The rule of specificity states that we must train the discipline that we want to improve. i.e. if you want to be a faster runner, then run, don’t cycle.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. There are a number of ways we can improve our race times without actually running a step.
If we want to run faster then we have to train the body to be able to do that — running to be fit is quite different to being fit to run.
A new study has shown that a simple strength-training regime can have a dramatic effect on our 5k race times. Sixteen subjects were monitored. These were moderately trained runners who could run 5k in about 21 minutes and who trained 18 to 30 miles per week.
Half of the subjects continued with their normal training and half also trained as normal with the addition of 2 strength sessions each week which comprised dead-lifts, squats, calf-raises and lunges. They did 4 sets of 4 reps using 80% single lift maximums.
The results should be of interest to any runners seeking to improve their running speed; probably most of us.
All subjects completed a 5k time trial at the start of the study and then another 5k time trial 6 weeks later in similar conditions. Unsurprisingly, the members of the group who did not participate in the strength training sessions did not improve their times. However, the strength training group improved their times by on average 45 seconds. That is a vast improvement.
After the initial 6-week training period a further six weeks of normal training was undertaken by both groups. The runners who had improved reverted almost to their pre-study ability, demonstrating the importance of an ongoing strength-training regime.
The authors of the study suggested that these improvements would also be experienced by half marathon and marathon runners. They also remarked that this type of supplemental training could lower injury risks.
If you’d like to find some lost minutes in your race times, check out our 8-Week Runners’ Strength and Conditioning Plan.