Hi folks, I'm completing numerous CEUs in order to renew my USATF coaching certification this year, and I get to choose from many useful educational topics of interest to my coaching practice. Given the demographics, training demands and busy schedules of our Runnerpeeps community, an important topic to me is functional strength training. That said, I recognize that our peeps are a busy bunch and, while they can be awesome at achieving their run, bike or swim volumes, they often neglect their weekly strength training needs. Ahem. To my surprise and delight, I found a terrific USATF course called "Functional Strength Training for Time-Limited Athletes". Wow, exactly what I want our peeps to know! I completed the course last week and here are the key take-aways I want each of you to consider and implement:
It's a term coined by Dustin Morris (a USATF instructor and certified strength coach) for "Multi-Muscle Functional Activity". The intent is to integrate balance and control in your strength routines, considering the movement of each routine and how that addresses and strengthens the repetitive motions which you do in endurance sports. If you simply go to the gym and do reps while seated on static machines, you're not getting as good of a total workout as you should. Those machines are fine, however they were originally designed more for rehab strength building and/or to correct muscular imbalance. Net is, our bodies move in a variety of planes of motion: sagital, frontal and transverse. Our strength and conditioning routines should target all of these, for a total-body approach. And, for time-crunched athletes (like ALL of us!), our strength routines should be effective, efficient and target multiple muscle groups whereever possible.
What kinds of MMFA-focused workouts should I do?
Dustin Morris advocates "double-dipping" as much as possible -- this pleases me immensely as that's exactly what I've been evangelizing the past several years, urging all of you to do the strength routines I prescribe. Good examples of these are:
* for the arm/shoulder strengthening routines which I recommend (such as bicep curl, military press, arm pull-down and arm raise), I ask that you do these on an unstable surface such an bosu, saucer or even simply standing 1-legged. This forces you to use lots of stabilizing muscles in your core, hips, knees and ankles.
* For the chest press, I recommend you do these with your head/neck rested on an aeroball instead of a hard bench -- this forces you to engage your core muscles to stabilize the ball.
* In the strength routine I recommend, you see (2) 4-min sessions of what I call "the 4min egg".... this is a simple, effective routine you can do nearly anywhere, any time. 1min plank, then immediately transition to 1min left side plank, then 1mi right side plank, then 1min on superman/swim drill. If you only did 4min of core work each day, do a 4min egg! I believe these are so important that I include (2) 4min egg sessions within 40min strength routine I provide. That's 20% of the total workout! That's how important these are to your training.
*Recall that, even when I ask that you do your plank sessions, you can pick in the intensity a bit if those are easy. If an athlete says to me, "Jeffries, planks bore me. I am so ridiculously fit, Madonna is envious of my butt and Jilian Michaels called last week to ask about my ripped abs". I reply, "OK, good. You go take your fine self over there in the corner and repeat the 4min egg... except lift a leg during each of the sets". Seriously, for advanced athletes who can easily knock out some planks, I ask that they amp up the intensity to introduce instability in the set. A great way to do that is either to lift a leg during plank sets or to do your front plank sets on sliders. Intent is that your core is working double-time to both strengthen and to stabilize. BOOOM!
* For the squats, I like you to use your own body weight and do squats using a wall and a ball. Personally, as I'm in my late 40s, I prefer to cushion that hard wall with an aeroball : ). You may do the same. Go down and repeat a chair position, focused on a nice 90degree angle. I guarantee that, within 30-45sec, you will lose your good humor and your lips will straighten into a grim, tight line. However, this is a terrific exercise! Dustin likes to pick up the intensity of this, and to have an athlete to hold an aeroball in their straight-outstretched arms.... then, simultaneously lifting the ball above their head just as they go down into a seated motion. DANG. That is an advanced move. I would love if some of you can get to that level of fitness, however I'd be thrilled if you simply did your wall squats as part of your routine each week.
* For the lunges I recommend, I really like a crazy, lateral movement-focused lunge which my pal Larissa taught me years ago... you do a typical lunge, except that you have an aeroball in your hands, arms outstretched straight in front of you. And, as you dip into each lunge, you rotate your core and smoothly/slowly swing the ball around to each side. It's terrific and includes those side-obliques!
* Dustin gets pretty crazy on few of his recommendations, such as doing a rowing set while kneeling on an aeroball. I think that's an really advanced move for a typical athlete and don't recommend it. However, if you'd like help to do that correctly, let's chat. Overall, Dustin and I are in 100% agreement on the types of routines and the MMFA-focus for each of those.
How often should I do these?
Dustin Morris advocates 5-6x weekly of brief conditioning work. I think that's ambitious, given the typical time availability of a peep. I need to be realistic and consider the working professional/parent peeps who make up our group. On the training plans I provide to you, I recommend (1) strength session and (3) core conditioning/plyo sessions. Go with that. If I could convince Every. Single. One of you to commit to 4 strength/core sessions a week, that'd be IDEAL! If that's too much, start with 2 sessions, and work up to 3. I would rather you do (3) brief 20min sessions than a single 60min session. Key is frequency! That's why I always refer to your core/plyo strength requirements as "frequent brief core!, frequent brief core!"
How many of each should I do?
Dustin advocates doing strength routines mostly on time intervals (like 1 min of chest presses) and he isn't a fan of traditional sets -- i.e. 3 sets of 10 reps @ light weights. Dustin believes the athlete will cycle through the workout more quickly if he/she stays on task, monitors their watch and moves rapidly to the set routine. As a coach and athlete, I prefer the sets method. Provided the peep doesn't meander around and chatter like a hen to everyone in the gym, they can complete the strength routine quickly. I've repeatedly timed the strength routine I recommend and know that it takes approximately 40min. So, whether you prefer to do routine based on time or sets, I'm OK. Ultimately, I see the benefits as the same. Get it done!
Who do I ask if I have questions?
Contact me if you have Qs about any of these, or let's chat on an upcoming run. Or, we can quickly review a few of these before we do a run, like our Thurs Starbucks run or our common Saturdays runs. Or, if you're a member of a local gym, reach out to the certified staff onsite. The routines which I prescribe in my strength training will be well understood by those professionals, and they can help you.