. Nevertheless, it is
clear that the inclusion of ST does not adversely affect
VO2max or BL markers. The addition of two to three
supervised ST sessions per week is likely to provide a
sufficient stimulus to augment parameters within a 6- to
14-week period, and benefits are likely to be larger for
interventions of a longer duration. A variety of ST
modalities can be used to achieve similar outcomes
assuming runners are of a non-strength trained status;
however, to maximize long-term adaptations, it is sug-
gested that a periodized approach is adopted with HRT
prioritized initially. Although changes in fat-free mass
were not observed in the majority of studies, a targeted RT
program, which aims to increase muscle mass specifically
around the proximal region of the lower limb may enhance
biomechanical and physiological factors which positively
influence RE.
A number of methodological issues are likely to have
contributed towards the discrepancies in results and should
be acknowledged in future research conducted in this area.
In particular, the measurement of RE should be quantified
as energy cost (rather than oxygen cost) and a variety of
speeds assessed which are relative to the maximum steady
state of each participant. Furthermore, when quantifying
RE and
VO2max, differences in body size should be
accounted for by using scaling exponents which are
appropriate for the cohort under investigation. Although a
direct measure of v
VO2max has obvious validity, the dis-
crete increments utilized during a maximal test may not
provide the sensitivity required to detect changes which
exist in this parameter following a relatively short inter-
vention. Alternative strategies to quantifying v
VO2max may
provide a solution. It is therefore recommended that future
studies focus their time and efforts on investigating the
effects of ST on physiological variables other than
and BL responses, such as RE, v
VO2max and parameters
associated with the critical power model. The nature of the
running training undertaken by participants and strength
training history potentially confounds the outcomes of
studies in this area, therefore attempts should also be made
to control these variables as much as possible.
Although the interference phenomenon is likely to have
blunted the strength adaptations observed, the extent to
which this occurs is currently uncertain due to the absence
of a strength-only training group in the studies reviewed.
For longer term interventions, where improvements inevi-
tably plateau, minimizing attenuation to strength outcomes
(and equally augmenting aerobic adaptation) potentially
becomes more important. Therefore the organization of ST
around running training provides a further avenue for
investigation. Similarly, it would be useful for practitioners
to understand the optimal sequencing of ST modalities
within a long-term program in order to optimize training
outcomes and facilitate a peaking response. Finally, very
few investigations have examined the effect of ST on
specific populations of runners such as young [78], female
[32,38,72], and masters’ age [86] competitors, therefore
future research should attempt to address this dearth in
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest Richard Blagrove, Glyn Howatson and Philip
Hayes declare that they have no conflict of interest. No funding was
provided to support the preparation of this manuscript.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://, which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give
appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a
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