Athlete facing leg strength issues

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gravy0558
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Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by gravy0558 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:28 pm

Hello all,

I coach an athlete that was able to improve over the course of a year from 17:30 to 15:57 cross country, placing in the top ten at the state meet recently. This was done using a basic model of Tinman's methods.

Midway through the season he would complain that although his breathing would feel fine running low 16 minute 5k's, his legs wouldn't allow him to push any harder. Going against the traditional Tinman model of just a few fast reps to end mid season cross country workouts, I gave him several mile pace and two mile pace reps at the end of mid week CV workouts, over the course of several weeks at the end of the cross country season. Even after all of this, and weekly hill workouts of 8x100m at mile effort all throughout the summer and most of the fall, he still complained that his legs were significantly limiting him.

Going forward, I see three viable options:

1. Increase volume of weekly hill reps to 16x100m at mile effort after a tempo workout, though winter and spring

2. Include weekly lower body weight training session using squats and possibly leg extensions

3. Include both 1 & 2 after the two weekly quality sessions


What do members of TheRunZone think?

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by Tinman » Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:23 pm

You are correct! The problem is your athlete's leg strength. He probably unable to access full leg power. I would focus on specific length strengthening (like lunges of varying sorts, single leg presses in the weight room, and hill reps, followed by hill bounding & springing (the Lydiard way). Focus on two weekly sessions that focus on specific leg strength. I suggest one serious weight room session and one serious hill running session. For the hill session, you already have a good idea. I would build to 8 x 100m hill reps at 70% of best sprint effort (equal to about 32000m racing effort, I believe). Then, build to 85% effort over a month. Once there, lengthen the reps by 25m and go back down to 70% of best speed up that hill, working up to 85% by the end of the month. Keep building until spring time, adding 25m per month and going through the sequence: 70%, 75%, 80%, and 85% of best speed up the hill.
Last edited by Tinman on Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by gravy0558 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 8:43 pm

Thank you for those ideas.

Does an upper limit exist for the volume of work that should be done in both the hill and weight sessions? I do no want to sacrifice the quality of the athlete's running workouts, and I know he is more of a distance specialist, small framed and not super fast over short distances (he TT'd a 2:10 800m before running 15:57 on a hilly course). This is probably why his aerobic system got in shape so much faster than his leg strength.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by Tinman » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:21 pm

gravy0558 -

The proof is in what you just stated. He ran a 15:57 for 5km cross-country and only could run 2:10 (presumably on the track) for 800m. Most guys who can run 15:57 are around 2 flat shape (gals are close to 2:06 at that level).

I suggest building your athletes slowly to 200m reps x 8 at the prescribed intensity (70% early in the month and 85% the last week of the month). Jog down and go right back up. That's not easy, and it will build some serious fitness. Keep the mileage, tempos, threshold, and CV going. Skip all VO2 max work until late in the spring. You should be able to get that young man down to 4:24 low for the 1600m and 9:25 for 3200m at least. He's got the aerobic engine; he need specific leg strength to use all of his aerobic capacity.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by gravy0558 » Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:20 pm

Thank you for that.

For the weightlifting session, could you suggest a sample outline of what to include? E.g. 5x20 lunges, 5xsingle leg presses at 10x50% of max, 5xsquats, etc? As a distance running coach I must admit I don't know how to structure weightlifting sessions very well.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by BoilerTom90 » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:24 pm

[quote="gravy0558"]
Thank you for that.

For the weightlifting session, could you suggest a sample outline of what to include? E.g. 5x20 lunges, 5xsingle leg presses at 10x50% of max, 5xsquats, etc? As a distance running coach I must admit I don't know how to structure weightlifting sessions very well.
[/quote]

I just want to caution you about lunges. Start conservatively!  Otherwise, your runners will be very sore for a few days and it will impact their running. I started my son on what I thought was a pretty conservative leg routine that including lunges. The first time I had him do 15  to 20, and he said his hamstrings and glutes were very sore. I found that odd because he just completed the HS season and they were supposedly doing weights, including leg exercsises, all season. I would have thought that lunges would be the staple of any runner's leg routine, but apparently not.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by gman » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:02 am

If never done weights/strength, then in off season start a general strength program, including short hill sprints 1-2xweek and strength 2-3xweek - pick 3-4 exercises, keep it short and sweet.  At first, bilateral squats/deadlifts, one exercise for glute/hams (glute/ham raises, RDLs, back extensions, reverse hypers), and something for hips (leg raises/hip thrusts), and a core exercise, ie planks, Vs, etc. - skip the leg extensions and leg curls.  Upper body - can do 2 exercises - bench/push-ups, rows/pull-ups; beach work is optional.  At the beginning, focus on technique, so lighter weights or bodyweight, and build from there; but don't need to do a ton of reps, at first, keep it 6-12 or so and sets could be 2-3.  You are not trying to develop endurance with strength training.  Eventually, once technique is solid, want to progress to higher weight/low reps (i.e. 2-4 reps @ 80-90% max) to gain relative strength and then start focusing on single leg exercises, i.e. bulgarian split squats, single leg deadlifts, pistol squats, single leg RDLs, etc.  If able with good technique, Olympic lifts are best, but don't do if can't learn technique.  Can still come close with deadlifts/squats/jump squats, etc.  Once, relative strength levels off, can start to focus a little on hypertrophy by lifting lighter with more reps (but not too much - don't want to gain too much weight), and then develop power/explosiveness with plyometrics.  This would start as hops/jumps, progress to bounds, and maybe get into box/depth jumps after a year or two.  Be careful here, since it is easy to pick up injuries once starting this type of work.  So, just a couple sets of a few reps at first, full recovery.

Like BoilerTom suggest, be conservative, and over time you will see a big difference in speed, explosiveness, and economy.
Last edited by gman on Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by runthe8 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:33 am

My son has had a lot of success building lower body/core strength doing the following exercises: 3 sets of 15 kettlebell swings, using about 1/3-1/4 of his body weight, single leg deadlifts with weight (just a dumbbell or light kettlebell, but start with bodyweight only), single leg deadlifts with rotation using rubber tubing for resistance (google Oregon project strength program and you can find a video of this), "hot salsa" lunges with a medicine ball (also Oregon project exercise with video), several varieties of planks, and also some barefoot balance work on the Indo board (also good for core work once you master it, and much more fun than doing endless planks).  He also does bench press (for beach muscles, nothing else!) and pullups.  I do most of these exercises too and I have much more power in my stride than I did before.  When pressed for time, I alternate between a set of  15 kettlebell swings and "hard" planks for 30 seconds (once in the plank position, pull your elbows back towards your feet and squeeze your glutes together.  Your elbows don't actually move, but it intensifies the activation of your abdominal muscles.  I go back and forth for 3 sets of each.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by dkggpeters » Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:19 am

I would lift heavy with only a few sets and low reps (1e 3 x 5 reps at 85 to 90% of max) with long recoveries of 2 to 5 minutes.  I found if I did higher reps then I would get lactic buildup and my running would suffer the following day and my strength didn't increase very fast.  If I did high weight with low reps I found that my strength increased significantly and I was able to run without any issues the next day as I had no lactic buildup.  )There is other physiological things going on besides lactic buildup which allows your body to recover faster which I am not good at explaining.)

Be careful when lifting heavy to keep excellent form and don't go to failure.  Leave a rep or two in the tank.

If found the following to be good for lower body strength.

Squats
Deadlifts  (I only did 1 heavy set as doing to many heavy DL's can significantly stress the CNS and can be hard to recover from.  I would do a warmup set at 135 lbs, put on 185 to 205 for another set and a heavy set of 250 to 300.)
Bulgarian split squats or lunges
Weighted step ups
Calf raises
GHR (Glute hamstring raises)

When I do weights I do upper body as well mainly consisting of only bench press and bent over rows on one session.  On the other I do military presses and weighted pullups.  Same theory applies using high weight and low reps.

I like the idea of doing hill sprints or bounding after listening to Pete Magill's podcast.  What better way to build strength which is specific to running.

http://runnersconnect.net/running-interviews/training-as-a-masters-runner-inteview-with-masters-running-record-holder-pete-magill/

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by TexNav » Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:19 am

dkg,

If you catch this, I'm curious as to what your athletic background is. Your program is well thought out, and if not for having to train for other specific athletic events, if I were just lifting for overall strength and general health too as running as my main sport, your split is basically exactly as I've always envisioned training. One upper day of vertical pull/push, and another of horizontal pull/push. Also very interesting to read your comments about the deadlift and it's affect on the CNS system. This is something that I'd heard from PL'er/coach Louie Simmons years back, and that is that the bar in your hands with heavier loads increases the demands on the CNS. I've heard very few people outside of the strength field recognize such. Personally I've not had issues with it in the past, but I also purposely never ran myself into the ground, nor trained to failure.

I think of myself as more of a lifter at heart, who also likes to run, so I couldn't help but comment on your program.

You might share for folks how and when during the week, and day when you schedule your strength training.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by dkggpeters » Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:56 am

TexNav,

My athletic background is primarily on endurance sports.  I ran XCountry and Track in High School and did cycling around 20 years ago.

I got into weights to help with my running and did a lot of research and trial and error.  I found that Starting Strength (get his book regardless as he explains how to squat and deadlift correctly in detail.  60 pages on how to squat) and New Rules of Lifting.  I ended combing something from both of them.  They both focus on compound lifts and higher weights.  New rules of lifting has you do a 5 x 5 and even for deadlift.  Starting strength focuses on 3 x 5  and only 1 x 5 for deadlifts. 

A couple of years ago when I weighed 170 to 175 I was able to get my bench from doing 130 lbs to 185 lbs for a 3 x 5.  True weight lifters would laugh at this but for me it was huge and proved to me that I could get reasonably strong.  I have a runners body and don't add muscle easily.  If you did the conventional 3 x 10 i noticed I stalled right away.  With starting strength or new rules of lifting you add 2.5 ot 5 lbs each week and I didn't stall for a long time.  I also didn't bulk up which is nice.  I have lost a lot of weight since and one thing I noticed is a large drop in strength but since I am focusing on marathon times I don't mind.

I can't remember where I read about the deadlift significantly impacting the CNS but it was something that I wasn't aware of and it made sense.  I do know that on starting strength he comments on doing on on heavy set of deadlifts as the recovery is to great if you do multiple sets.  I really like deadlifts and I can pull a lot and my squat is laughable.

For timing on strength training I did the following

              Running            Weights
Mon        Easy
Tues        big workout
Wed        easy                  lift
Thurs      easy
Fri          easy
Sat          big workout
Sun        easy MLR            lift

Some people will advocate lifting the same day as a hard effort.  It was just to much mentally for me and doing big workouts is a lot of volume by itself.  I found that I could lift with no problems the day after a hard workout without any problems.  Sometimes I would have to move my lifting days around due to commitments but I followed a hard and fast rule of never lifting the day before a hard running effort.

I used to do a split which would require 4 days of lifting.  I would do a lower body upper body split.  This was to hard to maintain when running a lot of miles and my focus became using lifting for injury prevention and general overall health.  I cut down on how many exercises I did to do a 1 hour workout.  Most of the exercises I eliminated were for upper body.

Hope this helps.

Dave

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by TexNav » Wed Dec 11, 2013 12:40 pm

Great stuff, thanks for sharing.

I am very familiar with Starting Strength and have skimmed through the Schuler/Cosgrove book as well. I never felt the need to buy either though as by the time I really came across it, I had already put in a good amount of time technique-wise (primarily influenced by Louie Simmons and Charles Poliquin).

Regarding doing your weights the day after a workout and not on the day of, I can completely understand the mental and physical limitations. But as you know, since you aren't beating yourself up with reps, then the day after seems to be working.
If memory serves me correctly I typically did the same a few years back when I had to do my Friday Big Workout, I'd do lower the day after, and I had no problem coming back for a Tuesday Workout. I'd have to check my logs to make sure.

As far as the 2 upper body lifts per workout, Poliquin at least, has said that a person should be able to get strong on 2 lifts per day. And similar to the way you train, he tries to superset opposing movement patterns and muscles groups as much as possible.

Thanks again, I always like seeing how others might be similar or different. Big props to you for taking the time to read and research on the strength end. I know a good number of runners who wouldn't even take the time, too old school to even consider it. 

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by dkggpeters » Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:45 pm

If you learned from Simmons or Polquin then you can't do better then that.

I was just starting to lift and stumbled across starting strength and new rules of lifting and tried them and got good results whereous when I was lifting off my own knowledge got nowhere.

One thing you may want to look at as well is a program from Barry Ross in which you really only do deadlifts and bench press and you only do up to 3 reps on the deadlift.  Barry feels that the deadlift works every muscle in the body except the pecs.  By doing 3 reps you don't break the body down and it gets strong quickly and is not fatiging.  He recommends dropping the bar rather then doing the eccentric phase as it prevents injuries.  I don't have bumper plates so I can't drop my weights.  I read it in Healthy Intelligent Training written by Kevin Livingstone which is a book explaining Lydiards training methods.  I am looking at quick type workouts now due to time contraints and as I mentioned before my main focus is injury prevention and building a little strength as running fast is my priority now.

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by TexNav » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:49 pm

That's funny, I was going to mention Pavel, and then Barry Ross's own usage, "Bearpowered",  but didn't go any further.
I'm familiar with the Livingstone book as well. I'm always reading in my personal time, and sometimes when I should be working...maybe like now!

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Re: Athlete facing leg strength issues

Post by dkggpeters » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:27 pm

Pavel has some interesting concepts as well.  I have used grease the groove for pullups with great success.  I liked that you just did a little bit here and a little bit there.

I tend to drift at work as well and read running material when I should be working as well.  If smokers can waste an hour a day outside smoking then I should be able to do something worthwhile for a bit of time.  Doesn't really matter anyways as I am salary and have to get work done so if I read at work then it means I am usually working later at home.

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