Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Importance of Power Training : Runners

The Importance of Power Training : Runners
Runners :

Most runners struggle to finish a race strongly because of a lack of sufficient power endurance in the legs which leads to reduced stride length, not because of poor stamina or endurance capabilities. Watch any half marathon and you'll see many people complain that they have 'nothing in their legs' at the end of a race yet they are able to maintain a solid conversation as soon as they cross the line because they are not panting for oxygen.

A combination of poor strength endurance and inefficient running economy can be the difference between a good runner and a top athlete and both can be improved through power training. A study into the effect of explosive training on runners such as plyometrics with bodyweight only, fast repetitions against 0-40% of 1RM and sprints, showed enhanced 5km times with no change in V02 max (the standard indicator of cardiovascular performance). The runners concerned had 33% of their running training replaced with THE explosive resistance training, so they were running less but performing better in a test situation over 5km.

Similarly over 14 weeks, a group of well-trained runners followed a program of concurrent endurance running with power training using weights of >90% of their 1RM. Again, they experienced gains in leg strength and power and improvements to running economy with no change in aerobic capacity. (Unfortunately no time trial tests were conducted but improvements are highly likely to have occurred due to improved running economy). This makes interesting reading for those who either get bored by just running all the time or who are frustrated at plateau's in run times over any distance.

In this case, exercises such as bounding, power lunges (bodyweight and against resistance), jump squats (bodyweight and against resistance), multi-directional single leg jumps, power cleans, and kettlebell swings and snatches are highly effective. Power-based exercises enable the runner to train their ability to effectively decelerate and accelerate on each stride, prolonging the time to fatigue. They are also critical for developing stability in the lower limbs under the considerable downward forces experienced during running.

Traditional stability exercises clearly have their place in a training program but stabilizing joints in a static situation (such as single leg squats) does not in anyway guarantee stability during running. At the moment each foot is planted, downward forces are 6-8 times that of bodyweight, and deceleration of bodyweight and stabilisation of the joints requires specific power training as detailed above. Wobbling on a glorified 'woopee cushion' won't get the job done! This applies not only to competitive runners but sportsmen and women of all disciplines who are required to have the ability to stabilise their joints and power off in any direction in a split second.

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