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Lifting & Running = Monster Benefits - An Intern Post!!!

This week we're going with one theme: RunFAST. This is the new program we've been developing that we'll officially take the lid off of on Friday. I have to acknowledge, we're offering something totally new, so we're gonna take it slow and start with a post a bit more traditional in terms of the usual SAPTstrength banter. But check the blog every day this week. We've got 5 killer posts lined up.

For the first RunFAST post, one of our interns has written a fantastic post describing in detail the benefits of lifting for ALL TYPES OF RUNNERS (yes, you distance folks can enjoy this, too!).

Why should you listen to this guy who I just admitted is an intern, well, he's a special intern. His name is Gustavo Osorio (or Goose from here on out) and he just graduated from George Mason. Goose was a member of the track team and a stellar decathlete who very recently repeated as CAA champion! Pretty cool, right? This guy knows his stuff. I learned a few things myself and, given that I was his strength coach, that means he really knows some awesome details about high-performance.

I opened up comments again, so please post your thoughts and share with friends. Here we go:

Lifting And Its Benefits For Runners!

“Strength is the foundation for excellence,” this is a mindset I’ve come to respect and adopt for myself after my short time here at SAPT. When you think about it a strong body is a health body, one capable of efficiently moving in any way and letting a person’s athleticism truly shine. Strength is without a doubt the foundation for speed and agility. This concept that may seem foreign to many runners because of all the myths regarding resistance training and running. Many runners and even some running coaches are under the impression that hitting up the weight room once in a while will only result in injury, getting “bulky”, and losing that speed they’ve worked so hard to achieve. When, in reality, a well-structured resistance training program can make the body bulletproof, make your muscles more efficient without bulk, and boost the training effects of your running workouts (aka make you faster).

Myth #1: Lifting (squatting and deadlifting) is bad for your back. Don’t do it!

When performed correctly and with the appropriate assistance work squats and deadlifts can help you build a bulletproof back, glutes, and hamstrings. All three of these muscle groups also happen to be three of the most common sites for sprains and injuries on runners. Coincidence?? I think not! When running you’re lower back acts as a shock absorber, while the glutes and hamstrings are used for force production to propel the body forward. If an individual doesn’t strengthen these muscle groups and continues to constantly hammer them with more running eventually the muscles breakdown from overuse and an injury occurs.

On the other hand, if an individual strengthens these muscle groups they reduce their chances of injury and increase the work load their body can handle. This means they’ll be able to put in more work on the track during practice and, when meet day arrives, fast times will be run!

Fun fact about elite runners, whether it be a sprinter or a distance runner, is that they have some type of year around resistance training program implemented into their training. When you get to the Olympic level and everyone is tenths of seconds away from each other, keeping your body healthy through resistance training makes the difference between being an Olympic medalist and not making the final.

Myth #2: Lifting will make you bulky and slow

A big fear amongst runners is that resistance training will put on too much “useless” muscle for them to carry around. Truth is, a resistance training routine will make you bulky and slow ONLY if you completely stop running and if you have no idea of how to make it sport specific. Just because you’re lifting weights doesn’t mean you’ll turn into the hulk overnight (or ever... let's be real here) but it can make your muscles more efficient at what they do. By training your energy systems through lifting you’re running can be exponentially enhanced. Think of your body as a car and that the energy systems providethree different types of fuel it runs on. These BIG 3 are: the phosphagen system, the anaerobic system, and the aerobic system.

The phosphagen system provide the equivalent of jet fuel for the body. It gives you tons of energy but it burns out super fast! How fast you ask?? Well it gives you enough for 6 to 10 seconds of all out exertion. It provides the energy for the beginning of every race and it is the most dominant energy system during short running event, 60 meters to 100 meters. It is also involved in any sport that requires any sudden bursts of speed and explosion such as basketball, baseball, football, and volleyball. This system is primarily trained through plyometrics and lifts that require high force production at high speeds.

The anaerobic system gives you a mix between jet fuel and regular gas, it still yields a high amount of energy and manages to last a bit longer, between 1 to 3 minutes depending on the intensity of the event. This system is the most dominant for the 400-800 meter distances.It is also involved in sports that require prolonged bouts of speed and some endurance such as boxing, wrestling, lacrosse, and soccer. This is a tricky energy system to train because it requires a mix of power training, muscular strength training, and some muscular endurance training.

The aerobic system gives the body the same effect gas would in a car, it doesn’t let you go blistering fast but it give you a constant stream of energy to keep you going for miles. This is the dominant system in athletes who compete in endurance events such as triathlons, marathons, long distance swimming, and cross country skiing. This energy system can be trained through circuit training and low weight/high rep/low rest lifting.

**WORD OF CAUTION: Train a certain energy system through lifting does not mean you’ll necessarily get faster. When you integrate a lifting program on to a running program correctly the two can complement each other quite nicely. However if all you do is lift aerobically and then expect to go run a marathon you most likely won’t finish.**

Myth #3: Lifting has no positive transfer to running.

Another great benefit of resistance training is the improvement in something called your Rate of Force Development (RFD). [Side note: Kelsey did an amazing job of going into great detail on RFD, if you haven’t read her posts I strongly recommend them! Part 1 and Part 2.] Basically what that means is how fast your muscles can produce a high amount of force. This is beneficial to runners and all athletes because producing higher amounts of force at a faster rate enable you to move faster. Through training this can help optimize your stride length (amount of distance covered per step) and increase your stride frequency (how fast your feet hit the ground) both of which will also make you faster.

This last bit is something most people often neglect, but it makes a world of difference in their running. Aside from improving energy systems and Rate of Force Development lifting can be used to improve running posture. When performed correctly the squat and the deadlift teach people to brace their core and to properly align their back so it’s in the neutral position. A lot of people can go through an entire running career (like myself) without ever realizing that this has a massive positive transfer to running.

The two pictures above demonstrate how the body should be aligned during the deadlift and squat. If you take a side picture of yourself you should be able to draw a straight line from your hips to the base of the head.

Let’s take a look at Tyson Gay coming out of blocks. You can make a straight line from his hips to his head, JUST like a squat or deadlift! Coincidence?? I think not!  By keeping his back in a neutral position and bracing his core he is getting the most propulsion out of the power he is putting on the ground. By keeping his core rigid (not tense) all the force being placed on the ground is not lost or being absorbed by an arched or hunched back. Same thing would happen if you lifted with a rounded back, the spine would absorb a lot of the force going up (deadlift) or down (squat) instead of letting your legs and glutes do the work.

Now take a look on the right at Carl Lewis, he is in the Maximum Velocity phase of the 100 meters which means he is trying to maintain his top speed for as long as possible. The line from the hips to the head is still there which means he is getting the most out of the force production. But that’s not all! Notice how his hip are neutral and not anteriorly rotated, his butt isn’t sticking out. This allows him to get a higher knee drive, cover more ground with his stride, and keeps him from kicking his leg too far back. A great way to teach this to people is the finishing position in the squat and the deadlift often referred to as the “lock out”. And like the squat/deadlift lock out phase if his hips were too posteriorly rotated, too far forward, he would put his back out of alignment and sacrifice kick back range of motion.

RunFAST - SAPT's Secret Program Development

I’ll be honest, I’ve got a secret... it’s about a new program SAPT is developing. We’ll actually be launching all the info about it next week, but I’ve got to let on about it at least a little! I’m simply way too pumped up and have had a little too much coffee to keep this under my hat any longer.

It’s so exciting and will introduce yet another innovative, high-octane training method to the area via our resident performance coaching geniuses at SAPT.

This is the type of program that is born from those really special places that foster high-levels of both creativity and respect. An incubator for ideas where art and science merge. The type of place that values quality, service, and creativity above all else. That’s where these kinds of innovations come from.

The program is called RunFAST... that’s all I’m going to mention, as I think the name tells enough.

And, I have to also tell you this new innovative approach we’ll launch next week is just the tip of the iceberg. I wish I could let on about all our projects. But, for the moment, I’ll simply leave you with SAPT’s Big 3: Purpose, Vision, and Mission. Read into them as you like...

Our Purpose: Strengthening bodies and minds to support excellence in life.

Our Vision: People of all ages, abilities, and resources will have access to, appreciation for, and engagement in regular physical fitness training that will lead to improvements in all aspects of daily life.

Our Mission: To develop, research, and share our comprehensive approach to physical fitness training that fosters long-term engagement, promotes excellence in life, nurtures human relationships and inspires the lifelong pursuit of health through exercise.

Please stay tuned to next week on the blog... we’ll be devoting the whole week to RunFAST details!

Lessons the Shirt Taught Me

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Things got real weird on Friday night training with Ryan. What was scheduled to be a regular heavy bench session turned into my first time putting on a bench shirt. I have helped Ryan with his powerlifting gear many times before, but I've never really experienced first-hand how it feels to be in a squat suit or a bench shirt. Lesson #1: It's Not Comfortable

I learned very quickly that it doesn't feel too awesome being in the shirt. Getting it on was a pain, but I knew that was coming. I was used to being the guy on the other side of the shirt trying to force the shirt onto another human being, so I expected some discomfort. Luckily however, it was Ryan's old single-ply shirt and his enormous gunzzz stretched out the sleeves pretty nicely, making it a relatively smooth process to put it on. By the time we got the shirt on and got the sleeves and seams exactly where we wanted them I already wanted to take it off. It's super tight and forces you into a weird mummy-like position with your arms dangling out in front of you. You can't really do much about this situation until the shirt comes off.

I found myself rushing the rest periods between sets because I was more focused on getting the final set over with so I could take the evil thing off.

Lesson #2 I Couldn't Keep My Arch

The arched back seen in bench pressing is often demonized as being a flaw in technique or disadvantageous when trying to target the pecs. Whatever. I use an arch when benching because it helps to keep me tight on the bench, allows for better leg drive and provides better leverage overall to perform the lift. When benching "raw", I feel pretty confident about my arch, and I can keep it tight during the entirety of the lift. When benching in the shirt, however, I found myself losing my arch midway through the descending portion of the lift. This leads me to lesson #3...

Lesson #3 My Upper Back Is WEAK!

The shirt exposed my deep dark secret that my upper back is not up to par. When bench pressing in gear, the bar will not come down to your chest without a fight. You literally have to PULL the bar down while forcing yourself to maintain a proper arch. This takes some serious upper and mid back strength that I just didn't have. I could feel my arch collapsing and my once tightly packed shoulders becoming... not so tightly packed. Even when benching raw I always remember the cues to "row the bar down with the lats" and "keep the upper back tight," and I felt that I understood. The shirt let me know that what I originally thought was "tight enough" was an epic fail waiting to happen.

Although the shirt made me feel like a total n00b I walked away from the session with a lot to think about and a lot learned about my bench technique. I probably got some pretty good "overload" stimulation from the heavier weights that the shirt enabled me to use as well. Until next time, I'll just keep hammering away at heavy rows and pull-ups.

For your entertainment, here are a couple videos from the Friday night bench party.