Strength training and running economy: is there benefit?

Valldecabres Víctor
& Koral Jerome

Research Group HIIT, Catholic University of Valencia

Key words: running economy ; strength ; elastic energy ; energy cost

Running economy (RE) is one of the determining factors in aerobic performance
in distance runners together with the maximal oxygen uptake (VO
), the fractional
use of VO
) and the VO
kinetics (Burtscher, Forster & Burtscher, 2008;
Fletcher, Esau & Macintosh, 2009; Helgerud, Storen & Hoff, 2009). The current
literature, which studies the aerobic performance in elite runners, supports that while
remains almost the same over the years, both the %VO
and the vVO
runner can maintain increase (Figure 1).

Because of this, it is important to study which are the most effective methods in
order to increase RE. In that sense, one of the most studied and effective method to
improve RE is the correct strength training in all its aspects (maximal strength,
explosive and plyometric strength, CORE stability and strength, and inspiratory
In addition, we analysed when is the appropriate time to perform this method in
order to avoid the possible interference of training strength and endurance in the same
session (also known as concurrent training).
The aim of this study was to demonstrate the benefits of strength training on the

As we have described before, we can perform different strength trainings in
order to improve EC; otherwise, there are others, such as the “endurance strength”,
which was thought to be useful but actually it may not be. By means of the maximal
strength training, we would raise the peak and rhythm of the developed strength, which
improves the motor units pre-activation, reduces the percentage of developed strength in
each stride and reduces the recruitment threshold of the motor units (Aagaard &
Andersen , 2010; Hoff et al., 2002; Karlsen et al, 2008; Paavolainen et al., 1999;
Taipale et al, 2010). When training explosive and plyometric strength we would achieve
a higher storage and use of the elastic energy by improving the stretch-shorten muscle
cycle (Mikkola et al., 2006; Paavolainen et al., 1999; Saunders et al., 2006; Turner et
al., 2003). By exercising the stability and strength of the CORE muscles we would
improve the transmission of the generated strength from trunk until extremities (Hibbs
Figure 1: Jones AM (2006). The physiology of the world record holder for the women's marathon. Int J Sports Sci Coaching 1,
Comparative between concurrent training and no
concurrent training results
Conc. No Conc.
et al., 2008; Nikolenko et al., 2011; Sato & Mokha, 2009; Sharrock et al., 2011;
Stanton, Reaburn & Humphries, 2004; Willardson, 2007). Finally, thanks to training
inspiratory muscles, we should obtain a greater gas exchange capacity. All these
adaptations allow us to run at the same velocity with a lower energy cost, which means
a greater performance at the end of the event.
To finish, we analyzed the controversy about the well-known concurrent
training. On one hand, at molecular level, the literature confirms that there is a negative
interference (TSC ½ inhibits mTOR) (Hawley, 2009; Narder, 2006). On other hand, the
practical point of view does not support it (Chatra et al., 2005 & 2008; Silva et al.,
2012), but from our point of view there actually is a negative interference (Figure 2).

In conclusion, there are multiple benefits runners can achieved with a suitable
strength training of the energy cost of running, so we should leave behind old beliefs
and use training methods that have been validate by scientific researches. Furthermore,
we can support that strength and endurance should be trained in different sessions in
order to avoid interference between them.

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