Strength training for Middle and Long Distance performance

A recent meta-analysis (collaboration of 28 publications to identify trends and strengthen statistical findings) has identified strength can influence both middle and long distance events, these include running, cycling and swimming. These findings could therefore also be extended to the combination of all these events (Triathlon).

The study identified strength training improved

1  Reduced Energy cost of locomotion (Increased Economy of Movmement)

2 Increased Maximal force 

3 Increased Maximal power

With no detrimental effects found on maximal aerobic power (VO2max) and also endurance capacity. The authors suggest 2 x strengthens per week and a total of 24 training sessions were associated with the greatest improvements in the energy cost for locomotion. Further, maximal force training (strength) were associated with the greatest improvements compared to other training intensities.


What does all this mean? To simply apply the above, if you are training for a middle to long distance event the addition of 2 x strength training sessions will help improve your performance. A total of 24 sessions should be targeted, if you are aiming for 2 x per week 12 weeks should be sufficient enough to see positive results. High force training appears better then other training methods, therefore you would be aiming to include compound (multi-joint) exercises for 3-5 sets for 1-6 reps. Due to the nature of the exercise modes included these movements should be specific to your sport, although a combination of both upper and lower limb training can have benefits for running, swimming and cycling events. The key message is that strength is an important quality for long and middle distance performance.

If you are unaccustomed to resistance training then you do not need to go and lift lots of weights to see benefits. Manipulating Range of motion, plane of motion, stability demands and by the use of accomodating resistance (bands) you can challenge the body and improve all the above qualities. You can also manipulate the tempo of the exercise to overload tendons (e.g. eccentric biased) or use isometric exercises to improve force production. If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your training you can get in touch with Joel at Spin House to help put together a training plan.

Reference: Berryman, Mujika, Arvisais, Roubeix, Binet & Bosquet, IJSPP, 2018

Joel Grech