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Quality and Strength Benefits of Practical Cross Training

This post addresses every sports person where running is a part of the sport because we can all have benefits of Strength and weight training as Cross Training, which you will see. My starting point is middle- long distance runners as model. Quality and Strength Benefits Of Practical Cross Training is about create a resilient base to develop physical skills, optimizing your movements, strength, prevent injuries, increase motivation and surplus.

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Female runner in the Lat Pull Down machine

Strength and weight training as Cross Training

Many runners tend to “look the other way” when it comes to Cross training. If you have consulted a physiotherapist with an injury or had a real trainer, you would in 9 out of 10 times be told to do strength and stability exercises. It’s an essential part of running well, and prevents a number of injuries. Lack of strength training can be the limiting factor for improvement because your running economy is too poor and because you are constantly running into injuries.

Most middle- long distance runners, will in the starting period of a season in varying degree, work on getting stimulate all the systems that affect their running shape. That is, both fitness, endurance, strength and the ability to run fast and long, of course without overloading the body too much.

This means that the training becomes versatile, and we train both high-intensity intervals, moderate tempo run at a steady pace, hill training and long calm LSD runs. Throughout the period, strength and weight training can be used as Cross training.In addition to preventing injuries, Strength and/or Weight Training is the simplest and most effective way to maintain and develop the body’s muscles, tendons and bones.

When you perform strength, training exposes the body to loads as it’s not use to. It responds by adapting to the new requirements and becomes stronger after what is called the super compensation principle.

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Runner and Ab-Wheel training

In order for the training to be as effective as possible, it must be adapted to your body, your current strength level and your needs in relation to running. You have to be sure to apply progressive overload to the body. The body’s ability to improve and develop its capacity is called adaptation.

The human body consists of a wide range of physiological systems, all of which are capable of adapting. But the condition is that the training is organized in a way, so all systems becomes affected specifically.

Ex. Increasing upper body strength is very important late in a marathon race, as neck and shoulder muscles often become fatigued. Upper body strength is also an important asset in running up hills.

Progressive overload can be achieved by:

  • Increase the load
  • Increase the number of repetitions
  • Change the speed of repetitions with high load
  • Shorten the breaks between repetitions, sets and Training sessions

Whether you choose the strength training machines or free weights, there are some terms “In the business” you should know:

Repetitions

The term covers a single execution of an exercise. Usually, a repetition consists of two phases. A concentric phase where the weight is lifted and an eccentric phase where it is subsequently lowers. For example, if you do ten push-ups, it will equal ten repetitions.

Set

A set is any number of repetitions performed consecutively without a break. A set can thus in principle consist of one, two or more number of repetitions. In most training programs, you operate with anything from 5 to 20 repetitions.

RM

Is an abbreviation for Repetition Maximum, which means the maximum number of repetitions you are able to handle with the correct technique in one set, i.e. all the weight you can lift once. RM thus depends on the load. If you can take 10 repetitions, but have to give up halfway to the 11, we say that you train with 10 RM. The weight you have to train with can be calculated as a percentage of the weight you can handle in a single repetition or 1 RM. 1 RM is of course very demanding and should only be performed by well-trained people.

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Dumbbell training

Usually we distinguish between two types of strength training

During the decidedly strength training, heavy weights are lifted a few times – 1 – 8 repetitions at 80 – 100% of the maximum. This form of exercise usually means that over time, you will get stronger and gain bigger muscles. You also get heavier as a result of the increased muscle mass. But you do not burn nearly as much fat.

In endurance training as from 800 m to marathon, on the other hand, a lift is repeated many times. For example. 12 – 25 times at about 60-70% of max. As a result, the muscles do not get bigger in the same way but they become more enduring and you lose fat – becoming leaner as the body increases fat burning by this exercise form.

As middle or long-distance runner, it’s about being as light as possible for not carry on too much unnecessary “dead weight” as excess fat during the race. On the other hand, it’s also about making the muscles strong and resilient, without gaining weight, so you can keep up a good and effective running style throughout the chosen running distance.

In order to create balance, it is best to choose a weight and a number of repetitions that gives both strength, endurance and tighten up the body: 10-12 repetitions at about 70% of maximum, has proven to be a good starting point.

We usually choose 8 – 10 exercises per training session, and each exercise is performed as dynamic muscle training: 1 – 3 sets of 10 – 12 repetitions.

A strength training program for the whole body with the mentioned number of sets and repetitions can be completed in 45-60 min.

Remember to start out from your current strength and experience level. Rather, take too light loads than the opposite in the beginning.

Strength Training Machines

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Young runner in Fitness Strength machine

The safest way to train is to use the strength training machines, as they are specially designed, so you cannot do the movements incorrectly unless you take on too much weight and start making “alternative” movements to cope with the load. When you become more experienced you can use free weights if you want.

When you show up in a Fitness Center for the first time, you are offered a trial lesson, which has an important function. It’s a prerequisite for you to get a good start, which means doing the right thing from the beginning – in my opinion. During the trial lesson, you can have your own personal program put together in consultation with the instructor – you can mention that you are runner and want to use strength training as supplemental training.

The instructor will guide you in performing the exercises correctly. If you forget it to another time, ask the Instructor again. But each machine is usually provided with a small illustration of which muscle groups you are training. If you look at the picture below: the red area is the primary area, the lighter area as on the LOW ROW is the secondary area and then a label on how you perform the exercise.

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Fitness machine exercise illustration

Operation of the machines

Before you start with the strength training machines, remember to warm up for 10 – 20 minutes in one of the Cardio machines.

Start by adjusting the saddle height to suit you. Most often you pull in a handle under the seat to adjust the height. If the machine has a seat belt, so you stay in the correct sitting position while performing the exercise, then use it. Next set the machine to the correct load – try it out and start with a low load if this is your first time.

The most important thing is to get the feeling of the right execution of the movement. On most machines, the weight is regulated by pulling the small split pin out of the weight disc and inserting it in the hole by the desired weight indication (Picture below).

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Fitness machine, Split pin in weight disc

Strength training and running performance

Previously, it has not been considered possible to increase muscle strength and endurance at the same time, as the training effect of the two forms of training are opposites. The reason is primarily, that strength training can increase the muscle mass by increasing the size of the individual muscle cell.

This means that there becomes a greater distance from the capillaries around the muscle cell and in to the middle of the muscle cell where a part of the mitochondria is located, and as you maybe remember, the mitochondria are the power station of the muscle cell.

When the diffusion distance becomes longer, the possibility of exchange nutrients- and waste products in and out of the muscle cell weakens. Long-distance running (aerobic training) improves the diffusion conditions by, among other things, increasing the number of capillaries.

If strength training and endurance training have to complement each other, it’s therefore important to find the balance, where you as a runner complete strength training without increasing the muscle mass significantly. In addition, larger muscles provide an increased weight that you have to carry with you during the race.

With many repetitions in each set in the strength machines (about 15) 2-3 times a week during the preparation period, the strength and endurance of the individual muscle fibers improves. Thereby, you can increase your running performance primarily by a better running economy and a better sense of surplus.

Conclusion

Strength and weight training as Cross Training is easy to learn and do. There are many opportunities to adapt the exercises to your specific purpose depending on what you want to get out of it.

If you have less time, it’s a good idea to use fewer machines that works on several muscle group at the same time. Maybe you will experience a little soreness in the beginning because of the body’s adaptation rules but soon you will experience the positive effects, that gives results.

I hope you like this blog and if you have any questions about this topic or want to leave your own Personal review, please leave a comment below.

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