Effects of Heavy Strength Training on Running Performance and Determinants of Running Performance in Female Endurance Athletes
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Purpose The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effects of adding strength training to normal endurance training on running performance and running economy in well-trained female athletes. We hypothesized that the added strength training would improve performance and running economy through altered stiffness of the muscle-tendon complex of leg extensors. Methods Nineteen female endurance athletes [maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max): 53±3 ml∙kg-1∙min-1, 5.8 h weekly endurance training] were randomly assigned to either normal endurance training (E, n = 8) or normal endurance training combined with strength training (E+S, n = 11). The strength training consisted of four leg exercises [3 x 4–10 repetition maximum (RM)], twice a week for 11 weeks. Muscle strength, 40 min all-out running distance, running performance determinants and patellar tendon stiffness were measured before and after the intervention. Results E+S increased 1RM in leg exercises (40 ± 15%) and maximal jumping height in counter movement jump (6 ± 6%) and squat jump (9 ± 7%, p < 0.05). This was accompanied by increased muscle fiber cross sectional area of both fiber type I (13 ± 7%) and fiber type II (31 ± 20%) in m. vastus lateralis (p < 0.05), with no change in capillary density in m. vastus lateralis or the stiffness of the patellar tendon. Neither E+S nor E changed running economy, fractional utilization of VO2max or VO2max. There were also no change in running distance during a 40 min all-out running test in neither of the groups. Conclusion Adding heavy strength training to endurance training did not affect 40 min all-out running performance or running economy compared to endurance training only.