T Nation

Making Strength Progress During a Run-Focused Program

Background and Stats:
Due to a military commitment I have had to spend time focusing on running along with my strength training through college (ROTC). I’ve had some time off though to focus on strength due to little PT training with graduation and commissioning at the end of the school year and I don’t begin my military training until January. I’m coming to the end of my second 10-12 week strength focused block (4 weeks left) and am beginning a 4 week ruck and run build up before jumping back into a 12 week run and ruck focused program. If percentages keep progressing as they should, I’m on track to finish my current program with lifts in the ballpark of those listed below (I will be doing a week of max testing before starting the run focus so I know exact percentages to use).
Bodyweight: 180-185 (currently sitting around 180 with 4 weeks left but plan on gaining a few more pounds)
Deadlift: 455
Squat: 365
Front Squat: 310
Bench: 280
Push press: 220
Max Strict Chins: 25
Clean and jerk: 245
Snatch: 135 (mostly technique issues-going to keep working on this)
Run: Haven’t ran many time trials during past two cycles just maintenance runs once to twice a week

The program I’m on right now is a 4 day lower- upper split with high volume (10 sets 5,4,3 reps week 1,2,3 respectively of deadlift, bench, squat, push press) with two maintenance runs and Olympic lifting to start each workout so my body has adapted to the volume. With that being said obviously a running program on top of 10 sets of squat and deadlift each week wouldn’t be smart, but just giving reference to training volume on previous cycle.

Program layout:
Due to the increased running volume my plan is to decrease lifting volume. I think the format that goes best with the running plan is a lower and upper day at the start of the week and then a full body towards the end shown below with simplified running program outline:

AM- moderate run+ strides
PM- Lower+prowler finisher

Upper+ bodyweight and low impact (air assault/rower) finisher

Fast run (track and harder tempo runs)

Full body+ kettlebell complex and loaded carry finisher

Easier run+strides

Ruck- alternate between heavy one hour rucks and longer (6-16 mile) lighter rucks

  • on heavy ruck days I’ll also do 30ish minutes of obstacle course work at a local course, but not on long ruck days

The “finisher” work will vary to target different energy systems and will be less planned to keep things fresh and random in the conditioning department and also target some muscular endurance and even some size gains (maybe wishful thinking) and imbalances if programmed properly. These metcons should last 5-15 minutes.

Comments and Questions:
I went with the upper-lower-full body split because trying to cram supplemental and prehab work into a 2 day full body split was making me cross eyed and training full body more than twice a week seemed like a lot to recover from with the rucking and obstacle course plus 3 run days. Also this split gave my legs two full days off each week from any running, rucking, or lower body lifting. Unfortunately the running and rucking isn’t negotiable cause I have to get my body used to mileage for the training I’ll be doing to prevent injuries as well as perform, but the strength work layout is where I’m undecided. Is 531 a good option here? Something else? If so how would I lay this out with the split used? Maybe pick three lower (deadlift, squat, front squat) and three upper (overhead press, bench, incline) and just alternate them over the course of the week or week and a half I guess for three lifts.
Week 1
Lower: Squat 3x5
Upper: Bench 3x5
Full body: DL&OHP 3x5
Week 2
Lower: Front squat 3x5
Upper Incline 3x5
Full body: Squat+ Bench 3x3

My other question is my lower body definitely needs lower volume with the running addition, but my upper body, in theory, should still be able to maintain a higher volume right? So maybe use the regular 531 for lower body plus 2 first set last sets of like 2x8 or 3x8 and then for upper maybe bump it up to boring but big accessory, or something non 531 related? My plan is to use lower body days to hit some lunges/unilateral and RDL work and core and on upper day do something similiar with upper push pull movements and upper back work (face pulls, YTW). Full body days my goal was to hit the main lifts and whatever toppings they’ve got (first set last, if the 531 route seems like a good call) and some upper back and core work. *Plus finishers on each day. I also enjoy Olympic lifting so my plan is to put that at the beginning of the workout.

I know that’s a blast of information and I attempted to lay it out in a digestible format, but I’m sure I fell short putting thought to pen at parts so I’ll be glad to clarify anything specific as needed. Thanks in advance for any advice, criticism, or random thoughts.

1 Like

Ive tried something similar. Ive used Alex viada’s - hybrid athlete(google him if you haven’t already) set up to start of but for me the 2 lowerbody sessions combined with the running was too much which resulted in an injured knee. Took some time to heal (3 months the be exact) and restarted a more conservative program which contained 2UB sessions, 1 LB session and 3-4 running sessions (1 interval session, 1 tempo run, 1 long run and a recovery run when I felt good). Ive always combined the interval session with the LB day and the long run on a separate day.

My advise start slow especially if you don’t have a solid running base.

Alex Viada is a monster, definetly some good info, the goal of a 1:1 deadlift:mile run time is on my list over the next year or two depending how military training effects things. I contemplated putting harder runs on the days of lower body days to consolidate the strain and allow more recovery days throughout the week. How do you structure those days? Is it all in one session or split up AM PM? Also which one do you do first in the day?

Did the intervals right after my LB day due to time constraints. From a scientific standpoint this is suboptimal. From what ive gathered its best to do strength and endurance training on different days with 24 hours in between. If your schedule doenst allow that 8 hours is the bare minimum.

Did the workout in between the UB days with a rest day the day after.

For me it was not the lifting which was hard but the running, I guess the extra BW gathered from years of lifting didnt help with that. The plan got me to a 25min 5k and a 57min 10k and a 1h24min 16k. I know thats nothing special at all but it was a great feeling I was the only one there who could run 16k while deadlifting 210kg.

Just confirming but I’m pretty sure that unfortunately there’s almost a linear interference between running and strength training.

Cycling and Rowing were found to interfere less probably due to similar joint angles e.g. hip flexion in squats vs cycling. Possibly an option to build high levels of cardiovascular fitness, with low impact on the joints and minimally impacting lifting.

e.g. you can spin your legs and get your heart pumping for hours on a staionary bike no problem (Hell, put on a movie or something and the time flies by). Try that with running and you’ll have every injury in the book and feel like shit for days.

Running builds the skills/technique and conditions the structures of the body to running. This can be accomplished through short intense sessions. Cardiovascular fitness can be built through running but the workload and volume will beat up the joints even when people are at low bodyweight nvm being 180ish. If you can… less is more. Quality over quantity. Use running as an opportunity to perfect your running form not beat yourself up.

Am concerned that you’ve not mentioned recovery or fatigue management much. Food/Nutrition, Sleep, PEDs, etc. can determine how much work you can cope with and to a point the answer to under recovering could be to eat more. If you want to be able to do as much work, running or lifting, as possible and thus make the fastest adaptions Fatigue Management is crucial. Maximise it.

Also you give the impression that you are unaware of whereabouts your approximate maximum recoverable volume is at. If you have a rough idea of your MRV you can adjust accordingly while still making maximum gains instead of decreasing volume arbitrarily and leaving potential gains on the table

Also worth considering at this stage before you start jack hammering your joints is to improve your body composition (Unless you are really lean like 10% where getting leaner will decrease performance). Pulling random numbers here but running puts like 3-4x BW forces on your joints. That’s like hitting 1 rep of 550ish squat for you. Now imagine doing this thousands of times.

If you maintain lean body mass while losing fat you’ll maintain most of your lifting performance while decreasing impact on the joints substantially. If you’re gonna do it start now.

Haven’t looked at the lifting aspect of things because too lazy right now.

Gud luck mane.

Thanks for the throrough reply I appreciate the feedback. I’m a big fan of low impact, rowing swimming and biking, air assault in particular, have shown some awesome results in the past for me. The military training that I’ll be going into has fairly high mileage though so I feel like I’ve got to slowly get the running and rucking mileage built up to get my lower body tendons, ligaments, and joints adapted to it. Thanks for bringing up the joint impact I hadn’t been focusing on that very much when putting the little details in the program and will try and make most my runs and rucks on either grass or dirt trails and then speed work on the track. Hopefully no concrete will help the joints a little, I’ll have to continue with some research on joint health options for running. Also you’re right losing 3-5% bf will help with that impact, I need to get focused again on my diet and meal prep, being back home for these last couple months has gotten me a little lazy with mom’s cooking and left overs sitting in the fridge or on the table.

As far as MRV goes, is there a good way to determine this for a program you haven’t done before? Usually I just go by feel and make minor changes as needed during the first few weeks of a program if something feels off, but I haven’t done much research into this so would appreciate any advice if you have any suggestions other than going by feel.

Recovery is crucial I agree, I could have put this in the details but was more focused on getting a response as to the running and what kind of lifting scheme to incorporate with it. For recovery and injury prevention I take about 20 minutes for a really thorough warm up- quick foam roll to get loose, general dynamic warm up, specific movement patterns, and stability and control with some band work. After my workout I do a 15 minute full body stretch, contrast shower, and then later in the day I try and foam roll more thoroughly and get deep into any hot spots. On my off day I do a longer stretching/yoga session for 30-60 minutes depending on time. Nutrition like I mentioned earlier in the post could use some refocus, I was gaining lean mass pretty steadily at the start of my current program, but for the past couple weeks have started to just maintain bodyweight and don’t feel as dense, so getting back into the habit is going to be critical for performance and recovery. Sleep has been pretty manageable getting around 8.5 hours.

Nutrition is an important one. For recovery alone you could get rid of everything except eating and sleeping right and get 95% of it. Unfortunately hoes the other way around: if you are doing contrast baths, massages and all that fluff but not eating right something is gonna suffer.

MRV is a variable landmark unique to you at any one time and thus independent of whatever program you’re running. There’s not really a special method to find it. You control as many variables as you can, e.g. Outside of gym stressors that will tax your recovery and give you a lower MRV than actual, and increase volume until you overreach or overtrain

1 Like