Purpose: Heavy-resistance training and plyometric training offer distinct physiological and neuromuscular adaptations that could enhance running economy and, consequently, distance-running performance. To date, no studies have examined the effect of combining the two modes of training on running economy or performance.
Methods: Fifty collegiate male and female cross-country runners performed a 5-km time trial and a series of laboratory-based tests to determine aerobic, anthropometric, biomechanical, and neuromuscular characteristics. Thereafter, each athlete participated in a season of six to eight collegiate cross-country races for 13 wk. After the first 4 wk, athletes were randomly assigned to either heavy-resistance or plyometric plus heavy-resistance training. Five days after completing their final competition, runners repeated the same set of laboratory tests. We also estimated the effects of the intervention on competition performance throughout the season using athletes of other teams as controls.
Results: Heavy-resistance training produced small-moderate improvements in peak speed, running economy, and neuromuscular characteristics relative to plyometric resistance training, whereas changes in biomechanical measures favored plyometric resistance training. Men made less gains than women in most tests. Both treatments had possibly harmful effects on competition times in men (mean = 0.5%; 90% confidence interval = ±1.2%), but there may have been benefit for some individuals. Both treatments were likely beneficial for all women (−1.2%; ±1.3%), but heavy-resistance training was possibly better than plyometric resistance training.
Conclusions: The changes in laboratory-based parameters related to distance-running performance were consistent with the changes in competition times for women but only partly for men. Our data indicate that women should include heavy-resistance training in their programs, but men should be cautious about using it in season until more research establishes whether certain men are positive or negative responders.