Long distance athletes need workouts that develop resistance high levels of muscular fatigue that occurs from the repitive impact, stretching and contracting that they endure during competion. While most exercise phsiology tends to emphasize improvment in the area of aerobic performance and what way is the best way to improve econmy, threshold pace and VO2 max little work has been done on what is literally the pime movers of any sport - the periphial musclles. As any well conditioned 50k walker will tell you the real dibilation in the event and thus the the ulitmate limiting factor od perfromance is not dehydration or glycogen depletion but rather what most folks just call really tired muscles. The common approach to change this is to just go out and walk many miles. After all, those long walks build resitance to muscular fatigue as does completing high milage weeks. But it takes years for this adaptaion to occurr and once an athelte becomes acustomed to doing 3 and 4 hour waks the body's adapation response to that stress is diminished. I am in no way implying that one should forsake all the proper training techniques we engage in but the method I am going to describe should help any athlete at any level and in particular developing athletes and athletes who, for a variety of reasons, can not do the standard fare of 100+ miles weeks.
This method was first described in Peak Performance in the mid 80's. One Dr. Sharkey, an Exercise Phsyiologist, here in the states, ran a series of sudies with cyclist and cross country skiers. He had the athletes perform sets of 40 to 100 repitions of 8-12 standard weight training exercises for 12 weeks. The results were impressive, the subjects more then doubled their muscular endurance, recorded impovements of 5-15% on VO2 max as well as recording higher work loads on an ergometer. Almost all recorded performance improvements. Muscle biopsys revealed that in all cases the number of mitochondria went up almost doubling their numbers in some cases. Later, famed Canidian Exercise Ph.D and author of "Periodization of Strength Training", Tudor Bompa wrote about a simillar method advocating that 10k and marthon runners should work up to 100 reps in a set. I interviewed both men about the "high rep" concept, once I got past, each's acusation that the other stole the idea I was able to glean more information about the "high rep" system. Both men recommended establishing minimum levels of strength before heading into a high rep program. Each reccomended a period of strength training to be completed as well. The minum levels of strength for men were to be able to squat 10% more then body weight for 5 reps, bench 95% of body weight for 5 reps, for women 105% for squats and 90% for bench. They also stressed that the athlete also be balanced in agonist and antagonsit muscles.
If you can then you have the requisite strength to start the programme. The general out line of the programe is as follows. Bearing in mind the equipment available, pick 6-8 exercises. For racewalking it is important to work the legs in a balanced way and hit the most important upper body exercises. My experience with the program is that a racewalker will want to choose the following exercises:
Lat Pulls and or Seated Row, Bench Press or Chest Flys (macine), Overhead presses barbell or dumbell or shoulder raises and Bicep Curls. For the legs: Squats or some type of Hip Sled or box step ups, Leg Extensions, Leg Curls and Toe Raises. I don't discuss abdominal training here because I think that is so important that it is a session all to its self.
To establish a starting weight an athlete should perform a strength test for each exercise they chose. So if a leg extension is one of the exercises chossen, then the athlete should test for max. I strongly reccomend testing one leg at a time to check for even devoplment. Also, testing the hamstring at the same time will be helpful. For proper balance and stablity of the knee the hamstings should be beteen 65-and 75% as strong as the quads.
Once the test is done the starting weight is 30% of a one rep max, 25% of a 3 rep max. The athletes have two choices at this point either 1) go ahead and start with 100 reps on the first workout or start with 35 reps adding 15 reps with each workout until 100 is reached. Either way you will be sore from the squats. My choice having done it both ways is just get in get the ruff part over and get on with the training. The workout should be perfromed 3 times weekly with a day of rest and best done in the base to transition periods of the year. At the end of 3 session add 5lbs(4 kilos) to each lift. Raise the weight 3 consecutive weeks then in the 4th week lower the weight to "unload" then repeat. In 12 weeks an individual starting with a 45lb squat at 100 reps will be squating 80lbs! almost doubling their muscualr endurance. At one point I worked up to 110lbs at 100 reps. I called them crucifixion squats because I would get so tired that I would drop my hands over the bar as if I was on a cross and as the name implys there was a great deal of pain involved. I incorporate this session into my walking training by using the "embedded circuit" method 2-3 times weekly. For this either run or walk 3-4 miles, then do all 8 exercises with 1*100 reps then run/walk 3-4 miles. This produces very fatigue resistant results! During segments of my training where I was doing speed/tempo work I did the weights on the same days in leu of a long cool down. After, my first completion fo the 12 week cycle I PB'd at the marathon by 10 minutes at 10k by 90 seconds. I have had similar results with any athlete that I could get to do it. Some additional advice cut back to twice weekly and only 50 reps during racing periods. Alternate upper and lower body exercises. The best order is: Squat, Bench, Leg Extension, Rows, Leg Curls, Overhead press, Toe rasies, and arm curls. Move as quickly as possible from one exercise to the next. Do the movements quickly but with control.
Here's a sample weight progression for the squat: Weeks 1-4 45, 50, 55, 50 Weeks 5-8 55, 60, 65, 60 Weeks 9-12 65, 70, 75, 70 Weeks 13-16 75, 80, 85, 80
All exercises follow the same type of progression though 3 lb increments might be better for arms. At this point you should be ready for a big PR!. I worked my way up to 110 lbs. Which was about as much as I could do. I then switched to doing 200 reps but the results did not seem different. Now to incorporate this into training. Here is a sample week for me - I do it both ways, try which ever is best for you.
20k Training weekly pattern
Monday: 1-2 workouts both easy sometimes walking some times running
Tuesday : Tempo 10-25km @30km pace or so, weight training instead of a traditional cool down
Wednesday : Same as Monday
Thursday: Short speed 10km-5km pace type work - weights after
Friday: Same as Monday
Saturday: Long speed @ 20k pace - weights after
Sunday: 25-40km walk 50k weekly pattern
Monday: Embedded circuit; 3-4 miles/weights/ 3-4 miles
Tuesday: Long speed 30- 20 km pace (5*3k 4*5k type work).
Wednesday: am embedded Circuit, pm 4-7 easy.
Thursday: 5-9 easy miles
Friday: Long tempo 15-30km at 50km-30km pace
Saturday: Embedded circuit
Sunday: 30-50km easy walk
My workouts are more diverse and change throughout the year but those are the two ways I incorporate weights into training. For change I switch from squats to leg extensions and three weeks before a important race I back off. Three weeks out reduce the weights lifted to start levels, two weeks out cut reps to 50, the a week of two sessions at 25 reps This workout in a quiet gym should take 15 minutes - sometimes I can do it in under 10. I do Abdominal exercises at a different time. Each athlete needs to adapt this to their own needs. Although I have pretty much stuck to the original.
Example Strength Circuit and Schedule Exercises Starting weight (based on above)
1 Squat 45lbs (20kg) - just the bar
2 Push ups or bench 35-40lbs (15-18)
3 Leg Extensions 30-40lbs (13-18kg) - 3-4 plates
4 Press (overhead) 25 lbs (11kg)
5 Leg Curls about 2/3 extensions, 2-3 plates
6 Seated Row 30-40 lbs (13-18kg)
7 Toe raises 45lbs (20kg)
8 Arm Curls 25 lbs (11kg) - barbell
Week 1 25 reps 3 sessions
Week 2 35 reps 3 sessions
Week 3 50 reps 3 sessions
Week 4 100 reps 3 sessions
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