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Strength and Conditioning for Adolescent Endurance Runners
Strength and Conditioning for Adolescent Endurance Runners
For the adolescent athlete who chooses to specialize in endurance running, strength and conditioning
(S&C) activities provide a means of enhancing several important determinants of performance and may
reduce the risk of overuse injury. It is recommended that adolescent endurance runners include at least
two S&C sessions per week that comprise of movement skills training, plyometric and sprint training,
resistance training, plus exercises designed to target specific tissues that are vulnerable to injury. This
article describes how these modalities of training can be integrated into the routine of adolescent
endurance runners.
Key words: paediatric, endurance, distance running, youth, concurrent training
Endurance running is a popular choice of sport for young athletes. For example, in 2016-17, cross-
country was the fourth and fifth largest sport by participation for boys and girls respectively in USA
high schools (see, and endurance running represented the second
most popular sport (18.7%) in a survey (n=7794) of Scandanvian 14 year olds (83). A young athlete
should be exposed to a wide range of sports and physical activities during their adolescence, however
the priority should be placed on the development of rudimentary motor skills and muscular strength
(49). Endurance training during early-adolescence (11-14 years old) should form part of an active
healthy lifestyle but should not take precedence over other modalities of sport-training (80). Endurance
sports are typically associated with a high volume of training (80), which places the developing body
of a young athlete under a high level of stress that could leave them susceptible to overtraining
syndrome, illness and overuse injury (54). Therefore, specialization in endurance running should not
occur until late-adolesence, when a young athletes body is sufficiently mature and well-conditioned to
cope with the rigours of this type of training. Strength and conditioning (S&C) activities might
contribute towards lowering the risk of injury in athletes (45, 82), therefore providing sport-specific
recommendations for this vulnerable population is important.
Endurance running is primarily limited by cardiovascular and metabolic factors, however there is an
abundance of research showing that strength training (ST) activities (resistance training (RT), explosive
resistance training (ERT) and plyometric training (PT)) can provide performance benefits to middle-
(0.8-3 km) and long-distance (>3 km) runners (16, 29). A plethora of literature also exists that
demonstrates ST activities are also a safe and effective way of enhancing proxy measures of athletic
performance in adolescents of both sexes (10, 41, 46). Specifically, compared to sport-only training,
various forms of ST augment improvements in maximal strength, explosive strength, muscular
endurance, sprint speed, agility test time, tennis serve velocity, kicking velocity, throwing velocity, and
general motor skills (10, 40, 41, 46). However, there are currently no papers which have specifically
summarized the effect of ST modalities on aerobic-related qualities in young athletes. For practitioners
working with young distance runners in particular, it would be useful to establish whether ST activities
offer any benefit to performance-related factors and how such training techniques could be applied in
practice. Therefore, the aims of this article are to briefly review the literature that has investigated the
efficacy of ST on the determinants of endurance running in adolescent runners, and provide guidelines
for best practice to improve performance and minimize the ocurrence of overuse injury.
Figure 1. Primary determinants of endurance running performance and the modalities of training to
improve each. V
̇O2max = maximal oxygen uptake, sV
̇O2max = speed at maximal oxygen uptake.
Endurance running performance is determined by several key physiological variables, which are
summarized in figure 1. The physiological determinants of performance for adolescents appears to be
similar to those of adult runners (3, 27). A number of investigations have confirmed that maximal
oxygen uptake (V
̇O2max) is a significant predictor (r=0.5-0.9) of performance for 1.5 km (1, 3), 3 km (1,
50, 87), 5 km (1, 27) and cross-country (24, 34) in young (10-18 years) groups of runners. The
proportion of V
̇O2max that can be sustained for a given duration (known as ‘fractional utilization’), has
also been shown to significantly correlate with endurance running performance in adolescents (50, 87).
Running economy (RE), defined as the metabolic cost of running a given distance (79), is related to
middle- (3, 87) and long-distance running performance (24, 34), and importantly, is influenced by
neuromuscular related qualities, which can potentially be improved with ST activities (16, 29).
Additionally, speed at V
̇O2max, which is a product of V
̇O2max and RE, correlates well with distance
running performance in adolescents (1, 3, 24, 27).
The contribution of anaerobic factors to endurance running performance in adults is well-established
(20), however the influence of anaerobic determinants on performance in young endurance runners has
not been fully delineated. This is likely due to the unspecific nature of the tests (Wingate test, isokinetic
strength tests, counter-movement jump height) utilized to quantify anaerobic and neuromuscular
capacities in studies that have investigated young distance runners (3, 24, 28). Anaerobic capacity and
neuromuscular capabilities are thought to play a large role in discriminating performance in runners
who are closely matched from an aerobic perspective (22, 67). Mahon and co-authors (50) also showed
that 55 m sprint and counter-movement jump were significant predictors of 3 km time trial in
preadolescent children, although given the age of the participants, this finding could simply be a
reflection of individuals possessing high or low levels of athletic ability across the range of the tests
utilized. Speed at V
̇O2max probably provides the most sport-specific representation of neuromuscular
capabilities in distance runners, however measures of maximal running speed and anaerobic capacity
are also important attributes (65). For an 800 m specialist in particular, near-maximal velocities of
running are reached during the first 200 m of the race (74), which necessitates a high capacity of the
neuromuscular and anaerobic system. Similarly, the quickest finisher at the end of a middle- or long-
distance race often determines the winner (85), thus possessing a higher top speed is potentially crucial
for achieving success in distance running. Regardless of the capacity for anaerobic and neuromuscular
factors to predict endurance performance in adolescents, activities to develop sprint speed and muscular
strength-qualities as part of a well-rounded physical training programme is recommended during
adolescence irrespective of whether sport-specialization has occurred (47, 49).
Based upon the findings of recent reviews (16, 29), it is suggested that supplementing the training of an
endurance runner with ST is likely to provide improvements in RE, time-trial (1.5 km 10 km)
performance and anaerobic parameters such as maximal sprint speed. Improvements in RE in the
absence of changes in V
̇O2max, speed at V
̇O2max, blood lactate and body composition parameters suggests
that the underlying mechanisms predominantly relate to alterations in intra-muscular co-ordination and
increases in stiffness (16). Specifically, ST brings about increases in motor unit recruitment, firing
frequency and musculotendinous stiffness, which are thought to optimize the length-tension and force-
velocity relationships of active skeletal muscle, thus reducing the metabolic cost of running (36). It is
clear that the inclusion of ST also does not adversely affect V
̇O2max, blood lactate markers or body
composition (16). Concurrently, RE showed improvements of 2-8% with ST compared to a running-
only control group following a 6-14 week intervention that includes 2-3 ST sessions per week (16).
Efficacy in Adolescent Runners
Three studies have investigated the effect of ST specifically in young (<18 years) middle- or long-
distance runners and these are summarized in table 1. A recent study by Blagrove et al. (17) found that
two weekly sessions of ST (mainly PT and RT) added to the programme of post-pubertal adolescent
distance runners (17 years) for ten weeks was ‘possibly beneficial’ for RE (effect size: 0.31-0.51) and
‘highly likley beneficial’ for maximal sprint speed. However, only the maximal speed improvement
reached statistical significance (p<0.05) compared to the change observed in the control group. Mikkola
et al. (58) took a group of trained male and female distance runners (mean: 17 years, V
̇O2max: 62.5 and following eight weeks of ERT, PT and sprint training, noted a difference (-2.7%) in
RE at 14 km.h-1 and improvements in anaerobic capabilities (speed during the maximal anaerobic
running test and 30 m sprint) compared to a running-only group. It is noteworthy that both of these
investigations (17, 58) included sprints (3-10 x 30-150 m) as part of the intervention, which provides a
highly specific overload to the neuromuscular system in endurance runners. Interestingly, participants
in the ST intervention groups in these studies reduced their weekly running volume to accommodate
the additional S&C activities. Total time spent training was however very similar between intervention
and control groups.
Bluett and associates (18) found that ten weeks of concurrent aerobic and ST provided little strength
advantage and no change in 3 km time trial performance in 10-13 year old competitive runners
compared to running only. This study utilized mainly single joint machine-based RT and did not
measure any physiological parameters, which may explain the lack of effect observed. The authors
speculated that excessive fatigue resulting from the concurrent training regimen may have compromised
both strength and endurance adaptations (18). Interestingly, the blunting of strength adaptation which
is often observed in adult performers when both strength- and endurance-training are included in the
same training session (90) appears not to occur in children (53) and adolescents (75, 76). As the
interference phenomeon is mediated by training volume and recovery from sessions (5), it seems likely
that the volumes of each training modality included in the aforementioned studies were insufficient to
negatively impact upon strength-related adaptation. Indeed, in elite youth soccer players (17 years) who
utilize higher workloads compared to younger performers, larger improvements were evident in
strength and sprint performance after five weeks when ST was performed after sport-specific endurance
training on two days per week, compared to a group who adopted a ST followed by endurance training
sequence (33).
n (I/C), sex, age
Running volume
Main strength
Main running-related
et al. (18)
18 (9/9), both,
17.2 years
I: 151 min.wk-1
C: 213 min.wk-1
2 per
MVC (15.4%,
ES=0.86, p<0.05),
vGRFjump (6.1%,
CMJ, little
compared to C
RE@ sLTP (3.2%,
ES=0.31), sLTP -1 km.h-1
(3.7%, ES=0.47), sLTP -2
km.h-1 (3.6%, ES=0.51)
20 m sprint (3.6%, ES=0.32,
Bluett et
al (19)
12 (6/6), both,
10-13 years
Both groups: 2 x
runs per week
(1x25-30 min
2 per
Increase (12.2-
24%) loads lifted
during ST but no
change in peak
torque pre-post I
3 km TT no change in either
et al (59)
25 (13/12), both,
17.3 years
I: 8.8 h.wk-1
(19% running
replaced with
C: 8.5 h.wk-1
3 per
MVC (8%), 1RM
(4%), RFD (31%)
on leg press; all
CMJ and 5-bounds
little difference
compared to C
RE@14 km.h-1 (2.7%,
ES=0.32, p<0.05),
@10,12,13 km.h-1, NS
BL@12 km.h-1 (12%,
p<0.05), @14 km.h-1 (11%,
sMART (3.0%, p<0.01), s30
m sprint (1.1%, p<0.01)
C=control, I=intervention, ST=strength training, wk=week, PT=plyometric training, RT=resistance training, RDL=Romanian deadlift, MVC=maximum
voluntary contraction, ES=effect size, vGRFjump=vertical ground reaction force during squat jump, CMJ=counter-movement jump, RE=running economy,
sLTP=speed at lactate turnpoint, TT=time trial, ERT=explosive resistance training, 1RM=one repetition maximum, RFD=rate of force development, NS=not
statistically significant, BL=blood lactate
Table 1. Summary of studies (n=3) that have investigated the effects of a strength training intervention on adolescent endurance runners.
Research investigating the impact of ST techniques on performance-related measures in young athletes
has tended to use participants from field-based sports, martial arts, court sports, aquatic sports,
gymnastics and strength-based sports (40, 46). A number of studies using adolescent participants from
other sports that require high-levels of aerobic fitness have observed superior improvements in Yo-Yo
test (44, 51, 72, 91) and middle-distance time-trial performance (70, 73) after various modalities of ST
were added (6-12 weeks) to a sports-specific training programme, compared to only practicing the sport.
Taken together, it appears that the addition of 2-3 ST sessions to the weekly routine of adolescent
endurance runners provides a small but potentially meaningful benefit to RE and maximal sprint speed
following an 8-10 week intervention. Evidence for improvements in performance exists for adult
runners (16), however there is currently a lack of research in younger endurance runners. Benefits are
likely to be larger for interventions of a longer duration (29) and for ST programmes that are supervised
by qualified practitioners (16). Although the majority of studies in adults supplement a runners training
with ST, there also appears to be no disadvantage to reducing weekly running volume to accommodate
the addition of two weekly ST sessions.
Timing of Specialization and Long-Term Athlete Development
Adolescence represents an important period of development in young athletes where significant
alterations in hormonal status causes rapid physical growth (52). Contemporary views of long-term
youth development suggest adolescents should avoid training routines that focus on intensive training
in a single sport (for >8 months per year), or a total weekly training volume (in hours) that exceeds the
athletes age in years, until late-adolescence (47, 49, 63). Evidence from several endurance sports shows
elite senior athletes tend to specialize at a later age, and participate in a diverse range of sports during
their earlier years (26, 60). Recent work has also shown that very few middle-distance runners ranked
in the UK top 20 in the under-13 and under-15 age-groups experience success as senior runners (43).
Young athletes who adopt an early-diversification, late-specialization approach to their development
have fewer injuries, are at less risk of overtraining, and play sports longer than those who specialize in
one sport before puberty (21, 30).
The youth athlete development model suggests a wide range of physical activities and training
modalities should be utilized during adolescence, however movement skills training (MST) and
development of strength qualities should be prioritized (47, 49). The emphasis on ST activities
throughout an athletes development is thought to maximize adaptations to inter- and intra-muscular
coordination, during a period when neuroplasticity is high (64). Improvements in muscular strength and
motor control during this period have also been shown to improve physical performance (10, 46) and
lower the risk of sustaining an injury (62, 82). It is recommended that endurance training (and metabolic
conditioning) is not emphasised, relative to other biomotor abilities, until late-adolescence (49), as
typically this type of training is associated with high volumes of work, which may lead to injury or
overtraining (54). Moreover, pre-pubertal children have tended to show smaller changes (<10%) in
aerobic measures following endurance training interventions compared to post-pubertal adolescents and
adults (54, 56). A recent study also showed that pre-pubertal boys (11 years) were metabolically
comparable to well-trained endurance athletes and experienced less fatigue during high-intensity
exercise compared to untrained adults (14). It was suggested that pre-pubertal children avoid specific
training to develop aerobic metabolic qualities and shift priority during post-pubertal years once
movement technique and mechanical competency have been developed (14). Due to the risks associated
with early-specialization, it is recommended that adolescent athletes younger than 15 years old do not
solely specialize in endurance running, but should participate in a wide range of sports and physical
activities, including ST.
Organization of the Training Microcycle
Prior to specialization in a sport of a young athletes choice, physical training should be semi-structured
and not emphasize peaking for competitions (26, 63). Conversely, an adolescent endurance runner will
typically run 45 to 55 miles weekly in preparation for a race (80), which when combined with academic
and social commitments, can place a high level of physical and psychological stress on a young athlete
(54). This necessitates a well-organized approach to training that caters to the needs of individual
athletes and ensures sufficient periods of recovery between bouts of training.
Two seven-day microcycle designs are shown in Table 2a and 2b to illustrate how an adolescent
endurance runner could incorporate S&C activities into their routine. Adolescent distance runners
typically perform 2-3 high-intensity running sessions per week (15), and these should form the priority
sessions in the programme (Table 2a and 2b; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). Similarly, a minimum
of two ST sessions per week are suggested for adolescents (11, 48) and endurance runners (16). RT
sessions should ideally take place at least three hours after a running session (6) and at least 24 hours
recovery should follow after ST before an intensive running session (31). A novel approach to
organizing S&C activities around training and lifestyle commitments with young runners is to
incorporate shorter periods of activity (‘training units’) as part of running sessions wherever possible
(see Table 2b). This type of programming is useful for young runners who perhaps cannot access a
specialist S&C facility, and therefore perform a largely home-based routine, or are unable to commit to
two full S&C sessions per week. Each training unit takes 10-20 min to complete, thus making it easy to
integrate some purposeful S&C prior to or after running sessions. It is important to note that studies in
adolescent distance runners (17, 58) have shown that including weekly ST sessions are more effective
than increasing running volume, at least in the short-term (8-10 weeks).
Assuming runners are of a non-strength trained status, it appears that a variety of ST modalities can be
used to achieve similar outcomes. However to maximize long-term adaptations in young athletes, it is
suggested that a periodized approach is adopted with fundamental skills training and RT prioritized
initially (9, 25, 47). Figure 2 provides an overview of the session design and characteristics of specific
training units recommended for adolescent distance runners. A similar session design framework has
also been employed successfully in other investigations that used distance runners embarking upon a
ST programme for the first time (9, 17, 58).
Figure 2. Recommended structure of a strength and conditioning session for adolescent endurance
runners. Characteristics and example exercise prescription for individual training units are also shown.
Prescription is sets x repetitions (unless stated).
(am) Easy 30 min
(pm) S&C session
Interval training
(am) Cycle or
swim 30 min
(pm) S&C session
Tempo run* (20-
30 min)
Race or interval
training session
Easy 45 min run
S&C = strength and conditioning. * Continuous fast run performed at approximately 10 km race-pace (speed at lactate turn-point)
Table 2a. Example of a seven day microcycle for an adolescent endurance runner.
Easy 30 min run +
PT and RT
MST + Interval
training session
Cycle or swim 30
min + RT and SC
PT + Tempo run
(20-30 min)
Race or interval
training session +
Easy 45 min run +
PT = plyometric training, RT = resistance training, MST = movement skills training, SC = specific conditioning
Table 2b. Example of a seven day microcycle for an adolescent endurance runner with strength and conditioning activities organised as training units before
or after running sessions. Training units should last 10-20 min with the focus on movement quality rather than inducing high levels of fatigue.
Movement Skills Training
The inclusion of MST in the routine of adolescent distance runners is recommended, and is likely to
reduce long-term injury risk (45, 62, 82). This form of conditioning is ideal to include as part of a
movement preparation warm-up routine prior to running and ST sessions, or as an independent training
unit (82). MST should include activities to enhance both general (fundamental) and specific (running-
related) movement skill and control, balance and dynamic stability, and low-level resistance training
targeting specific muscle groups, such as the gluteals (37).
Plyometrics and Sprint Training
Low intensity plyometric-based exercise that aim to develop ankle stiffness, such as skipping, low-box
re-bound jumps, mini hurdle jumps and short range hopping tasks, offer a potent stimulus to the
neuromuscular system and have independently been shown to enhance RE and time trial performance
(12, 68, 71, 81, 86). It is suggested that 30-60 foot contacts per session are utilized initially with
adolescent distance runners (17). Sprint training has also been used in several investigations showing
enhancements in maximal speed and performance-related factors (17, 58, 59, 66). Three to five sets of
short distance (30-60 m) technical and maximal sprints performed 2-3 times per week is likely to provide
benefits to adolescent endurance runners.
Resistance Training
Resistance training, which should include both ERT and heavy RT, increases motor unit recruitment
and firing frequency, thus enhances a runners ability to appropriately control and express force during
ground contact. Although changes in fat-free mass appear to be minimal following a ST intervention in
distance runners (16), a targeted RT programme, that aims to increase muscle mass specifically around
the proximal region of the lower limb may enhance biomechanical and physiological factors, which
positively influence RE (36). Exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, step-ups and lunge patterns, which
possess similar kinematic characteristics to running gait, are likely to provide the greatest transfer (8)
and have been utilized in several previous investigations (9, 17, 58). Loaded jump squats, medicine ball
throwing and weightlifting are examples of suitable ERT activities that can also be utilized (8, 9, 59).
Upper limb exercises such as press-ups, rowing exercises and overhead presses, should also be
incorporated to offset the vertical angular momentum created by the lower limbs and aid in controlling
excessive rotation forces (42, 69, 77). One to three sets of each exercise performed in a moderate
repetition range (8-12 repetitions) is likely to provide non-strength trained individuals with a stimulus
sufficient to drive neuromuscular adaptation whilst developing skill in each exercise (9, 17, 59). Higher
loads (≥80% one repetition maximum) and lower repetition ranges (3-8 repetitions) are likely to be
required to provide further overload in strength-trained adolescents, with volume of work moderated
via an increase in sets.
Specific Conditioning
Many young endurance runners are motivated to include S&C activities to reduce injury risk more so
than improve their performance (15). Youth endurance athletes have been identified as a high-risk group
due to the rigorous training that they undertake during a critical period of their physical and emotional
development (54, 80). Indeed, injury incidence rate has been reported to be higher in adolescent elite
endurance runners compared to other endurance sports (88). Moreover, female adolescent runners tend
to display higher rates of low bone mineral density and bone stress injuries compared to young female
athletes in other sports (78). Overuse injuries occur over multiple running sessions when structure
specific cumulative load exceeds capacity (13). MST, PT and resistance-based exercises are likely to
contribute towards lowering risk of injury via enhancements in motor control and increased bone
mineral density and tissue resilience (45, 62, 89). Exercises designed to expose specific muscles or
tissues to a high magnitude of load are also likely to provide benefits to tendon stiffness (35) and
tolerance to repetitive stress (7, 19, 61, 84, 89). It is recommended that such exercises are positioned in
final part of a session or performed separately, as pre-fatiguing muscles in isolation is likely to be
detrimental to performance in multi-joint tasks (4). Specifically for distance runners, targeted
conditioning exercises should focus on the specific structures which are vulnerable to injury, or the
muscles that contribute towards controlling the positioning of joints within the lower limb, such as: the
intrinsic joints of the feet, the calf-Achilles complex, gluteal and hamstring muscles (2, 32, 38, 55, 57,
61). In addition, specific exercises that target proximal musculature around the lumbopelvic-hip
complex (‘core stability’) are likely to offset the risk of several types of common overuse injuries in
runners (23). Specifically, exercises which facilitate greater strength and control of the hip abductors
and external rotators are likely to provide benefits (23, 39).
Endurance running performance is constrained by several important physiological variables, however
anaerobic and neuromuscular factors have also been recognized as being important. For the young
athlete, participating in a broad range of sporting and physical pursuits is recommended during early-
adolescence. Age-appropriate S&C should form an integral part of a well-rounded approach to the long-
term physical development of all young sports performers. Participating in endurance running events
can certainly form part of a programme of activities during adolescence, however it is suggested young
athletes should not solely specialize in endurance running until late-adolescence. For the young
endurance runner, adding ST sessions twice per week that includes RT, PT and sprinting, is likely to
provide benefits to RE and maximal sprint speed that translate to improved performance. Moreover,
these activities, plus MST and specific strengthening of tissues vulnerable to injury, are important for
lowering the risk of overuse injury.
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... The target outcome of this exercise is fast SSC development from the muscletendon units of the leg extensors. However, through the passage of time these two exercises have become confused and now many textbooks, authors and coaches use the terms "depth jump" and "drop jump" synonymously [161][162][163][164], to indicate different exercises [165] or to Depth jumps allow greater jump height to be achieved but this is at the expense of ground contact time and therefore, though this exercise might be suitable for promoting some desirable adaptations, it is not suitable for developing fast SSC ability (<250ms). ...
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Rebound activities such as cutting, deceleration and jump-landings are common mechanisms of lower extremity injury in youth soccer. Prospective investigations utilising jump landing screening assessments have identified a number of modifiable risk factors to address in injury reduction training programmes. The most frequently investigated screening tool is the drop jump though the majority of research on the drop jump is directed towards kinematic variables, in young females specifically investigating anterior cruciate ligament injury risk. However, peak vertical ground reaction force has also been associated with knee injury risk but this is the only kinetic variable that has been investigated with regard to lower extremity injury risk. The drop jump is also a common plyometric training exercise though little is known regarding kinetic characteristics of good drop jump performance. Existing data demonstrates that drop jump kinetics alter throughout growth and maturation though the impact of these fluctuations with regard to injury risk and performance is unknown. Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to investigate the utility of drop jump force-time characteristics as markers of injury risk and performance in young soccer players. Study 1 examined the test re-test reliability of a breadth of novel and traditional force-time variables. Pre-PHV typically demonstrated poorer reliability than post-PHV and although CVs ranged from 4.3-67.6%, variables were typically sensitive enough to detect growth related changes. Study 2 investigated the interaction of these variables with maturational status demonstrating reductions of relative landing force, an increase in absolute force and shift towards a more spring-like force-time profile as youths transition through maturation. As the first time many of these variables have been reported, the data provide normative values for which practitioners can compare and use as bench marks for assessing their own athletes. Study 3 observed that drop jump kinetic variables have better associations with knee injury risk in comparison to either ankle or all lower extremity injury risk. Force profiles characterised by a large peak landing force to peak take-off force ratio were significantly associated with an elevated risk of non-contact acute knee injuries (OR = 1.59; 1.10-2.29) and all lower extremity injury risk (OR = 1.71; 1.07-2.73), however, test sensitivity remained low (<6%). Study 4 classified stretch-shortening cycle function based on the presence or absence of an initial impact peak when landing and the ability to demonstrate spring-like behaviour. Findings revealed that young soccer players classified with poor stretch-shortening cycle function suffered from significantly reduced drop-jump performance across a range of kinetic markers but not jump height. Poor stretch-shortening cycle function improves to some extent with maturation but is still prevalent beyond maturation in some individuals. The findings of this thesis highlight an important collection of variables that could be used to screen young soccer players and help inform training interventions to reduce injury risk and to increase performance.
Changes in movement quality, specifically how people coordinate movement, have been identified in people with pain, history of pain and linked to risk of injury, changes in performance and quality of life. The health of movement is a balance between how an individual uses their body to engage with life and an ability to display choices in movement coordination strategies (MCS). The aim of this thesis is to explore the concept that assessing and retraining MCS improves the health of movement. Five core publications are included: two theoretical papers detailing the concept for assessing and retraining MCS; one reliability study establishing robustness of an assessment tool; a case report demonstrating validity and proof-of-concept of assessment and retaining of MCS; and a morphological study of the serratus anterior muscle illustrating knowledge of anatomical architecture can shape retraining strategies. The commentary includes the following topics: i) theoretical concept for assessing and restoring the health of movement (Chapter 2); ii) aspects of anatomy and neurophysiological function to support methods of assessment and retraining (Chapter 3); iii) assessment of loss of movement choices (LMC) using cognitive movement control tests to inform retraining (Chapter 4); iv) cognitive movement retraining/movement coaching, a person-centred clinical reasoning framework to design individual tailored programmes to restore LMC (Chapter 5); v) General discussion - significance, implementation and impact, illustrated over 25 years (Chapter 6). Results have demonstrated: i) good inter-rater and excellent intra-rater reliability for the assessment tool; ii) testing for LMC can inform retraining and cognitive movement retraining can change biomechanical and neurophysiological measures; and iii) novel findings of morphologically distinct subdivisions of serratus anterior. This thesis recommends the assessment of MCS to guide retraining to improve the health of movement. Theoretical concepts presented and research conducted have provided evidence for proof-of-concept and validity and reliability of assessment procedures<br/
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The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of an 11-week unilateral versus bilateral plyometric training intervention on maximal isometric voluntary (MVC) knee extensor torque, countermovement jump height (CMJ), running economy (RE) and 3-km time trial (TT) performance. Twenty-seven recreationally trained endurance runners (12 females and 15 males) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: unilateral plyometric training (UPT; n = 9), bilateral plyometric training (BPT; n = 9) and control (CON; n = 9). RE, VO2max, 3-km treadmill TT, isometric MVC (bilateral and unilateral) and CMJ (bilateral and unilateral) were measured prior to and after 11 weeks of training (UPT and BPT; volume equated, 20-40 minutes, 2-3 days/week). Separate two-way repeated measures ANOVAs were used to assess within and between group differences in RE, VO2max, 3-km TT, maximal isometric knee extensor torque and CMJ. Following 11 weeks of plyometric training there were significant improvements in RE (UPT 5.6%; BPT 4.9%, p < 0.01) and 3-km TT performance (UPT 2.4%; BPT 2.5%, p < 0.01) in addition to CMJ (UPT 12.5%; BPT 14.5%, p < 0.01) and maximal isometric knee extensor torque in the unilateral group (14.0%, p < 0.01). No significant differences in VO2max or anthropometric measures were detected (p > 0.05). No statistically significant differences between training interventions (p > 0.05) were detected in any measure. These data demonstrate that UPT and BPT result in similar improvements in RE and 3-km TT run performance in recreational distance runners.
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The aim of this study was to determine whether prepubertal children are metabolically comparable to well-trained adult endurance athletes and if this translates into similar fatigue rates during high-intensity exercise in both populations. On two different occasions, 12 prepubertal boys (10.5 ± 1.1 y), 12 untrained men (21.2 ± 1.5 y), and 13 endurance male athletes (21.5 ± 2.7 y) completed an incremental test to determine the power output at VO2max (PVO2max) and a Wingate test to evaluate the maximal anaerobic power (Pmax) and relative decrement in power output (i.e., the fatigue index, FI). Furthermore, oxygen uptake (VO2), heart rate (HR), and capillary blood lactate concentration ([La]) were measured to determine (i) the net aerobic contribution at 5-s intervals during the Wingate test, and (ii) the post-exercise recovery kinetics of VO2, HR, and [La]. The Pmax-to-PVO2max ratio was not significantly different between children (1.9 ± 0.5) and endurance athletes (2.1 ± 0.2) but lower than untrained men (3.2 ± 0.3, p < 0.001 for both). The relative energy contribution derived from oxidative metabolism was also similar in children and endurance athletes but greater than untrained men over the second half of the Wingate test (p < 0.001 for both). Furthermore, the post-exercise recovery kinetics of VO2, HR, and [La] in children and endurance athletes were faster than those of untrained men. Finally, FI was comparable between children and endurance athletes (−35.2 ± 9.6 vs. −41.8 ± 9.4%, respectively) but lower than untrained men (−51.8 ± 4.1%, p < 0.01). To conclude, prepubertal children were observed to be metabolically comparable to well-trained adult endurance athletes, and were thus less fatigable during high-intensity exercise than untrained adults.
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Enhancing our understanding of athlete development would be valuable for coaches, parents and administrators to set realistic performance expectations and to advance youth sport policy. To this end, a database of track and field performances was examined. Records of 134,313 performances by athletes aged between 12 and 35 years in sprinting, throwing, jumping and middle distance events were analysed. Results revealed that a minority (Male, 9%; Female, 13%) of top 20 ranked senior athletes were also ranked in the top 20 at Under 13 (U13). These results were supported by the finding that a minority of athletes retained their top 20 ranking at subsequent age grades (36.3% U13-U15; 23% U13-U17; 13% U13-U20; 43.3% U15-U17; 22.1% U15-U20; 41.8% U17-U20). By U20, less than 30% of athletes who had been ranked in the top 20 at U13 were still listed on the national rankings. Examining a broader sample of athletes revealed weak to moderate correlations between performances at different age grades until at least Under 17-Under 20. These findings reinforce the message that excelling at youth level in competitive athletics is not a prerequisite for senior success.
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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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Background: Youth athletes with intensive sports participation are at an increased risk of sustaining injuries. Neuromuscular training programs reduce sports-related injury risk in this population, however, the dose-response relationship is largely unknown. Thus, the aim of this meta-analysis was to identify the optimal frequency, volume, duration, and period of neuromuscular training to prevent injuries in youth athletes. Methods: Computerized database searches (PubMed, Scopus, SPORTDiscus, The Cochrane Library, PEDro) were conducted in January 2017, with search terms related to youth sports, neuromuscular training, and injury prevention. Eligible trials (i) evaluated a neuromuscular training program; (ii) included youth athletes of 21 years or younger; (iii) had an analytical design (RCTs, quasi-experimental, cohort studies); (iv) contained original data; (v) and provided injury data. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed quality of eligible studies. Injury rate ratios (IRRs) for lower extremity injuries were pooled meta-analytically, and moderator analyses examined the effect of training frequency, duration, volume, and period. Results: Data from 16 trials yielded an overall risk reduction of 42% with neuromuscular training (IRR = 0.58, 95%CI 0.47–0.72). Training frequencies of two (IRR = 0.50; 95%CI 0.29–0.86) or three times (IRR = 0.40; 95%CI 0.31–0.53) per week revealed the largest risk reduction, and a weekly training volume of more than 30 min tended to be more effective compared to lower volumes. Programs with 10–15 min (IRR = 0.55; 95%CI 0.42–0.72) session duration produced effects comparable to those with longer session duration (IRR = 0.60; 95%CI 0.46–0.76). Interventions lasting more than 6 months were not superior to shorter programs. Conclusion: This meta-analysis revealed that NMT performed in short bouts of 10–15 min, two to three times per week, with a weekly training volume of 30–60 min had the largest preventive effect for lower extremity injuries in youth athletes. These effects can be achieved within 20–60 sessions and training periods of <6 months. The present results are derived from a relatively small number of studies with heterogeneous methodological quality and should be treated with caution. The study was a priori registered at PROSPERO (CRD42016053473).
Purpose: Strength training activities have consistently been shown to improve running economy (RE) and neuromuscular characteristics, such as force producing ability and maximal speed, in adult distance runners. However the effects on adolescent (<18 years) runners remains elusive. This randomized control trial aimed to examine the effect of strength training on several important physiological and neuromuscular qualities associated with distance running performance. Methods: Participants (n=25, 13 female, 17.2 ±1.2 years) were paired according to their sex and RE and randomly assigned to a ten week strength training group (STG), or a control group (CG) who continued their regular training. The STG performed twice weekly sessions of plyometric, sprint and resistance training in addition to their normal running. Outcome measures included body mass, maximal oxygen uptake (V˙O2max), speed at V˙O2max, running economy (quantified as energy cost), speed at fixed blood lactate concentrations (sFBLC), 20 m sprint, and maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) during an isometric quarter-squat. Results: Eighteen participants (STG, n=9, 16.1 ±1.1 years; CG, n=9, 17.6 ±1.2 years) completed the study. The STG displayed small improvements (3.2-3.7%, ES: 0.31-0.51) in running economy that were inferred as 'possibly beneficial' for an average of three submaximal speeds. Trivial or small changes were observed for body composition variables, V˙O2max and sV˙O2max, however the training period provided likely benefits to sFBLC in both groups. Strength training elicited a very likely benefit and a possible benefit to sprint time (ES: 0.32) and MVC (ES: 0.86) respectively. Conclusion: Ten weeks of strength training added to the programme of a post-pubertal distance runner was highly likely to improve maximal speed, and enhances running economy by a small extent, without deleterious effects on body composition or other aerobic parameters.
To investigate the effects of simultaneous explosive-strength and endurance training on physical performance characteristics, 10 experimental (E) and 8 control (C) endurance athletes trained for 9 wk. The total training volume was kept the same in both groups, but 32% of training in E and 3% in C was replaced by explosive-type strength training. A 5-km time trial (5K), running economy (RE), maximal 20-m speed ( V 20 m ), and 5-jump (5J) tests were measured on a track. Maximal anaerobic (MART) and aerobic treadmill running tests were used to determine maximal velocity in the MART ( V MART ) and maximal oxygen uptake (V˙o 2 max ). The 5K time, RE, and V MART improved ( P < 0.05) in E, but no changes were observed in C. V 20 m and 5J increased in E ( P < 0.01) and decreased in C ( P < 0.05).V˙o 2 max increased in C ( P < 0.05), but no changes were observed in E. In the pooled data, the changes in the 5K velocity during 9 wk of training correlated ( P< 0.05) with the changes in RE [O 2 uptake ( r = −0.54)] and V MART ( r = 0.55). In conclusion, the present simultaneous explosive-strength and endurance training improved the 5K time in well-trained endurance athletes without changes in theirV˙o 2 max . This improvement was due to improved neuromuscular characteristics that were transferred into improved V MART and running economy.
Background: Prospective injury registration studies, monitoring adolescent elite athletes, are sparse in running, orienteering and cross-country skiing, yet essential for developing prevention programs. Purpose: The aims of this study were to describe the injury prevalence/incidence, severity grade, injury location, risk factors and the prevalence of illness in running (RU), orienteering (OR) and cross-country skiing athletes (CR). Study design: Prospective cohort study. Methods: One hundred fifty adolescent elite athletes (age range 16-19), participating in orienteering (25 females, 20 males), running (13 females, 18 males), cross-country skiing (38 females, 36 males), from 12 National Sports High Schools in Sweden, were prospectively followed over one calendar year using a reliable and validated web-based questionnaire. Results: The main finding was that the average weekly injury prevalence was higher during the pre-season compared to the competitive season in all three sports. RU reported the significantly (p<0.05) highest average weekly injury prevalence (32.4%) and substantial injury prevalence (17.0%), compared to OR (26.0, 8.2%) and CR (21.1%, 8.9%). Most injuries occurred in the lower extremity (RU 94.4%; OR 91.9%; CR 49.9%) and foot and knee injuries had the highest severity grade in all three sports. History of serious injury (p=0.002, OR 4.0, 95% CI 1.6-9.7) and current injury at study start (p=0.004, OR 4.0, 95% CI 1.5-11.2) were identified as the strongest risk factors for substantial injury. Younger athletes aged 16 (p=0.019, OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.2-5.8) and 17 (p=0.045, OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.0-5.9), had a significantly higher injury risk for substantial injury compared to older athletes aged 18-19. Conclusion: Practitioners should be aware of the increased injury risk during pre-season and in younger athletes. By focus on prevention of foot and knee injuries, the injuries with the highest severity grade will be targeted in adolescent elite athletes participating in running, orienteering and cross-country skiing. Level of evidence: 2b.
Youth sports participation numbers continue to grow in the United States. A shift toward sport specialization has caused an increase in sport training frequency and intensity that places the growing athlete at risk for overtraining, nutritional deficits, and injuries. Individuals who participate in endurance sports are at especially high risk. Youth runners and swimmers are high-risk populations that require special attention to their training schedules, nutritional intake, and injuries. Appropriate scheduling of training, dedicating time to rest, and nutrition education can help prevent problems in the endurance athlete.
Blagrove, RC, Brown, N, Howatson, G, and Hayes, PR. Strength and conditioning habits of competitive distance runners. J Strength Cond Res XX(X): 000-000, 2017-Targeted strength and conditioning (S&C) programs can potentially improve performance and reduce injury risk factors in competitive runners. However, S&C practices of distance runners are unknown. This study aimed to explore S&C practices of competitive middle- and long-distance runners and examined whether reported frequency of injuries was influenced by training behaviors. One thousand eight hundred eighty-three distance runners (≥15 years old) completed an online survey. All runners who raced competitively were included in data analysis (n = 667). Distance runners mainly engaged with S&C activities to lower risk of injury (63.1%) and improve performance (53.8%). The most common activities used were stretching (86.2%) and core stability exercises (70.2%). Resistance training (RT) and plyometric training (PT) were used by 62.5 and 35.1% of runners, respectively. Junior (under-20) runners include PT, running drills, and circuit training more so than masters runners. Significantly more international standard runners engaged in RT, PT, and fundamental movement skills training compared with competitive club runners. Middle-distance (800-3,000 m) specialists were more likely to include RT, PT, running drills, circuit training, and barefoot exercises in their program than longer-distance runners. Injury frequency was associated with typical weekly running volume and run frequency. Strength and conditioning did not seem to confer a protection against the number of injuries the runners experienced. Practitioners working with distance runners should critically evaluate the current S&C practices of their athletes, to ensure that activities prescribed have a sound evidence-based rationale.