If you want to be a successful cross-country runner, you training should involve more than just running. In addition to a running plan, competitive runners need to perform strength training. The benefits of strength training include better coordination, improved stability and flexibility, and the ability to maximize ground reaction forces.
Here are the most effective methods for weight room training of cross-country runners. Implement some of them in your training:
Research has shown that once runners achieve a racing pace, their momentum is constant and their relative mechanics are vertical. To kill two birds with one stone and train more effectively, perform multi-joint, vertical exercises. These include weight room favorites like the Squat. Going through the full range of motion with Front Squats or Back Squats will elicit the greatest gains in strength in the shortest amount of time in the gym. Make sure to have a professional check your form.
Make sure your workout includes pushing exercises like the Bench Press or Overhead Press and pulling exercises like Rows or Pull-Ups. The total number of repetitions of pulling exercises should at least equal the number of reps of pushing exercises.
Historically, runners have performed high reps (15+) to improve their strength endurance. This is a flawed training method, because athletes are merely practicing their sport in the weight room, adding volume to their cross-country running training. To promote maximum muscle growth, perform sets of three to six repetitions at an intensity of 80 to 95 percent of max.
Yes, plyometrics for distance runners. I like to test an athlete's strength with Standing Long Jumps, three Double-Leg Hops, five Double-Leg Hops and Vertical Jumps. These check the transfer of gains from the weight room to the ability to drive more force into the ground on the course. If there is a gain in the weight room, there should be an improvement in a plyo. If there is no improvement, remove the exercise from your program.