19 July 2013

Core strength training and mountain ultramarathon running

I have horrible soreness today in what feels to be almost all major muscles in my body. This is following taking two so called functional toning/core training classes on two consecutive days this week. I know that there is a debate whether strength and core training really is beneficial for ultramarathon runners and the stride and running economy. Nevertheless, I think that some basic core strength is necessary in a race like Tor des Géants where there will be some really technical parts with climbing up and downhill in difficult terrain.

Not surprisingly, there are no really good studies performed, at least not yet to my knowledge, evaluating the benefits of core strength for mountain ultramarathon and the closest study I found was the one by Sato & Mokha published in J Strength Cond Res 2009; 23: 133-40 “Does core strength training influence running kinetics, lower-extremity stability, and 5000-M performance in runners?” and this is as the title indicating looking at benefits in 5000 meter runners. In contrast to several other studies of strength training in runners, they however saw a clear benefit in improved running times in the 14 healthy volunteers randomized to the core training group after 6-weeks.  Most studies performed on general resistance strength training in runners  appears to be of short duration, but still indicates that there might be benefits after this limited time period (reviewed in Yamamoto et al. The effects of resistance training on endurance distance running performance among highly trained runners: a systematic review. J Strength Cond Res. 2008; 22: 2036-44).

There are neither no good studies comparing various types of strength training programs for running, but in healthy males there are indications that high-resistance circuit training as in the functional toning classes I attended gives equal effect as traditional strength training in most aspects (Alcaraz et al. Similarity in adaptations to high-resistance circuit vs. traditional strength training in resistance-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011; 25:2519-27) and that plyometric (“jump”) training might be particularly beneficial (Berryman et al. Effect of plyometric vs. dynamic weight training on the energy cost of running. J Strength Cond Res. 2010; 24: 1818-25). I still vividly remember the worst DOMS of my life I have had as a young athlete competing in Military Pentathlon and that was after an indoor plyometric strength class. I know that there are other studies arguing for other modes of strength training, but none has really looked at ultramarathon performance anyway. A very inspiring ultramarathon running colleague of mine just started a new blog (In Swedish, but with instruction movies) about strength training called “Lift a Rock” and, as strength training always will be a complement to running for a runner I will follow the exercises she recommends with interest and see if there are elements I can incorporate into my training routine. I think that the severe delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) I am feeling now is a sign that I really need to add some strength training until the start of TDG. A good thing is that I am soon going on a short vacation and will then also be able to add some swimming to my training.

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