Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 3

In the first two articles in this series about the strength training techniques for running employed by Nike coaches Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert I speculated that variety and a framework of strength training for running exercises with differing objectives was a core part of the reason for the top level running produced by athletes such as Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp and Shalane Flanagan. Strength training is a great way to improve or train for proper running form.

In this post I drill down to give you a taste of what some of these exercises and strength training sessions might look like. Don’t be limited by what I’ve discussed here, keep an eye open for interesting exercises you can add into your training. Just be careful to assess each for their potential usefulness and relationship to running.

Read parts one and two of this series:
Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 1
Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 2

Doing exercises that get you ready for looking good on the beach are not necessarily going to improve your running performance. I cover a method for assessing the merits of individual strength training exercises for running in my book Running Technique.

Once you’ve got a framework in place, tweaking the variety of what you do isn’t difficult. You just keep changing the elements that belong in each part of the overall structure you have created. For example, the one I discussed in Part II of this series.

Blending five strength work-outs with the demands of running

While I’m all about the importance of strength training to help your running performance and develop good running form you don’t want to let your strength training compromise your running training. As an elite full time athlete, you have a little more time on your hands to squeeze out every last opportunity for improvement in your training day. So the scheduling of additional strength work is unlikely to be a massive deal, especially if it’s done at a manageable intensity and volume.

For the rest of the running world you don’t necessarily need to smash out five big gym sessions per week, but what you can do is attach a couple of smaller lower intensity work-outs to your running sessions. This is a great way to train, especially if you’re in a group situation or squad. This gives you some exposure to regular strength work without having to take too much time away from your running.

Running coordination and posture

These exercises can be the mainstay of any strength training program for running and in my opinion are the most important. They can be used as muscle activations to get the big running muscles firing as part of a dynamic warm-up before you run. They can also be done after sessions or separately at home or the gym.

This training is exactly what I teach as being critical for runners wanting to improve their running technique. For that reason, anything you do here needs to be closely related to running. You want to practice exercises that have similar postures and muscle activation patterns to that used in proper running form.

Body weight exercises such as squats and especially exercises completed on a single leg such as single leg back extensions and single leg squats are a great way to activate and practice using the right muscles during running. However, you need to be able to justify the inclusion of each exercise by how closely it resembles running movement and posture. Here’s me making a case for bridging and focusing on the muscles this exercise trains and some technical elements to keep it closely aligned to running. This video is taken from this strength training program.

 

Video demonstration bridging for runners

Strength session: barbell and machine based strength

This session is about adding serious strength and perhaps a little much needed muscle tone to any depleted parts of your body. If you’re like most runners a bit more focus on your haunches (buttocks and hamstrings) wouldn’t go astray. I won’t got into much detail here as there’s plenty of good information around about this more traditional strength work. This type of training is best undertaken away from your competition block and sharpening work. Here are a few favorite exercises that you might consider:

  • Squats
  • Leg press
  • Good Mornings
  • Dead lifts

Remember that correct lifting technique when working with barbells is all important, don’t go heavy until you’ve mastered the form. Do not round your back when working with barbells as you could risk muscle and disk damage. Speak to your gym instructor for more information.

Circuit training: focus on muscle endurance, executing skills under cardio pressure

Circuit training has probably had its heyday, but it’s definitely still a valuable tool in your strength training kit. It keeps things fresh, adds new stimulus and also presents the opportunity to practice executing a physical skill when cardio fatigued. There’s an element of mental conditioning and toughening here that complements the physical exercises. A circuit training session done with some light jogging to warm up and warm down is definitely worth considering.

  • 10 minute warm up.
  • 30 – 60 second efforts at each station.
  • 10 – 30 seconds recovery between stations or as needed to recover sufficiently to perform the next exercise with good technique.
  • 10 minute cool down.

If you’re doing this by yourself allow enough time to recover your breath and enable your heart rate to lower a little before commencing the next exercise. If you’re a coach working with a small group of athletes you need an exercise station per athlete. Or alternatively, have a rest station for recovery which means you have 5 stations and six athletes, for example. A sample circuit session could include:

  • Skipping with rope
  • Step-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Swiss ball squats against the wall or body weight squats
  • Dips
  • Medicine ball abdominal crossovers
  • Hang off bar – knee raises

Plyometric and explosive drills

There’s not a man more expert in plyometrics than Dr Philo Saunders. He’s a leading coach of elite runners, works at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) and has extensively researched and written about plyometric exercises and their benefits for runners – especially around their proven ability to improve running economy. And he practices what he preaches, I was fortunate enough last summer to film Philo putting together a tendon bursting plyo session. Here we can see Philo executing an example of these springy, explosive exercises. Beware don’t try this at home unless you’re highly trained, Philo is a senior elite athlete who has been training this way for many years.

 

On a more approachable scale for regular runners, exercises such as skipping, with or without a rope, or even hopping in place are plyometric type exercises. Adding bouncy and explosive elements into some gym exercises e.g. leg press with light weights can be a gentler introduction to plyometric training that still delivers good benefits. Be warned, it’s not for beginners, you can get sore or injured if you’re not used to doing the exercises. Like everything in running start with low intensity and small volumes to see how your body reacts before progressing.

  • Skipping free form or with a rope in place
  • Small forward and back double leg jumps i.e. jump over a lane marker on the track
  • Single leg hopping in place
  • Explosive jumping in place

Lateral stability work

These exercises focus on stabilization muscles that work to control rotation, internal and external, and keep the running energy generated by the hamstrings and glutes headed in the right direction. Without this ability to stabilize much of the force you generate with dissipate laterally rather than propel you forwards. James Dunne is a specialist running technique coach based in the UK. James emphasizes a range of exercises to strengthen these muscles that keep your running moving in the right direction. He demonstrates some useful exercises to consider adding into your strength training for running mix in this video.

Conclusion

In this series of articles I’ve explained a strength training for running framework that when implemented creatively and with consistent inconsistency could bring a much needed boost to your running performance.

While some of the elements I’ve shown here are advanced, the framework can be implemented at a beginner or elite level. All you need to do is adjust the difficulty, intensity and volume of exercises. Strength training for running is not just the province of the elite, as I’ve written previously I believe the relative benefits of adding strength training into your running program are greater for recreational and club runners than for more advanced athletes. When executed well, strength training really is running technique training.

So while the athletes trained by Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert are fortunate to be exposed to such an advanced mix of training, there is no reason why every runner can’t borrow something from their successful approach.

Read parts one and two of this series:
Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 1
Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 2

Written by

, , ,

7 Responses to Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 3

  1. Andy DuBois March 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Brian, whilst I agree with a lot of the theory of what you have said I disagree with some of the exercises. Bridging in particular – you mention it is good for training the glutes to extend the hip but in a bridge the hip doesnt go into extension at all. The bridge also ignores the fact the our muscles are activated by going through an eccentric load first – ie the forces in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes that occur at the hip upon landing due to the effects of ground reaction forces, gravity and momentum load the glute eccentrically which then responds with a econcentric reaction (meaning it contracts concentrically in some planes while still being loaded eccentrically in other planes). A bridge is a primarily concentric movement with no landing force or momentum and with the hip never going into flexion. If we want to generate good glute strength for running we need to teach it to work as the hip goes into extension – it is at this point that the hamstrings lose their effectives and the glutes can take over, in order to do this we need to ensure it is well and truly loaded before the hip gets to extension.

    For more info have a look at http://www.mile27.com.au/training-to-improve-strength-power-endurance-and-flexibility-for-a-marathon-runner/

    • Brian March 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      G’day Andy, Thanks for the comment. I stand by bridging done as hold and dynamically on a single leg as being great exercises for running. This might not be as relevant for someone running at a very high level but we’ve found it an extremely effective way to teach beginners, regular runners and even some veterans to learn how to activate and strengthen their glutes, but it’s not the only exercise in the mix. I’d argue that if you do a single leg bridge on a step that it is possible to get into extension with full glute activation. I also agree with what you say about training the glutes in different ways – no problem, people should always expand and modify their repertoire of exercises as their strength and skill improves. Brian

  2. Caitlin January 4, 2012 at 4:09 am #

    Hi, I just read your article about Jerry Schumacher’s strength training and I have a few questions, if you don’t mind answering them. I found the article to be very insightful and interesting, and I definitely learned quite a bit.

    You talked about the 5 elements of strength training. When I hit the gym to do some strength work after running, should I focus on one of these elements, or all of them in the same session? Right now, my routine includes going to the gym to do strength training 3 times per week after runs and I do some bodyweight exercises for the core every day. I’m a collegiate runner, so I run 6-7 times per week and make sure I’m doing the little things, like strength training, to improve.

    Also, you talked about using variation in strength training. Should I have strength training cycles, such as performing a particular exercise on a specific day for a certain number of weeks and then change it, or should I be doing different things from week-to-week? I guess the question comes down to: how repetitive should I be?

    Thanks so much, I really appreciate it.

    • Brian January 4, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      Hi Caitlin, thanks for the feedback and excellent questions. There’s a lot in what you’ve asked and the answers really depend on where you are at personally with your running and strength development. As you mentioned it also depends on how your current training is related to competition. The mix will change depending on whether it is the off season or you’re in the middle of a competition block.

      What I’ve tried to give in these articles is a framework and some examples of how it might be applied, however then each individual and coach needs to apply it in a way that suits their development, competition cycle and in your case probably a team environment. So based on what you’re doing at the moment, here are some things to think about and discuss with your coach (I’m assuming you have one):

      The three gym sessions after runs need to be organised so that they don’t clash with hard running days – doing hard gym and a tough running workout on the same day is not a good idea. Some easier body weight training, core and mobility work is fine to do around your running.

      To begin I would think about designing each session so it has a different focus. For example strength work with weights on one day, the next could be body weight posture and muscle activation (running coordination) exercises and the third day might be a circuit training session. This way you’re getting different stimulus each time you go to the gym. Make sure the three sessions have adequate recovery in between. You might also consider reducing your core work that you mentioned you do every day so you’re rested and recovered for these main gym sessions.

      You could then have a second program you do on alternate weeks, so you could have six different sessions over a fortnightly cycle … maybe do this for 6 weeks then change the mix again. The main idea behind these articles is to keep challenging your body with new variations of exercises on a regular basis.

      So yes you should mix it up regularly, however unless you’re lucky enough to have a coach prescribing and showing you new exercises each time you hit the gym then some repetition is going to be a fact of life. But with a bit of imagination you can devise some good variation into your program as I have suggested. Good luck and let me know how it goes. Brian

  3. Jen Brown @SpartaPT November 26, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    I’ve really enjoyed this series, thank you.

    I find it can be a struggle to get past the perception that “I run therefore I have strong legs” which (unfortunately) seems to be common. But once you can do that (which I’ve think you have certainly done well in this series), runners really accept & get to work on their strength.

    Regards
    Jen

    • Brian November 26, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      Thanks Jen, I appreciate the feedback. Yes I think it’s easy to think that you’re strong until you actually get a bit stronger and feel the difference it makes to your running. Much more enjoyable to stride with a little more bounce and purpose. As I’ve said even simple exercises can make be a big help. Brian

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Complementary Pieces | Haslett Running Club - December 30, 2011

    […] Read parts one and two of this series: Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 1 Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 2 Jerry Schumacher’s strength training secrets: part 3 […]