Mini-Study: Endurance Training Doing Step Ups Does Transfer To Running, but Only Half As Well

MTI Lab Rats hammering through 266x Step Up Intervals…

By Rob Shaul

 

BLUF

We conducted a short, 4-Week Mini-Study to test the transferability of one mode of endurance training (step ups) to another (running). Results found assessment improvement in both modes, but the improvement in step ups was twice as great.

 

Background

Does swimming make you a better runner? Does running make you a better cyclist? Does cycling make you better at hiking uphill? These are common questions which come up often by athletes who have equipment and/or space limitations and can’t follow our programming as prescribed.

More generally, does work in one endurance mode transfer to improvement in another endurance mode. If so, how much?

Our goal with this Mini-Study was to get an answer to this question, starting with two modes:  step ups and running.

 

Study Design/Deployment

This was a 4 week study. Week 1, MTI Lab Rats completed a 3-mile run time trial, and an 800x Step Up effort for time. Why these two assessments? Anecdotally based on completion times, we find most athletes finish these two efforts in approximately the same completion time.

For the next three weeks, on Tuesdays, Lab Rats completed three, 266x step up intervals at a pace 20% faster than their assessment pace.

On Thursdays, the athletes completed 1,000 step ups at a “moderate” pace – comfortable but not easy.

On Week 4, the 3-mile run and 800x step ups for time were re-assessed. Week 1 and Week 4 assessment times were compared.

Weekly Schedule

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesay

Thursday

Friday

Week 1

Strength Training

3-Mile Run Assessment

Strength Training

800x Step Up Assessment

Rest

Week 2

Strength Training

3x, Hard, Fast 266x Step Up Intervals

Strength Training

1,000x Step Ups at a moderate pace

Rest

Week 3

Strength Training

3x, Hard, Fast 266x Step Up Intervals

Strength Training

1,000x Step Ups at a moderate pace

Rest

Week 4

Strength Training

3-Mile Run Re-Assessment

Strength Training

800x Step Up Re-Assessment

Rest

 

The study hoped to answer three questions:

(1) Does training in one mode (step ups) improve performance in another mode (running)?

(2) If so, how much?

(3) If so, how much does the improvement in running compare to the improvement in step ups?

 

Results/Discussion

Multiple MTI Lab Rats began the study, but only four athletes completed all 4 weeks of the programming without missing a session or assessment. Their results are below:

 

All but one Lab Rat improved in assessment performance for both the step ups and the run, and 3 of the 4, had a significantly greater improvement in the step ups – which is what would be expected given the step up focused work between assessments.

That they also improved in the run to some extent is also not a surprise. Part of this improvement can be attributed to knowing what to expect and doing a better job of pacing for the second assessment. As well, part of the improvement can be attributed to general cardio improvement gains doing the step up intervals and long 1,000x step up efforts on Thursdays.

What is interesting and significant is the greater improvement in step ups.

 

Here are the answers to the initial study questions:

(1) Does training in one mode (step ups) improve performance in another mode (running)?
Yes – three of the four lab rats improved their running assessment times, despite doing only step up endurance training between assessments.

(2) If so, how much?
On average, 5.25%.

(3) If so, how much does the improvement in running compare to the improvement in step ups?
In general, running improved one half as much (5.25%) as step up improvement (11.6 %).

From a training and programming perspective, perhaps the more pertinent question is will training in one endurance mode help me in another mode? The answer, based on this limited mini study, is yes, but not nearly as much as if you had training in the first mode.

More directly, sport-specificity matters. If you need to get better running, it’s best to run. Need to improve step up performance? Do step ups. Need to improve swimming? Swim.

 

Next Steps

Clearly, the results here were limited by the small sample size. We had 8 Lab Rats begin the study, but just 4 complete all the assessments and training sessions.

We did split out four Lab Rats, separate from those above, and also have these four complete both assessments, but instead of following a step up progression, follow a similar running progression. We hoped to be able to compare their results to the step up group. We hoped to see if perhaps running transferred to step ups better than step ups transferred to running. However, none of these Lab Rats completed all the assessments and progressions so we weren’t able to make this comparison.

This is worth knowing and will hopefully result in a future Mini-Study.

As well, we’d like to know the transfer from biking to running, and ruck running. Often athletes recovering from injuries can’t run or ruck, but can bike, and I’ll often prescribe biking/spinning as a substitution mode while they recover. Knowing the extent of the transfer from biking to running and/or rucking would be valuable. Again, this hopefully will result in a future Mini-Study.

Questions, Comments, Feedback? Email coach@mtntactical.com