It’s time to add that all-important exercise stimulus: resistance training. Following many of the same principles that weight lifters use, athletes stimulate muscle power by applying appropriate resistance stimuli to the specific activity they are training for. That is, it is known that if you “overload” the specific muscle by repeatedly asking it to work at higher levels of workload, usually at a slower rate, the muscle responds by getting stronger. Favorite examples of resistance training are stairs – use office buildings, bleachers, stair machines at the club or hill intervals. Find a few rolling hills – mountains will do – and work the uphills in Z3. The downhills are active resting in the Z2 zone. The benefits are enormous. The ability to climb hills is a specific stimulus that leads to increased speed and strength.
Frequency: 2 workouts per week of strength +3 workouts of endurance
Time: 20-60 minutes
Period: 3-4 weeks
Heart Zones: Z2 through Z3
Benefits: Sport-specific muscle strength
The strength branch is a time for more than just doing strength resistance training with weights and machines. Since a lot of lower body weight training is in the seated position, it isolates different muscles than when you are standing. Further, you aren’t required to support your body weight during seated repetitions. As a result, your specific lower body muscles do generally get stronger and they become adept at exerting power while you are sitting down. It’s then important to take this improvement in general strength to the specific muscle strength required by that sport activity.
Most weight training routines focus on individual joints and muscles and don’t require your muscles to support full body weight. That’s why training on hills or in the water with resistance devices builds more sports specific strength. For example, running up hills forces the muscles in all parts of your leg – from your hips, legs, ankles and feet to exert power while fully supporting your body weight. Hill workouts stress the lower leg muscles resulting in dramatic increases in running power. With more power, you get the benefits of longer, faster running strides.
Kenyan runners would be a good example of this. They are some of the best runners in the world, despite the fact that they never go to a gym and lift weights. Their “gym” consists of the hills and mountains of their rugged homeland and upon their daily training regimen.
Research supports what runners have known for a long me about hill running. Bengt Saltin, Ph. D. has examined the muscle tissue of hill runners and found they have higher concentrations of “aerobic enzymes” (those are the chemicals which help muscles to consume oxygen at higher heart rates for longer periods of time without fatigue) than the muscles of the runners who only train on at ground.
To improve your leg-muscle power, to enhance your sport-specific economy, to protect your legs against soreness and, in running, to increase stride length, the strength branch of the tree is the place to hang out. The most common kind of strength training session is called “hill training”.
There are two different basic kinds of hill workouts. To boost your leg muscle power, one of the best methods is find a very steep slope at least 25 meters from the bottom to the top.
The second way of optimally improving your performance during this stage of strength training is to increase the aerobic capabilities and to improve the fatigue resistance of your muscles is by finding a “set” of hills that are moderate in nature and which you can train more than 20-30 minutes. Find a hilly park or a bunch of sand dunes along the shore or rolling terrain in the country and use them for this workout. You’ll do your recovery phase as you saunter down the backside and your high intensity phase as you work your way to the top of Z4 and hopefully, on your recovery back into Z2.