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Strength training to lighten the load
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Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Over thinking this on 02/27/2013 18:14:55 MST Print View

"(Slightly related, I ran my first marathon by only doing one long run a week, a running trainer told me it was stupid but it worked!)"

You're in good company, Greg. I used to train with a guy who ran 2:35 for the marathon on 35 miles/week, with one long run and the rest devoted to short fast runs. It can be done.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Over thinking this on 02/27/2013 18:22:51 MST Print View

"There is one area that I do disagree with some posters. Heavy upper body weight training is a waste for thru hiking training. All of that precious muscle mass will be lost. So fast twitch, slow twitch, who knows, it's all just walking."

I disagree, having hiked many times with women in particular that needed help putting their packs on. So for this, at least, you need a minimum of 'one max' strength at least equal to your pack weight. I also have found that I excel on steep uphill and downhill hikes where I can use my arms/chest/back to brace (downhill) and pull (uphill). Sometimes I even swing from overhead tree branches when on a steep downhill-merely because I can ;) I guess I just have that gorilla factor from decades of rock climbing...upper body strength also allows me to make maximum use of my poles, and really power through uphill cross-country skiing sections.

I hope I never need to walk a 30 mile plus day. In our terrain that would be inconceivable, and in lesser terrain I think I would find it incredibly boring, much like I find distance running and cycling! But, yes, if long distance hiking is your thing, then you need to do lots of long distance hiking to be fit for it. But just because genetically gifted Kenyans train with nothing but running to win distance races, it does not mean that power training will lead to no improvements, merely that they don't need that extra couple of percentages to win races.

As for growing new myocytes, recent research has shown that it is possible, but not to a great extent. But you CAN increase the number of mitochondria in a specific muscle fibre by good training principles.

BJ Clark
(bj.clark) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
strength and endurance on 02/27/2013 18:31:51 MST Print View

Thanks to Dave and Lynn for adding some research and evidence to the discussion. You saved me from pulling similar info from my own files. I have been blessed to have some success as a distance runner and as a coach of runners from the HS level to some elite national and WC athletes. People need to not confuse top runners with the back of the pack marathoners or even some good local runners. Many are incredibly strong in terms of strength to weight ratios. Years ago we were doing a clinic and someone asked Frank Shorter how strong marathoners needed to be. His reply was that they should be able to lift at least their own body weight over their heads! Many of the best distance runners are quite strong.

My running group used to have contests after workouts to see who could walk the farthest on our hands and also to see who could do the most handstand pushups.

As to the discussion about the differences between fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, training and performance, please be aware that much of what shows up in all variety of fitness magazines and even from the mouth of some trainers at fitness centers is all too often simplistic and misleading. There is great complexity in the relationship between different fiber types and the manner in which athletes recruit and use muscle fibers of all types.

The bottom line as demonstrated by Piper's experience: Get fit, get strong, and you will live and move with greater ease!

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Strength training to lighten the load on 02/27/2013 19:07:05 MST Print View

"Or, as I call them, "stairs". Just stairs. No gym membership, no $2000 equipment, nothing to plug in the wall or take up space in your house. Just stairs - up AND DOWN - at home, at the office, a hotel while traveling."

For sure. Fortunately I work in a 10 story building AND live close to a 300m hill. However, it is really hard to 'train' for a 1500m steep descent without actually doing a 1500m descent, non-stop. Ascents are not as hard to simulate in a gym. This really struck home for me when our gym organised an overnight hike, the ascent was 400m, and everyone was OK after that. Next day was back down the same (steep) 400m, and soooo many of the folks not used to hiking suffered bad DOMS from that. Their muscles simply were not used to that kind of eccentric exercise.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
not to nit pick...but i will...and it's kinda boring. Or not. on 02/27/2013 19:21:06 MST Print View

Dave...hmmm...the battle over muscle physiology. What great fun! But I have to say you seem to have only a cursory understanding here.

First of all, define "strength…”
You can't, because it doesn’t actually mean anything; there is no definition for it clinically or experimentally. We use the terms "muscle performance" or "force generating capacity" because "strength" has no real meaning. The amount of force a muscle can generate depends on so many things, including available metabolites, readiness of the neuromuscular junction, the length-tension relationship of the muscle fibers, etc etc.

"And intervals. God I hate intervals. But I do them for their effect on my cardiovascular system and less for endurance"

You seem to have some more definitions a-kilter...
Your cardiovascular system IS endurance – otherwise, what is muscle endurance?
The muscle can only contract as long as it has oxygen and Ca2+ and ATPase etc available. This comes from an efficient cardiovascular system to deliver these to the oxidative muscle fibers, as well as to flush out waste products. Without that your muscle functions anaerobically – which we’ve all experienced doesn’t really last very long at all.

You can be as powerful as possible, but without the ability to quickly and efficiently move metabolites and wastes from the working muscle then it will no longer contract. “Endurance training” does exactly this: it trains the muscle to be able to move products through quickly and efficiently – the one who can do it the best will last the longest in physical exertion.

"...does not mean fatiguing the muscle until it can't contract. Can you imagine hiking that way? Hiking until you pass out due to fatigue"

We are talking TRAINING, not the actual hiking. In order to improve the force generating capacity of the muscle you HAVE to challenge it to fatigue. If you choose to increase the level of mitochondria in order to improve the length of time you can contract a muscle, you challenge it to fatigue. If you want to increase the cross sectional area of a muscle then you need to hypertrophy the fibers…by, you guessed it, challenging it to fatigue. It’s called Wolff’s Law: your body adapts directly to loads placed on it.

"a stronger muscle does not work as hard as a weaker muscle to produce the same force, providing a lot of stored energy in reserve should it be required. Strength training simply improves the muscle's ability and capacity to do more work"

Not quite. First of all, what is a "stronger" muscle? One with greater cross sectional area? One with a better length-tension relationship? You are looking at this from a strict physics perspective rather than one that involves oxidation and ATPase and Ca2++ that is involved in repeated muscle contraction. The muscle doesn’t really store much energy in reserve as you would expect…it has to use it efficiently (thus, you TRAIN it to do so). And I’m also not really sure where you get the idea that a “stronger” muscle doesn’t work as hard.

Here is the salient part of a paper that compared marathon outcomes between recreational runners to participated in a strength training program and those who did not (I thought that applied to us a bit better than the elite athlete studies)

“No significant differences between the groups and no significant interaction (time × intervention) were found for VO2 (absolute and relative to VO2peak) at defined marathon running velocities (2.4 and 2.8 m·s⁻¹) and submaximal blood lactate thresholds (2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 mmol·L⁻¹). Stride length and stride frequency also remained unchanged. The results suggest no benefits of an 8-week concurrent strength training for running economy and coordination of recreational marathon runners despite a clear improvement in leg strength, maybe because of an insufficient sample size or a short intervention period. (Ferrauti A, Bergermann M, Fernandez-Fernandez J. Effects of a concurrent strength and endurance training on running performance and running economy in recreational marathon runners. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2770-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181d64e9c)

All the force generating capacity in the world is meaningless if you don't have endurance. Why can't sprinters compete with marathoners? Why can't a marathoner run a 100m dash in <10 seconds? Because the sprinter has no endurance (but has power), and the marathoner has endurance but no power. What do we see here? Specificity of training!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Yes you can change the properties of your muscle fibers! on 02/27/2013 19:37:12 MST Print View

You can be whatever you want to be! As long as you train intensely enough.....

"The mechanical properties of slow and fast muscles do adapt to programs of regular exercise. Endurance exercise training has been shown to increase the Vo of the slow soleus by 20%. This increase could have been caused by either a small increase in all, or most, of the fibers, or to a conversion of a few fibers from slow to fast. Recently, the increase was shown to be caused by the former, as the individual slow Type I fibers of the soleus showed a 20% increase in Vo, but there was little or no change in the percentage of fast fibers. The increased Vo was correlated with, and likely caused by, an increased fiber ATPase. We hypothesize that the increased ATPase and cross-bridge cycling speed might be attributable to an increased expression of fast MLCs in the slow Type I fibers (Fig. 14.10). This hypothesis is based on the fact that light chains have been shown to be involved in the power stroke, and removal of light chains depresses force and velocity. Regular endurance exercise training had no effect on fiber size, but with prolonged durations of daily training it depressed Po and peak power. When the training is maintained over prolonged periods, it may even induce atrophy of the slow Type I and fast Type IIa fibers."

Fitts RH, Widrick JJ. Muscle mechanics: adaptations with exercise-training. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 1996;24:427-73.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Lots n lots of misconceptions about strength training on 02/27/2013 19:41:03 MST Print View

"And intervals. God I hate intervals. But I do them for their effect on my cardiovascular system and less for endurance."

We used to use them as phase 3 of a training cycle, after 10-12 weeks of distance running and 3 weeks of hill workouts. After that it was taper down for 10-14 days and step up to the line. Myself, I liked them. There was something very primeval about a pack of guys on about the 15th-16th 400m, with 4-5 to go, when the chatter had died down and everybody was reaching deep down inside, that took me back 10,000 years or so. Hard to describe, but I loved it.

BJ Clark
(bj.clark) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: not to nit pick...but i will...and it's kinda boring. Or not. on 02/27/2013 20:06:59 MST Print View

Maybe no sub 10 for 100m, but you haven't lived until you run sub 47 in a 400m race against other marathoners and you come in last!! When Ibrahim Hussein was running world class 10k times in college he used to run the 4x400m and break even with the sprinters. Is there a difference in top end speed? Yes, but not near what people think. At any rate, the constant back and forth between the physiologists and coaches will continue to be with us. Thanks for your perspective. Dave may not know all the relevant terminology, but I know what he meant! And your take wasn't boring.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Lots n lots of misconceptions about strength training on 02/27/2013 21:10:07 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 11/13/2013 16:03:59 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: not to nit pick...but i will...and it's kinda boring. Or not. on 02/27/2013 21:23:57 MST Print View

Jennifer, I appreciate your expertise and clarification of your posts.

However, I wanted to respond on a few things to (I guess) clarify as best that I can one last time given you asked me to define strength.

Strength is defined as the potential tension a muscle is capable of applying in a single maximum contraction. Training for strength causes several physiological changes in muscle tissue. Of these, the two most important are improved nervous control of muscle and increase muscle size.

To compensate for the wide variety of possible load conditions (playing the piano does not require the same output as lifting weights), the CNS stimulates exactly the amount if fibers necessary to perform the job. If a muscle is just strong enough to cover the load, essentially all its fibers must contract and as soon as these tire, the muscle fails and cannot work again until there has been sufficient recovery.

However….if the muscle’s level of strength surpasses the job’s requirements, the CNS will only stimulate a portion of the muscle’s fibers, leaving those remaining in reserve, ready to take over when the initial bunch tires and ultimately fail.

It is this sort of alternation that increases your muscular endurance. Strength training specifically increases the muscle’s capacity to stimulate muscle fibers and hence endurance.

So lets look at your analogy. On one side we have a sprinter, who does explosive, high force movements and can exert himself maximally for only a short period of time. Lets now add some endurance training to his regimen. He adds 20% of his training time to running ½ marathons. After two months, he is now a slower sprinter, weaker, and physically smaller (more on that in a minute).

On the other side we have a high level marathoner. This person trains solely for endurance (as you prescribe). He does high levels of repetitive activity for his legs, increasing the number of mitochondria per muscle cell, substantially increasing his endurance. Lets now add some strength training to his regimen. He adds 20% of his training time to strength training with weight loads in the 65 to 90% of one repetition range. After two months, he can run farther, longer, and faster. Why?

Regarding training to fatigue / failure when strength training. This really is not necessary and will be detrimental in the long run. Powerlifters never train to fatigue and they are the strongest individuals on the planet. Olympic lifters also don’t train to fatigue and they are unbelievably strong. You only have to train within a range of load to get stronger and push for continual progression of load over time. Overload is key; not pushing the muscle to fatigue as it drowns in lactic acid after burning through glycogen, ATP, and CP. Consider that sprinters on the track don't train by running to fatigue where they fall down in a heap of vibrating mass (would be funny to see, however). They train at high intensity but it is something less than all out fatigue.

You mention the cross section of a muscle – yes, that is a byproduct of strength. Clearly increased fiber size does affect the physical appearance of the muscle but the degree to which it contributes is largely determined by diet.

Yup - made a boo boo on the cardio comment but I was really referring to metabolic conditioning and trying to see some 'abs' before summer rather than training to increase my endurance....I squat and deadlift for that (hee, hee). And yes, training for overall endurance does tap into the cardiovascular system. But you can actually have a muscle with high endurance without affecting your cardiovascular system. Consider a muscle with predominently slow twitch musculature. That muscle will be very enduring even though you are a 'couch potato'. The calf muscle comes to mind.

Anyhoo, I am done here. Need to go train.

Go Piper!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
This is a great thread!! on 02/27/2013 21:58:04 MST Print View

Piper -

Good for you! Sounds like you are improving your overall fitness. But too much of a "good" thing can be bad. Moderation in all things :)

Jennifer said,

"Major point here: You do not built endurance with strength training. You build endurance with endurance training and muscle force with "strength" training. If you lift for increased power production, you will not improve endurance (this is why sprinters are not marathon runners, and huge lineman do not run the ball in for touchdowns). Look at the different builds of cyclists in the Tour de France: the climbers are all lithe and skinny...that is endurance training; the sprinters have huge legs...that is power. The two are not the same and the muscles are not at all trained the same. While improving a muscle's force production will make stepping up a 15 inch boulder with a 15 pound pack will NOT change how many times you can step up that step. That's where endurance training (like Dave's comment about climbing stairs) comes in.......

but, the fact is specificity of training rules the day. If you want to run fast, run fast. If you want to power up a steep ascent, power up steep ascents. And if you want to hike for 30 miles/day, then you need to hike 30 miles a day. The other stuff can make minor differences, but in the grander scheme of things not all that much."

Spot on. Weight lifting for speed/power. That is how Galen Rupp (10K silver medalist 2012 Olympics) was able to run the final lap in a 13:22 5K, in 52 seconds last year. After he had the endurance, the weight lifting was done for speed when it was needed. Rupp does lift 2 or 3 days a week. We will see him move up to the marathon, and expect him to be very competitive. But most of his work is running, not weight lifting; because he is a distance runner.


I now know why I like you. My favorite workout on the track was 440 yard intervals (pre-socialist measurement system). Everyone hated those days, except for me.

These days my goal is to wake up above ground each day, and then go for some sort of a walk. Seems to work too. :)

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Question for Jennifer on 02/27/2013 22:23:06 MST Print View

Hey Jennifer

2-3 times per week, I go to a hilly section of trail near me, put on a 25 lb pack (what I usually carry on a hike), and hike up and down for an hour or so. Once a week I do a longer hike.

Where I park, I have a choice of either immediately beginning the hills up and down, or taking 10 minutes to walk a very gently, almost flat section. Some have told me I should do the flat section both before and after, to warm up and cool down. Is there any real benefit to that, or is my preferred hit-the-hills-now okay?

Thanks for any input advice.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: This is a great thread!! on 02/27/2013 22:40:48 MST Print View

"Spot on. Weight lifting for speed/power. That is how Galen Rupp (10K silver medalist 2012 Olympics) was able to run the final lap in a 13:22 5K, in 52 seconds last year. After he had the endurance, the weight lifting was done for speed when it was needed. Rupp does lift 2 or 3 days a week. We will see him move up to the marathon, and expect him to be very competitive. But most of his work is running, not weight lifting; because he is a distance runner."

Correct. If he didn't train for strength then he would not have been able to run the final lap like that. But you are incorrect that somehow strength suddenly appeared, pushing him to the end (review how ATP, CP, and lactic acid affect strength). Strength training helped him by improving his capacity to endure, thereby providing him the additional endurance when he needed it. He simply wasn't working at his full capacity early on, which permitted him to maintain a high level of endurance right to the end of the run.

Andrew McAlister
(mcalista) - F
Strength exercises for hikers on 02/28/2013 06:23:38 MST Print View

4 strength exercises for hikers.

Planks - core strength should not be neglected
Calf raises - doesn't feature in most bodybuilding routines, but I think this is a really important one for hikers - strong ankles are less likely to rollover or get sprained, and can help you recover from misplaced footing without falling. If you can work up to single leg barefoot calf raises, this will develop the smaller muscles in your foot, and work on your balance.

BJ Clark
(bj.clark) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: This is a great thread!! on 02/28/2013 08:58:15 MST Print View

And we haven't even addressed the role of the motor unit areas of the cortex and their regulation of motor unit function! I doubt Piper expected this type of discussion.

Rob P
(rpjr) - M
Specificity of Training, question for Jennifer, etc. on 02/28/2013 09:04:24 MST Print View

Clearly specificity of training is where it's at if you are an athlete training for a specific sport...We had very specific workouts for our players, and even more specific ones for our pitchers.

But for me, I don't just hike. At 50, I play a lot of golf and softball also, and due to time constraints I don't want to train specifically for each one. I do a quick "10 minute trainer" 2 to 3 times per week. So you have to think about your lifestyle...If you are Andrew Skurka, train for long distance hiking...If you do lots of different things, take that into account, along with your time constraints.

Also, I have some questions for Jennifer regarding what the stretching studies say regarding range of motion and time. When I get to the golf course, my backswing is very short and tight, so before I tee off I warm up and stretch for about 5 minutes. After this, I feel looser and my backswing is visibly where it needs to be....what is happening here? Is it the increased blood flow from the warmup, perhaps? Once I've gotten loose, I stay loose until I stop playing...then the next time I play, I need to stretch again to get my backswing back to where it needs to be.

And to the poster who mentioned the HIIT stuff, I always thought that it made quick twitch guys lose some burst, despite what the studies showed for a long time...and then, after I stopped coaching I heard that some of the HIIT guys were starting to change their views a this true?

Remember, at first all the studies showed that a curve ball didn't actually curve....I feel as if stretching will yet be vindicated in a future study! :)

Edit: I think I was thinking of something else when I mentioned the HIIT stuff...I was thinking of the real slow lifting technique.

Edited by rpjr on 02/28/2013 09:30:16 MST.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
But of course! The motor cortex!!! on 02/28/2013 09:22:09 MST Print View

You're right BJ!! Let's talk motor unit recruitment and neuromuscular junction fatigue!!!

@Dave: c'mon, have some fun!! Who doesn't love a metaphysical discussion about force generating capacity and morphological changes of muscle fibers in the presence of overloading??!!

You obviously have a background in exercise physiology, and that's why a discussion like this is (can be...) fun. The chemical engineers get their geek on arguing about different alcohol compositions and burn times...what's wrong with a little type I vs IIa fiber discussion??

You seem to be awfully negative a lot.....

@Stephen: yes, a warm up and cool down are important. Generally I would recommend doing the flat section first and last because it doesn't take much time, doesn't hurt, and we THINK it's beneficial. But honestly, I'm less a fan of changing something that is working for you than to conform to somewhat controversial pop culture medicine.

And to circle back through all of this...cross training, lifting weights, aerobic training...these are all good things that overall make you a well rounded, physically fit person who can do everything easier. Hiking involves a lot of different activies (flats, ups, downs, uneven surfaces, lifting, carrying, squatting, etc) so a well-rounded exercise program is absolutely the best way to go. Unless you are actually training for something high level and specific (record setting speed thru hike, for example), just create a program that you will actually do. And have fun with it.

Goodness gracious I need to get out and hike!!!!!!!

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: But of course! The motor cortex!!! on 02/28/2013 09:35:31 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 11/13/2013 16:04:30 MST.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Question for Jennifer on 02/28/2013 14:12:31 MST Print View

Jennifer, since you are an expert (or very good at pretending to be one), I was wondering if I could pick your brain as far as my workout routine (posted early in this thread) is concerned? What do you think of it in general, would you and/remove/change anything, any tips, etc.

And Piper, I didn't mean to hijack your thread or anything. Just wanted to share what I do to stay in shape other than backpacking (and also to aid in a better backpacking experience). Maybe you could share your workout routine in detail? Anyhow, thanks for getting this discussion started :)

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Stretching on 02/28/2013 14:14:11 MST Print View

Yeah the stretching literature has been pretty crazy over the past 5-7 years. We know the length of the muscle doesn't change with static stretching, only the tolerance to stretch. You have a rather complicated system of sensors in your muscles called spindles and they detect stretch and velocity (or both)...when you stretch you are conditioning these spindles to allow more lengthening in the muscle prior to stopping you. This effect has been shown to last only about an hour but does not affect the long term passive properties of the muscle. This is why you feel a bit better (and looser) when you stretch, but that you still feel stiff later.

There has been a great deal of work on how muscle performance is actually harmed by static stretching: your speed, power and endurance are impaired if you stretch those muscles during a pre-exercise routine. This has been so well documented that the American College of Sports Medicine has changed its guidelines to suggest NOT stretching as part of your warm up and only to include cardio work if you needed strength or power. (American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 8th Ed. Philadelphia (PA):Lippencott, Williams & Wilkins; 2010. p. 173.)

Then, to totally mess with all that you learned about stretching, Cochrane has a review updated in 2011 that pretty unequivocally says that stretching before, during, or after any exercise does absolutely nothing to alter muscle soreness any time during the week after the physical activity. "The studies produced very consistent findings. They showed there was little or no effect of stretching in the muscle soreness experienced in the week after the physical activity."
Herbert RD, de Noronha M, Kamper SJ. Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD004577. DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD004577.pub3

Now...eccentric exercise, dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching...lots and lots of arguments here. But I imagine I've already overstayed my welcome to poor Piper's original post just being happy about feeling stronger with weight training :)