Matt's take on strength training:
"Great thread! On a side note, I will gladly put together some info on unstable surface training, since I used to be a believer in it, until I started reading the research and understanding how the body works. Over the past 2 years, I have spent over 60 solid hours reading both sides of this argument and all of the research I could find. I am 100% against unstable surface training, as I have seen that it causes many negative adaptations and none of the supposed benefits. I will add details in a post later with all of the references. In the meantime, if you need stronger "core", squat heavy. A bodyweight squat (literally, without the bar) activates the trunk musculature to the same extent as exercises on a Swiss ball meant to target those same muscles (Hamlyn et el., 2009). A squat at 50% 1RM works the trunk musculature 10-15% more than a MAX EFFORT Swiss ball exercise meant to ISOLATE those same trunk muscles (Nuzzo et al., 2008). If you are squatting at least 80% 1RM, this difference in activation is generally between 40-60%. So, if you are squatting heavy (which you should be), swiss balls and bosu balls are a waste of your time (and also bad for you). To be continued...
As for the strength/power training, I can totally back up what Steve was saying. The reason that it is really difficult to get these points across is because we have each spent over 6 highly-intensive years learning the science of human physiology as it relates to sport performance, and it is hard to condense all of that info into a thread like this. For more info, read Brooks' text "Exercise Physiology" - as far as I can tell, it's the best text on the subject of how the body adapts to exercise.
To put it in simple terms, we train endurance during our sport training, so we don't need to train it in the weight room. But what is "endurance"? Distance running requires a high level of power, but it is aerobic power, because we are repeating it over and over again for an extended period of time. So, each time we take a step, we are projecting ourself. This is a ballistic power movement. Because we have to do it so many times, it is a lower level of power than a sprinter or a shot-putter must produce (they use anaerobic power). Still, both types of athlete can benefit from the same training.
One of the keys to improving endurance is to improve our ability to produce force quickly (power) without hitting an intensity that is so high that we cannot maintain it. To make these improvements, we need to look at A.V. Hill's Power Curve, which outlines the force-velocity (power) relationship.
To make a very gross oversimplification of the matter, we know that to improve power we must improve force. Even better, we would like to improve force without improving body mass (so, via neural improvements).
Let's say that someone can only squat 100lbs for one rep. Now, at 50% of max effort (50 lbs), they can do 20 reps. If we increase that person's 1RM squat to 150lbs, they can probably squat 50 lbs about 40-50 times. This huge improvement means that our former submaximal effort has become even easier. More importantly, the person who used to only be able to squat 100 lbs one time, can now squat it 10-15 times. So, what used to be a maximum and unsustainable effort for the person has now become a much easier effort. Instead of working at 50lbs (let's say 8mph), we can now sustain faster paces (say, 9-10mph). These theories have been proven with beginner runners as well as elite runners. It is even more pronounced with cyclists (elite and non-elite).
What does this mean for a distance runner or any endurance athlete? Let's say that the highest amount of power you could produce and maintain during a run was 1000 watts (not a real number, just hypothetical) and the max amount you could produce at a full sprint was 5000 watts. When we make you stronger (and include power training at the same time), we might move your sprint power from 5000 to 8000. In doing so, we move your max sustainable power during a distance event from 1000 to something higher.
This is about the most unscientific way I can think of to describe it, but basically, if we make someone stronger, we make their ability to move much easier. Additionally, staying in the 1-4 rep range is a great way to get stronger via neural adaptations(most modern powerlifters stay in this range to improve their squats) without building muscle.
So, while staying in a 1-4 rep range on squats may not APPEAR to be sport-specific since it is a completely different energy system, it is actually extremely specific, as it will help you to work at a higher capacity during a distance race without accumulating enough fatigue to stop your efforts. While this info is not accepted among the general population, it is common knowledge among most sports scientists and elite sport coaches. Time under tension (regarding resistance training) is increased when the goal is hypertrophy, not strength or power. As for endurance, we train those energy systems when we run 6-7 days/week...
Keep up the great work Steve - this website rocks!! I also really enjoyed reading everyone else's comments - this is an environment where we can all learn from each other!"