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Monday, February 25, 2013

Run Stronger, Faster, and Build Endurance With Complex Training

How about we talk today about a runner's way to develop power, strength & speed? If you are a runner, I'm sure you are nodding your head because who doesn't want to get faster! 

That is why you put in the countless miles, weekly speed work, hill work, and HOPEFULLY resistance training! That's an all inclusive package for a balanced running schedule! 

So how about a way to increase those 5K times, build explosive strength in the lower body, and even help improve your efficiency as a runner?

It's called Complex Training.

Now bear with me, I know I may have lost some of you when you heard the words, resistance training.  But Complex training will increase reactive strength and contractile capacity of each and every one of your muscle fibers! Your neuromuscular communication will be through the roof which will produce more force at a faster rate. Your muscles will be MUCH more efficient at using energy stored up to promote a stronger stride and a quicker muscle activation.

So Who Cares Right?

Well, this, in return, will give you that quick stride and short point of contact with the ground that you have ALWAYS been wanting. Another benefit is of course that with less impact, your chances of injury drop dramatically!

So What is complex training?
A complex training program involves continuously alternating between a strength-developing exercise and a power-developing plyometric exercise. The plyometric exercise should be bio-mechanically similar to the strength-developing exercises. For example, a body-weight jump squat would be paired with a barbell back squat.

This type of training will improve your plyometric ability much more than if you did the exercise alone!  It also has been proven that it develops more strength & power which will enable your body to better stabilize and control itself during intense training.  Not only has this method been proven to be effective at improving jump and sprint performance, but it is a great way to design a workout plan to improve conditioning and overall fitness.  

PLUS, it burns way more calories and fat than traditional lifting methods because of the repeated force exerted on reacting muscle fibers! 

When you complex train, your muscles have an increased neural drive, which can improve jumping and sprinting performance. This is also known as “post-activation potentiation,” or PAP for short.

Researchers have suggested that these mechanisms are involved in creating PAP:
  • Increased motor unit recruitment
  • Improved motor unit synchronization
  • Greater motor neuron excitability
  • Reduction in pre-synaptic inhibition
Use complex training to:
  • Improve your running economy by improving your body’s ability to use stored elastic energy
  • Boost your ability to attack hills and produce a strong kick at the end of a race
  • Increase the strength and power producing abilities of your muscles
  • Reduce injury risk from the repetitive strain of running by improving the strength of your muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • When performing the strength exercise, intend to accelerate the concentric (shortening of muscle) part of the movement as much as possible to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers.
  • When performing the explosive exercise, remember the word explosive. Without sacrificing technique, explode when performing the concentric part of the exercise.
  • If you lift weights twice a week, perform Complex 1 at the beginning of 1 workout and Complex 2 at the beginning of the other workout.

1.) Goblet Squat With Squat Jumps

 Strength Exercise - The Goblet Squat:

 Hold a dumbbell lengthwise with the palms of your hands and your elbows pointing down. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing straight ahead. Push your hips back into the squat to keep the majority of your weight on your heels. Drop into the squat while pushing your hips back and down away from the dumbbell. Keep your chest up and back muscles strong to maintain your posture. At the bottom of the squat, you will be leaning forward slightly from your hips with the pointy part of your elbows touching the inside of your knees. Stand forcefully while spreading the floor with your feet and while driving your chin and chest up. Squeeze your glutes and stand tall to complete the rep.

 Plyometric Exercise - Jump Squats

With the same squatting technique described above, perform five continuous body weight jump squats. Swing your arms back at the bottom of the jump squat and swing them forward when jumping up into the air to help you jump higher. Land softly in an athletic position so you can immediately perform another jump.
 2.) Goblet Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats & Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat Jumps

Strength Exercise - Goblet Rear Leg Elevated Split Squats

Hold a dumbbell as described above and stand a lunge-length away from a stable bench. Place one foot on the bench and maintain your balance. Drive the rear knee down as you descend into the squat. Keep your chest up and out while bending the front knee to 90 degrees. Drive the front leg “through the floor” to stand yourself up. Squeeze your glutes and stand tall to complete the rep.

Plyometric Exercise - Rear Leg Elevated Split Squat Jumps

With the same set up as the strength exercise, perform 6-8 continuous body weight single leg jumps per leg. Again, use your arms to help you jump higher.

There You have it! Now you have a nice itinerary to go out and get stronger and faster! Just make sure of a few important tips when doing complex training:

  1. Perform plyometric exercises on forgiving surfaces, such as rubber flooring.
  2. When performing the explosive exercises, minimize the time on the floor between reps, land softly and produce as much force as possible to jump as high as you can.
  3. This type of training is neurally demanding and may leave your legs feeling dead for the next day’s run. Only perform for four-week blocks and remember to recover with rest, massage and proper nutrition. 
Until Next Time,


Mike Over
CPT / Strength & Conditioning Specialist

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