It’s no wonder the 5k is one of the most popular race distances. For newcomer’s to running it’s a good first test and for the initiated it’s a chance to really let rip. Novice or pro, if you’ve been trying to improve your 5k time the latest research suggests you may want to skip a run and head for the gym.
With the popularity of parkrun, 1,000’s of people run 5k every Saturday morning.
The International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance has published a study investigating the effects of a sport-specific maximal strength and conditioning programme on critical velocity (CV), anaerobic running distance (ARD) and 5k time trial performance (TT).
16 recreational endurance runners and triathletes with a minimum of two years of regular training and with a frequency of three to five training sessions a week were split into two groups of eight, a Strength & Conditioning (S&C) group and an Endurance Only (EO) group.
Participants included in the S&C group started a 12-week experimental period that was divided into two phases. Phase 1 involved a 6-week maximal S&C intervention while the EO group continued with their normal endurance training. In phase 2, both groups only performed their regular endurance training. CV, ARD and 5k TT performance were retested after phase 1 (week 8) and phase 2 (week 15).
Strength for 5k
For the 5k TT (which is what we will focus on in this blog) testing was carried out on an outdoor running track when wind speeds did not exceed 2 m/s and under dry conditions. To minimise biological variation, all 18 participants were tested at the same time of the day, after a 10-minute warm-up at a self-chosen pace. Participants were instructed to perform their best effort during each 5k TT. Finishing times were recorded to the nearest second.
During phase 1, the S&C group performed a 6-week resistance training programme involving four lower-body resistance exercises: Romanian deadlift, parallel squat, calf raises and lunges. The programme was performed twice a week on nonconsecutive days. Each S&C workout included 4 sets of 4 repetitions at 80% of their 1-Rep Max with 2-minute rests between sets. For phase two they returned to an EO programme.
The 5k TT performances were significantly different in the S&C group after the intervention, with an average performance improvement of 3.62%. This performance increase returned close to baseline after the 6-week endurance only training. The EO groups results stayed similar throughout.
These findings are supported by those of Paavolainen et al who demonstrated significant 5k TT performance changes when employing an explosive strength-training programme in endurance-trained athletes. Mikkola et al also recommended heavy lifts to be the most effective way of enhancing maximal running speed and performance.
Combining a 6-week resistance training programme with endurance training significantly improves 5k run performance. Removing strength training results in some loss of those performance improvements.
For detailed results and conclusions as well as information on critical velocity (CV) and anaerobic running distance (ARD) check out the journal.