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Strength training and running economy: is there benefit?

Valldecabres Víctor 1 & Koral Jerome 1 1 Research Group HIIT, Catholic University of Valencia

Key words: running economy ; strength ; elastic energy ; energy cost


Running economy (RE) is one of the determining factors in aerobic performance in distance runners together with the maximal oxygen uptake (VO 2max ), the fractional use of VO 2max (%VO 2max ) and the VO 2 kinetics (Burtscher, Forster & Burtscher, 2008; Fletcher, Esau & Macintosh, 2009; Helgerud, Storen & Hoff, 2009). The current literature, which studies the aerobic performance in elite runners, supports that while VO 2max remains almost the same over the years, both the %VO 2max and the vVO 2max a runner can maintain increase (Figure 1).

2 m a x a runner can maintain increase (Figure 1). Figure 1: Jones AM (2006).
2 m a x a runner can maintain increase (Figure 1). Figure 1: Jones AM (2006).

Figure 1: Jones AM (2006). The physiology of the world record holder for the women's marathon. Int J Sports Sci Coaching 1,


Because of this, it is important to study which are the most effective methods in order to increase RE. In that sense, one of the most studied and effective method to improve RE is the correct strength training in all its aspects (maximal strength, explosive and plyometric strength, CORE stability and strength, and inspiratory muscles). In addition, we analysed when is the appropriate time to perform this method in order to avoid the possible interference of training strength and endurance in the same session (also known as concurrent training). The aim of this study was to demonstrate the benefits of strength training on the



As we have described before, we can perform different strength trainings in order to improve EC; otherwise, there are others, such as the “endurance strength”, which was thought to be useful but actually it may not be. By means of the maximal strength training, we would raise the peak and rhythm of the developed strength, which improves the motor units pre-activation, reduces the percentage of developed strength in each stride and reduces the recruitment threshold of the motor units (Aagaard & Andersen , 2010; Hoff et al., 2002; Karlsen et al, 2008; Paavolainen et al., 1999; Taipale et al, 2010). When training explosive and plyometric strength we would achieve a higher storage and use of the elastic energy by improving the stretch-shorten muscle cycle (Mikkola et al., 2006; Paavolainen et al., 1999; Saunders et al., 2006; Turner et al., 2003). By exercising the stability and strength of the CORE muscles we would improve the transmission of the generated strength from trunk until extremities (Hibbs

et al., 2008; Nikolenko et al., 2011; Sato & Mokha, 2009; Sharrock et al., 2011; Stanton, Reaburn & Humphries, 2004; Willardson, 2007). Finally, thanks to training inspiratory muscles, we should obtain a greater gas exchange capacity. All these adaptations allow us to run at the same velocity with a lower energy cost, which means a greater performance at the end of the event. To finish, we analyzed the controversy about the well-known concurrent training. On one hand, at molecular level, the literature confirms that there is a negative interference (TSC ½ inhibits mTOR) (Hawley, 2009; Narder, 2006). On other hand, the practical point of view does not support it (Chatra et al., 2005 & 2008; Silva et al., 2012), but from our point of view there actually is a negative interference (Figure 2).

Comparative between concurrent training and no concurrent training results * Conc. No Conc.
Comparative between concurrent training and no
concurrent training results
No Conc.

Figure 2: Comparative between concurrent training and no concurrent training results.


In conclusion, there are multiple benefits runners can achieved with a suitable strength training of the energy cost of running, so we should leave behind old beliefs and use training methods that have been validate by scientific researches. Furthermore, we can support that strength and endurance should be trained in different sessions in order to avoid interference between them.


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