Sunday, April 5, 2009

Discover Strength & functional training last one for tonight on High Intensity.

Here is an interesting looking gym - Discover Strength.

There is an interesting page on Strength Training for Distance Running:
Strength Training is a foundational component of a comprehensive distance running training program. The inclusion of a properly designed strength training program is important because the benefits of strength training are not achieved through running or cross-training alone.

The page includes a review of relevant research, including this on functional training:

Although the term "functional training" has become increasingly popular in the sport and fitness industry, the use of the term is somewhat deceiving. The intent of so called "functional training" is to perform movements that mimic movements performed during daily life. The thought is that these "functional" exercises carry over to our normal movements in daily living.

However, the scientific research in the area of motor learning and control definitively indicates that strength training movements that attempt to mimic everyday movements do NOT carry over to everyday movements. Stronger muscles make daily life easier, more efficient, etc. but the mimicking of these movements while training is not necessary.

Instead, exercisers should strengthen the muscles that are used to perform the specific movement in the most effective manner possible. Consider a running example: A functional training advocate would suggest that because running is an activity performed on one's feet, we should perform lunges (an exercise for the thighs and glutes) as they too are performed while standing. In truth, the runners goal should be to strengthen these muscles in the most effective means possible, which often involves sitting on a leg extension, leg curl or leg press machine. The movements are different from running (as the exerciser is clearly not on her feet) but the leg muscles are strengthened and this improved strength transfers to running - not the neuro-muscular pattern of the strength training exercise.

Unfortunately, functional training will continue to grow in popularity as many health club chains and fitness certification associations espouse the alleged benefits of this type of training.
So much for functional training.....this is what they do instead:

(Other videos here)

I've always been a bit critical of things like the leg extension machine....couldn't see the point or the real life application.....but maybe?


Dan Hubbard, M.Ed. said...

While strength training, of any type, will benefit a runner (improved force production, improved connective tissue strength, etc). I see a lot of short-comings to their training techniques. Just looking at this video, look at that spinal flexion with the leg press, ouch! Secondly, runners generally (from my experience training many)have strength imbalances and mobility issues. Hip extension should be trained, but also hip external rotation strength/endurance should trained as well (don't see any of that here). Also, soft tissue work (foam rolling of tight hip musculature) and mobility training is missing. Finally, where is the power training to enhance tissue elasticity and running efficiency?

Perhaps their is more to their training that is not shown in the video.



Chris said...

Dan - do you prefer the layout?

Actually the video might have nothing to do with their training of long distance runners - it was just a video of a leg session that I saw on their YouTube channel.

Personally I like mobility training and get a regular massage so I accept your point there. With respect to power training that review study I pointed to

indicates that the value of power training is not proven.

John Sifferman - Real World Strength Training said...

Yeah, I consider leg extension machines "dysfunctional" training tools that teach your body to disintegrate its natural movement abilities.

Dan Hubbard, M.Ed. said...


Here is some research to support using explosive strength training to improve running economy and 5k times ( This is one of many I came upon.


Chris said...

Thanks Dan. That study doesn't compare the effects of "explosive" training - sprints, jump and plyometrics - to the effects of traditional resistance training. It doesn't compare explosive resistance training to non-explosive resistance training.

I'd refer again to that review that I posted

where they look at a stack of studies(20) on explosive / power training. They found that resistance training coupled with practice of the specific skill to be enhanced (such as jumping/running/sprinting) is all that is required to enhance that specific activity.

In the study to which you refer the explosive training is defined as various sprints and jumping exercises without additional weight or with the barbell on the shoulders and leg press and leg extension moves with low loads and high velocities.

So there is some sport specific stuff in there - the sprints - plus some resistance training. From the study we don't know whether the effect woudl have been greater or less with other types of resistance training - e.g. super slow - plus skill training.

Matt said...


Since when is extending your leg un-natural? There is no such thing as "dysfunctional" strength. ALL strength is functional. The extension exercise is excellent (as has been proven in hundreds of research papers) at increasing the strength of the quadraceps muscles. Let me ask you you think it is beneficial to have strong or weak quads when doing distance runs?

In terms of motor control and firing patterns of your muscles (which is what you are referring to when talking about "natural movement abilities") that is why you practice develop skill. Skill training and strength training are two separate things and should be treated as such. They are both important but should never be confused.

I personally train dozens of distance runners weekly and have heard nothing but positive things from their training.

"Yeah, I consider leg extension machines "dysfunctional" training tools that teach your body to disintegrate its natural movement abilities."

Thihan said...

Check out this T-Nation article - actually provides references rather than just the old chestnut of "(as has been proven in hundreds of research papers)"