I’m posting a strength endurance circuit of the HS guys that they did in the tail end of this past summer.

The idea behind this kind of circuit is strength endurance development obviously. What we are trying to do in basic terms is to force fiber recruitment and extend the endurance of those fibers. The exercises serve as a way to increase fiber recruitment, as does the fact that it’s done uphill. The sprint at the end is for maximal recruitment of specific fibers. You’ll notice that we go from bounding to sprints at the end.

In addition to neuromuscular adaptations, it also serves as an introduction or maintenance of some higher lactate work. If you took lactate readings (I’ve done it on myself), you’d see that following a circuit, lactate readings are relatively high. Normally when you do a lot of work with high lactate, you effect the lactate threshold because it manipulates the production/elimination ratio. Most of the time when you do high lactate work, it’s pretty fast running, so you are essentially shifting to adapt to the higher lactate/high glycolyitic work being done. Your body’s pretty smart in the sense that it adapts to what you give it. The fact that fast “anaerobic” work reduces LT is not a problem in some cases (it’s all about balance) and at the right time of the season.

However, during a base phase, that’s not the time you want to hurt the LT. Well, hill circuits like this allow for high lactate work to be done without it affecting LT. Why? Because it is non specific lactate work. You are using different muscle fibers than normal, and the one’s you are forcing to be used are the harder to recruit FT fibers. So, they are used for high anaerobic activities. You are going to be producing most of this lactate from these fibers you normally don’t recruit. In addition, the ST fibers are going to be trained to take up and use that lactate.

This is a general circuit, meaning the exercises and running are carried out at about 75-80%. It’s important NOT to take this workout without knowing what surrounds it. The workout by itself probably won’t do much, but in a larger paradigm it works well.

Before doing this type of work, you need sprints (either flat or hill) to increase the muscle fiber pool (the total fibers that can be recruited). Then you can use general circuits like this to help recruit these fibers during a longer activity.

You combine this work with regular strength endurance work that gets progressively more specific. A good way to work these hill circuits into something more specific is the use of mixed workouts. A workout like 1600,600,1200,500,1000,400 with 3-4min rest, with the paces being at 10k,3k,5k,1mi,5k,1mi takes the hill circuits and translates those adaptations into specifically helping your 5k (in this instance). The longer reps are for specific endurance, while the shorter intervals in between serve to force fiber recruitment and squirt some lactate into the system. Then you go back to the longer intervals to use those fibers, and train them to work under fatigued conditions (enhancing their endurance).

You can also manipulate the circuits to achieve different goals. Increase the speed of the running portion or increase the intensity of the circuits will both bring about different adaptations.

Lastly, for kick development, do a kick workout where you force fiber recruitment under very acidic conditions. A classic example is 300m at 800m pace, 100m bounding, 200m kick in. The 300m serves to build lactate, the 100m bound forces recruitment, the 200m kick in trains recruitment/use of these fibers under heavily fatigued conditions.

Finally, I’ve written on strength endurance and circuits before, so if you have any questions look there or leave a comment.

Enjoy the Video and thanks to the guys for letting me run along and film them. (NOTE: many of these guys have been doing a progression to this point over 3+years, or at least have a long period of solid mileage, I wouldn’t give this to a freshman or a relatively undeveloped runner).

Strength Endurance Hill Circuit from Steve Magness on Vimeo.

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    1. Anonymous on October 11, 2009 at 8:49 pm

      On paragraph four you mentioned about why it's improper to do hill circuits during base phase. However what negative physiological affects would it have on the body if one was to start hill circuits during early base phase?

    2. stevemagness on October 15, 2009 at 12:13 am

      I'm not sure where I mentioned that.

      I think circuits are good during the base phase in experienced runners. I think they should proceed with some hill sprints or flat sprints or other such things to increase the muscle fiber recruitment pool.

      I did say that high lactate work during the base phase had negative physiological affects. However, circuits, even if they produce high lactate levels, do NOT have this effect. That's why you can do fairly intense circuits during the base period.

      So, to sum things up, I think circuits are good during the base period. Especially in the mid to late base stage.

    3. Anonymous on October 15, 2009 at 5:58 am

      What are the negative physiological affects from doing high lactate work during base phase?

    4. stevemagness on October 16, 2009 at 11:21 pm

      High lactate work kind of goes against the point of base training. It's going to counteract some of the endurance training that's being done.

      As for what it affects, without getting all complex on you, if you look at lactate levels during submax speeds they will increase after high lactate work. Also, speed of the lactate threshold will slow. You can see this during the season with milers. There LT is generally the best during the base or preseason. If you take the LT again during or at the end of the season, it slows quiet considerably. But, for a miler this isn't a problem because you don't need an LT at your individual max for the year to do well in the mile. The benefits of the high lactate work surpass the decrease in LT in most cases.

      This will change based on fiber type though.

      But with hill circuits that produce high lactate, the LT is not impacted. So, think of it as general high lactate work, or base higher lactate work. It's no different than building a base for endurance.

    5. Anonymous on October 28, 2009 at 4:14 am

      The song is the flock of seagulls song i ran…but its a cover..who is doing the cover..the 30seconds on itunes isnt enough to figure it out..could you say who it is?

    6. stevemagness on November 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

      It's the version by Bowling for Soup.

    7. Mark E. on June 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      I have been following Daniels plan for 1500-3000 and feel like I am doing a lot of work in that plan already but want to work in the hill sprints somehow. I am now in the final phase, would you suggest still trying to work it in?

    8. Anonymous on August 3, 2011 at 7:31 pm

      How many times will you go cycle through this circuit?

    9. Joan on March 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      So, how to adapt something like this when you have no super long hills around? Longest hill around here would be about 250 meters. Any ideas?

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