Strength training for us is one of many training methods. Strength training has been around for many years. In the 50’s and 60s running coaches have already emphasized strength training. Since then coaches focused on high-rep & light weights or low-rep & heavy weights.
And, of course, there are coaches that hadn’t included strength training and still had success. It all depends on the individual athlete and goals.
Strength training can & should receive a place in most training programs (for example, slow twitch athletes, weak athletes, veterans (age 50+)) but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone or the outcomes are always the same.
I noticed, for example, that my running, cycling and swimming form improved greatly with strength training. For example, a stronger upper body helped me to maintain a better freestyle stroke for longer periods of time & distance,to have a better catch & high elbow, a strong finish at about waist height and facilitated my water positioning through a stronger core and gluts muscle. Therefore, I think that strength training can help to improve sport specific movements and it is very good for injury prevention, too.
The content of a strength program depends on the type of athlete (ST vs FT), discipline, experience level, and race distance (short vs long distance, power vs endurance). In cycling, as a Sprinter, your main objectives are to push a big gear very explosively and to generate a very high power output. Here, you are probably looking to increase the size of fast twitch fibers (hypertrophy) and their ability to generate lots of power and to release it very quickly by lifting heavy weights quickly & powerfully.
On the other hand, a climbing specialist would require a different strength program that works on developing strength & power but without bulking up (high power to weight ratio, w/kg). In running, specifically long distance, we want to improve the push off the ground (reactivity). More bounce in the step comes with stronger legs. And, in order to achieve a stronger push-off (bounce) we must improve the muscles ability to generate force and to release it quickly.
The best way to train and teach this to our lower leg muscles is via plyometrics (also called reactive training i.e. hopping, bouncing, jumping…).
Sprinting is a type of plyometrics and helps to strengthen legs and their ability to generate force and to release it quickly. Just like weight lifting sprinting is a method to recruit a larger pool of muscle fibers which improves stride strength and running economy. But, sprinting is sport specific strength training whereas lifting weights is not. Specificity rules!! Therefore, if you don’t have access to a gym or just not the time to hit the gym I would recommend to add sprinting (throughout the season) to your training because it is sports specific and a successful path to development more strength & power:
- bike: 6s to 20s sprints
- run: 8 to 12sec sprints (flat/hill)
- swim: (12.5m explosive/25 sprints).