Strength and Conditioning for Endurance Running


Most runners are aware that strength and conditioning work might help their running, but the majority are unsure of the finer details of exactly why and how.

Strength and Conditioning for Endurance Running by Richard Blagrove provides the arguments, the evidence and the answers. It contains everything you need to develop your own strength and conditioning routine and a wealth of information that will benefit all endurance runners, regardless of their skill level and ability.

Book Review

Chapter 1: Introduction to Strength and Conditioning

The book starts with a short chapter that defines the terms "strength" and "conditioning", lists their benefits and briefly discusses the different types of strength and how they relate to the goals of endurance runners.

Chapter 2: Physiological Perspectives

This chapter considers the qualities important to distance runners (maximal oxygen uptake, fractional utilisation, lactate thresholds and running economy) and for each considers their implications for strength and conditioning.

Here's a little teaser of the type of fascinating insight that the book provides. How can strength training improve your ability to run at race pace? Well, when you run your body picks which types of muscle fibre to use (we can broadly split muscle fibres into two types: fast twitch and slow twitch). However, recruiting the right muscle fibres for the job is something we need to learn, and it turns out that strength training brings about changes to the nervous system that help the body do this.

The book is filled with these types of insights and each is backed up with the reasoning and evidence necessary to convince the reader.

Chapter 3: Biomechanical and Injury Considerations

Chapter 3 starts by considering how force is produced by a runner and what implications this has for strength and conditioning. It then moves on to look at running technique. The three phases of the running action - early swing, late swing and stance - are discussed in turn and consideration is given to the various factors, such as weaknesses, that may negatively affect form.

Included is a useful table of technical problems and how S&C can be used to help correct these problems.

The chapter concludes with a look at common injuries that runners face and tips on how to avoid them.

Chapter 4: Assessing Strengths and Weakness

Following an explanation of the purpose of assessment and how it should be carried out various tests are detailed.

Four types of assessments are included. The first is Movement Screening Assessments. These are concerned with identifying "how well the runner can execute a set of basic and fundamental movement patterns".

The second set of assessments is Capacity Tests. These enable one to assess "the robustness of specific areas of the body that are important for running".

Performance Tests – referring to running performance – are mentioned briefly, and the final set of tests is Strength Diagnostics, intended for more-experienced athletes

Each of the tests includes a step-by-step description of how to perform it, accompanied by several photographs. An explanation of how to interpret the performance is then given, with details on typical errors encountered and the actions needed to correct them (via improved strength, conditioning or flexibility).

Chapter 5: Dispelling Myths

The book looks at six common myths about Strength and Conditioning Training - specifically why endurance runners may think it's not suitable for them - and dispels each in turn.

Chapter 6: Resistance Training

With doubts about the suitability of S&C for the endurance athlete hopefully removed, chapter 6 starts by describing the specific benefits it brings.

General training guidelines are offered before presenting separate sections on General Strength, Training, Unilateral Strength Training, Upper Limb Exercises and Explosive Strength Training.

Each section includes several exercises and is accompanied by step-by-step instructions and photographs demonstrating various stages of the exercise's movements.

Also listed are the aims of the exercise, session unit suggestions: reps and set recommendations for newcomers, intermediate and advanced athletes, and suggestions on how to progress the exercise.

Each exercise description is followed by a list of "Typical Errors and Corrections". Often accompanied by photographs, these are common problems that people might experience and information on how to correct them.

The chapter ends with a short note on designing a resistance training session.

Chapter 7: Plyometric Training

The "stretch-shortening" cycle is explained and a table of scientific evidence for the benefits of plyometric training is provided.

A series of plyometric exercises is listed in the same style as the exercises in the strength training chapter (with aims, technique, prescription and accompanying photographs).

There's then a separate section on typical errors encountered when performing plyometrics and how to correct these errors, and the chapter finishes with details of how to plan plyometrics training.

Chapter 8: Trunk Training

The chapter starts with myths about training the "core" (a term that is disliked by the author) and then explains the function of the trunk before detailing a variety of exercises in the same manner that the reader will now be familiar with.

Chapter 9: Foot and Ankle Conditioning

The chapter looks at how the ankle and foot are used during the running action and discusses motion control trainers & orthotics and barefoot running.

There are separate sections for Barefoot Conditioning Drills and Ankle Conditioning Exercises. The ankle conditioning exercises are further sub-divided into those designed for capacity, strength, rate of activation and specific drills.

Chapters 10 and 11: Hamstring Conditioning and Gluteal Stability

These chapters examine how the hamstring and glutes work during the running action and provide several exercises for each. As in the section on ankle conditioning exercises are sub-divided into those designed for capacity, strength, rate of activation and specific drills.

Chapter 12: Technical Running Drills

A variety of running drills, including the famous A-drills and B-Drills, are described. Information on these drills is hard to come by in running books and the majority of non-track runners aren't even aware of their existence, despite their usefulness. In the style of the rest of the book the drills are described clearly with plenty of supporting photographs.

Chapter 13: Mobilisations and Stretches

The chapter begins with arguing the case for the important of mobility and then includes sections on Active Stretches & Dynamic Mobilisations, Soft Tissue Release Work (with a foam roller), and Static Stretches.

Advice is given on when to include the different type of stretches within a routine and there are notes on hypermobility and on stretching progressions for those wanting to take their stretching to the next level.

Chapter 14: Planning your Strength and Conditioning

This chapter introduces the concept of periodisation, which many runners may already apply to their running training.

There's lots of advice on planning for various phases of training and designing sessions and training units, and a great section on incorporating an S&C routine into your training week alongside running training.

As well as the general advice there's example training weeks for both a runner with no S&C experience and a runner with intermediate S&C experience. There are also example sessions and advice on warming up for S&C sessions.

Chapter 15: Case Study Examples

The final chapter of the book considers three case studies. The first is a beginner without access to a gym, the second a young endurance runner and the third an international runner with strength and conditioning experience.

Each case study starts by analysing assessment results and then prescribes a weekly S&C plan and details specific S&C training units.

About the Author

Richard Blagrove is Programme Director for the undergraduate degree in Strength and Conditioning Science at St. Mary's University.

He has a Bachelor's degree in Sport Science and holds a Master's degree in Exercise Physiology.

Richard is also a Board Director for the UK Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA).

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