Question about Strength Training for an Ultra Runner Posted on May 22, 2014, 0 Comments

Question:

1. Which are the best strength exercises to train the quads eccentrically (for the downhills)?
2. In addition to your book, I have also read Tudor Bompa's "Periodization Training for Sports".  He suggests after the Max Strength period a "Conversion to Muscular Endurance" period, lifting 30-40% of 1RM for 4-10 minuets non stop.  I have tried this method and managed to get up to 3 minuntes of continuous lift and end up with burning muscles and tears in my eyes.  What is your opinion on that type of training?

 

Answer:

Thanks for your purchase then--every book I sell is more I can donate to LLS.  So you have the gratitude of many others, too.

1--Try not to think quad so much as leg, even if you feel that these muscles are the limiter during downhill running.  Even then, try not to think leg so much as body.  Thus, proper core activation (strength/timing/balance of uppers vs. lowers, ext vs. intern obliques, etc) will be critical to help dissipate the load throughout the kinetic chain without excessive energy loss secondary to faulty/inefficient movement patterns and compensations.  But an exercise I might recommend would be jumps or exploding harvards or something from the plyometric drill section of my book (one legged versions more sport specific than 2 legged, of course).  What you want to look for is the ability to STAY in one place with minimal lateral or sagittal plane deviations--the better you can do this, the more stable you are (=better force production and alignment/less injury potential).  These movements also more readily replicate the movements speeds encountered in running.  Core recruitment is extremely high, too.  But, obviously, these are expressions of POWER and, thus, built on a foundation of strength, stability, and flexibility.  Lastly, know that as your training volume in-sport increases, your training outside of running will likely need to decrease.  Thus, proceed with caution with the eccentric loads mentioned above.  When in doubt, stretch and train the core.  And even before that, get the nutrition/lifestyle working for rather than against you.  That's what my next book is all about--hope to have it finished after RAAM this year (3 weeks away).
2--I like Bompa and respect his work enough to have referenced him in my book (and other work).  However, I think this kind of training is of limited value in your case.  Yes, it's increasing work capacity.  But you can do that more specifically by utilizing your sport (among other methods).  And when you mix high density training (which is what that is) with high intensity training (which is what this may feel like--but, in truth, it's not) in the same session, neither biomotor ability (endurance and strength or endurance and power or both/all 3) end up developing to the potential they could.  Typically, strength/power are sacrificed along with form--and when movement quality suffers, you're programming your computer with faulty info.  Save the true endurance training for your sport of choice (or cross-training as necessary) and focus on what the limiter is for most endurance athletes--strength/power. 

Hope that helps.