What’s the point in runners doing weights in the gym?
If the exercises aren’t specific or similar to running what’s the point? Strength training can mean different things to different individuals, but in practice, it is exercising with progressively heavier loads to attempt to increase muscle strength, power, hypertrophy, and/or endurance. Research into using strength training in endurance athletes is a relatively new concept, with modern concepts understanding that when prescribed in the correct dosage, the benefits are great to running performance. Such benefits include improved running economy through neuromuscular improvements, improved maximal speed, increased anaerobic capacity and reduced risk of every runner’s nightmare – overuse injuries.
This doesn’t mean that strength training should be used alone to improve performance; it must be done alongside endurance training in a method known commonly as concurrent training.
How does strength training elicit these benefits?
Firstly, research has shown that post-strength training, it takes more time for Type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibres to be recruited during endurance activities, therefore favouring Type I (slow-twitch) fibres for a longer duration. Secondly, following concurrent training in endurance athletes, Type IIx (high force production, speed) fibres declined slightly, with Type IIa (fast but fatigue-resistant and key for long-term anaerobic performance) increasing following a 16-week programme.