Any athlete worth his or her salt is always looking for ways to improve. Some look to traditional methods like endurance training or circuit training to increase their performance. Some look to more controversial methods like supplements.
Runners especially are always looking for ways to enhance their performance and endurance. A tried and true method of performance improvement is resistance training. Also known as strength or weight training, resistance training increases muscle strength by putting the muscles to work against a weight or other kind of resistance. This results in physiological changes that allow the muscles and the rest of the body to work more efficiently, leading to better performance on the track or road.
Resistance training offers overall health benefits, in addition to those associated with running. Here are just a few:
- Builds muscle
- Protect against injury
- Helps body burn calories better
- Increases bone density
- Improves stamina
- Reduces insomnia
- Improves conditions such as diabetes, depression, arthritis, and obesity
This type training comes in many flavors. You can use free weights like dumbbells, weight machines or even your own body weight -- with exercises like push-ups or squats -- for strength training. Another form of resistance training is the use of resistance bands or bungees. Bungee cords are elastic cords. Made of one big or a bunch of small elastic strands, the the cord is sometimes covered in a nylon sheath.
Yes, the same thing that people use to bungee jump from bridges can help you train for running and other sports. Let's take a look at how bungee speed training works.
Bungee Speed Training Workouts
A bungee speed training workout is a form of resistance training that runners use to gain performance improvement. Obviously, in running, speed is a good thing. You can define speed as the ability to quickly move a limb, or quickly move the body from one point to another [source: Faccioni].
We'll talk about why resistance speed training works in the next section. But first, we'll explain how a bungee speed training regimen works.
A typical bungee training kit comes with a braided rubber bungee (the braids keep the cord more durable), a belt or harness and a handle. The bungee is usually around 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. Usually a coach or partner will hold onto one end of the bungee. If you're training solo, some gyms or training facilities will have an apparatus where you can attach one end of the bungee securely to a wall.
The runner will attach the belt around his or her waist and stand in front of his or her partner. As the runner takes off in a short sprint, the partner runs behind him or her, providing resistance by pulling on the bungee cord. The bungee shouldn't be pulled so tight as to negatively impact the runner's form, however. A bungee can provide up to 200 pounds (91 kilograms) of resistance, and the partner can control the amount of resistance by pulling the bungee tighter or letting it go more slack. Pro football player Darren Sharper recommends using about 20 percent resistance when running sprints with a bungee cord. "You don't want to feel like you're pulling a truck," he says. Sharper uses bungee training to improve his speed and agility on the field, skills which can also benefit competitive runners. He also stresses that athletes should rest in between sets of bungee resistance training to let the muscles recover. A typical bungee resistance training workout might look a little like this:
The runner performs two sets of sprints -- one with the bungee cord and one without. He or she should rest about two minutes in between sets. The sprint distance is 20 yards (18.2 meters). The runner attaches the cord to his or her waist, and the partner holds the bungee from behind with the appropriate resistance. The runner sprints at full force, leaning forward slightly. The partner follows, maintaining cord length and resistance for the duration of the sprint.
Running partners can even purchase a dual resistance harness -- a bungee with a belt at both ends. With this, the partners can take turns sprinting and providing resistance to each other. It's a great way to do interval training, which involves bursts of high-intensity activity followed by a short rest.
So now we know how runners practice bungee speed resistance training. Let's find out why they do it. How does it help improve performance?
Benefits of Bungee Speed Training
Resistance training is a great way for runners -- especially long-distance runners -- to increase their speed. Let's say you're training for a marathon. So far, you've limited your training to running -- building on your distance each week. You should know, though, that without strength in all muscles (not just the ones you use for running), you've neglected muscle fibers and nerve pathways in your body. Building strength gets these fibers ready and gives you what experts call a "speed reserve." This reserve will help give you a burst of speed when you need it most -- something you'll find invaluable when you hit the inevitable "wall" during a marathon.
Stimulating the nervous system through speed resistance and interval training helps lead to increased speed capacity. In turn, runners find that increased speed capacity provides them with two profound benefits:
- Running at pace but using less energy -- which creates a speed reserve for a surge at the finish
- Running at a faster overall pace, improving their overall time -- something competitive runners shoot for
Resistance speed training isn't as much about building muscle as it's about building the capacity to store energy to use later. Using a bungee speed training program provides specific physiological benefits:
- Increased blood flow to muscle fibers
- Increased availability of fuel to the muscles
- Increased cell mitochondria (which create energy for cells)
- Stronger bones
- Stronger connective tissue
- Increased flexibility
This type of training also helps reduce the chance of injury. When you run, your lower body and feet absorb a force up to five times your body weight every time your heel hits the ground. The cumulative impact of this constant stress can be devastating if your body is not conditioned properly. Impact-related injuries are usually associated with muscle weakness or imbalance. Because resistance training results in stronger bones, increased flexibility and stronger connective tissue, it can help you to strengthen these muscles and avoid such injuries.
Performing bungee speed drills will help strengthen the muscles in your feet, legs and trunk. The resulting strength in those muscles will also take strain off your spinal column, in turn improving your overall balance and stability.
You can achieve these benefits using just about any type of resistance training, but bungee training specifically gives a more smooth and less jarring workout.
For more about running and health, check out the links on the next page.
- How a Marathon Works
- How Exercise Works
- How Interval Training Works
- How Ab Workouts for Runners Work
- How Leg Workouts for Runners Work
- How Core Strength Training for Runners Works
- How to Avoid Overtraining in Running
- Can I run when I have a cold?
- Does running reduce stress?
- Does running fight depression?
- How many calories does running burn?
- Christensen, Scott. "Strength Training For Endurance Runners With Applications To Other Events." Track Coach. 2000. (Aug. 8, 2010)http://www.coachr.org/dista.htm
- Collins, Paul. "Speed for Sport: Build Your Strongest Body Ever." Meyer & Myer Sport, LTD. March 1, 2009. (Aug. 8, 2010)http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_1/1422.shtml
- Green, Nate. "Darren Sharper Off-Season Speed Training." Stack Magazine. November 2007. (Aug. 8, 2010) http://magazine.stack.com/TheIssue/Article/4889/Darren_Sharper_OffSeason_Speed_Training.aspx
- "Mitochondria - Turning on the Powerhouse." Biology4Kids.com. 2010. (Aug. 8, 2010) http://www.biology4kids.com/files/cell_mito.html
- Perros, Theodore P. "History: Athens Marathon." AthensMarathon.com. 2001. (Aug. 8, 2010) http://www.athensmarathon.com/marathon/history.html
- "Resistance Training - beginners." Better Health Channel. July 2010. (Aug. 8, 2010) http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Resistance_training
- "Super Bungie Speed Trainer." ShapeUpShop.com. 2010. (Aug. 8, 2010) http://www.shapeupshop.com/fitness/running/super_bungie.htm
- Trappe. Scott. "Resistance training may help astronauts on long flights." Ball State University. Aug. 23, 2004. (Aug. 8, 2010) http://www.bsu.edu/news/article/0,1370,-1019-24016,00.html