Strength, plyometrics and dynamics reduce run energy requirement

Ultra maraton, biegRecent research results have confirmed a positive impact of weight training on run economics among long-distance runners. The run economics measured by the oxygen consumption per body weight kilogram per distance unit at the specific speed is one of the main factors which differentiates performance of long-distance runners.

An interesting issue found in the experiment carried out by the Italian-American group of scientists among ultramarathon runners is the fact that their run training has been supplemented with a simple weight-explosive-plyometric program based on own body resistance, which can be conducted at home.

Ultramarathon running is not a professional sport and such runners usually do not tend to work out in gyms regularly – for “philosophical” and logistic reasons. This also applies to most amateurs who take part in marathons; this is why scientists claim that a weight training which can be carried out at home is more likely to be regular.

25 advanced ultramarathon runners participated in the experiment, and none of them underwent a regular weight training. The runners were divided into two groups on a random basis: control and experimental. The latter, aside from a regular run training, fulfilled a 12-week training composed of simple weight, plyometric and explosive exercises done for about 30 minutes every other day, except for days that followed long or intensive run trainings and competitions. The control group in turn continued their regular run training.

The training program was designed so that the runners who had not undergone weight training had a chance to adapt in the period in which the volume and intensity were gradually increased, and a specific-order exercises were introduced: central stabilization and run techniques, weight training, explosive and plyometric exercises.

The examples of exercises are various supports, marching on back and heels, half squats, lunges, stepping on high steps, skipping, rope skipping, drop jumps, including knee bends on unstable surface, which is deemed beneficial to terrain runners.

Experimental group members performed 5-8 exercises 3 times a week in 1-3 series with 15 repetitions, and each of them without breaks or with short (<30s.) breaks between subsequent exercises. As mentioned before, all exercises were performed without any additional external loads.

Before and after the intervention, both groups’ running energy cost with four most typical ultradistance run speeds were measured, as well as run kinematics. The main conclusion was that a 12-week “home” weight-explosive-plyometric training devoid of external loads reduced the running energy cost (improved run economics) by on average 4.3% with sub-maximum speeds and this may be a result of increased time when feet contact surface when running, as well as growth of maximum muscle strength. It was calculated that a 4-percent drop of running energy cost may shorten a run time at the distance of 100km by about 17 minutes (with total run time of about 9 hours). For this reason authors suggest implementing a weight-explosive-plyometric training in long-distance runners’ training, being 2-3 units per week.

Energetyczny koszt biegu wykres

Fig. 1.
Running energy cost (Cr) as a run speed function in the experimental group before (PRE- black posts) and after (POST – white posts) the experimental training period. Average values and standard deviation. + – values significantly differ between PRE and POST.

Zależność pomiędzy zmianami w energetycznym koszcie biegu (ΔCr, %) a maksymalną mocą mięśniową (ΔMMP, %)

Effects of strength, explosive and plyometric training on energy cost of running in ultra-endurance athletes.
Nicola Giovanelli, Paolo Taboga, Enrico Rejc & Stefano Lazzer
European Journal of Sport Science (2017),
DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2017.1305454

Mariusz GolińskiRehasport Clinic Motor Skills Trainer