There are benefits of strength type resistance training. These can include improvements in running economy through better posture and less wasted motion. Also, the improved neuromuscular connections between the brain, central nervous system, and the interacting muscles can improve overall speed and even help out during the late stages of a marathon. Personally, I think it's good, but how much and how often?
Let's start with intensity, which is often based on a percentage of a person's maximal effort for one repetition. For endurance runners, the usual percentage is about 65%. However, for the best blend of strength gains, muscle hypertrophy, and muscular endurance is between 12-15 repetitions of a weight. So, ideally, if a runner did 65% of their maximal effort for the bicep curl, they would be able to do 12-15 repetitions of that 65% weight. However, that's not the case! It may be eight times, or it may be 20 times that they can lift that weight. In the end, the advice is to use a resistance that allows you to lift that weight the desired amount of times (this will make more sense in the next section) until fatigue, and not focus so much on a percentage of a maximal effort.
The second part of this is the frequency. Here frequency can have two subcatagories. The first being the number of sets, while the second is the number of times per week. Let's begin with the number of sets. Recent reseacrch has shown that beginning to intermediate lifters will see the most benefits of doing one set of 10-15 repetitions. The article described the resistance as "relatively light). I think this is fine becuase it allows a beginning lifter an opportunity to enter this field, without being completely overspent. It's the same with running- too much too fast equals injury and burnout. Plus, as they become more advanced, there is a path to follow. With Advanced lifters, there is more stimulus that needs to be proided and it is recommended that advanced lifters engage in multiple (2-3 sets) of 10-25 repetitions. I know the common issue with long distance runners, and even if you look at the Andy Schleck's of the Tour de France, you see very tone, but small upper body muscles. Extra weight in the arms isn't necessarily a performance enhancer. In this case, doing 25 reps of a light weight keeps a person muscular, but doesn't necessarily add a lot of muscle weight. In the legs, it may makes sense to be more muscualr, since they are doing the work.
The second part to frequency deals with how many times per week. Recent research took a look at groups of athletes and performed resistance training with different groups every 24, 48, 72, or 96 hours. The results showed that 24 hours left the group well below their baseline strength levels. At 48 hours, it was better, but still below baseline. As for 72 and 96 hours, the levels were significantly above the baseline values, but there was no difference in the extra 24 hours. Waht this means is that 1-2 days between lifting is not enough time to allow for muscular remodeling and repair from the damage done, via the first resistance training session. Three and four days were enoigh to allow recovery, although there was no difference between three of four days. Based on that, beginning lifters should focus on a 2-3 times a week schedule, that allows at least 48 hours of recovery time. This group appears to recover a little faster since they are lifting less stressful volumes of total weight. Advanced lifters should focus on twice per week with a three to four day recovery block. Keep these guidelines in mind when setting out your own resistance training program!
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