Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Triathlon Specific Weight Training

If you've known me in contexts other than the blogging world, you may be aware of the fact that I used to enjoy lifting weights.  It all started my senior year of high school, using weight training as a way of developing "homerun" power for baseball (hmm with mixed results). As I started college, I kept lifting, but for a different purpose that I can sum up in 2 words: The Ladies....

Absolutely irresistible...
(the mustache was fake. Fifth graders and I have the same amount of facial hair)
I really enjoyed lifting, although I never really had 'goals'.  I usually went with friends, and we pushed each other to get stronger and 'cut'.  Eventually, I slowed down going to the gym, but kept up with workouts.  Last year, I tried out P90X with Rach, and completed the whole thing twice.  It was a GREAT workout, seriously... but again, no goals (other than perfecting Rach's eye candy...)

Now that I am FULLY submersed in the Multisport world and winter on the way, I want to start incorporating resistance training into my winter training plans.  I am in the process of coming up with some long term goals for 2012, and know that weight training will help me race and train injury free (a big goal).  My goals are going to be drastically different as far as body image and strength go, but I just want to get faster and stronger, leading to improved race times and injury prevention. Don't get me wrong, I still want to look good (Rach breathes a sigh of relief...), but I am counting on the countless hours of swimming/biking/running to keep me in "bathing suit shape".

After doing a little research on Triathlon-specific strength training, I have come up with some quick tips:

  • Lifting for Triathlons and Lifting "4 DA LADIEZZZ" are two very different things.  Size and weight gain can be detrimental to racing. Lugging around an extra 15 pounds of arm and chest muscle will do little for your race splits.
  • I used to love any lifts that had to do with my upper body and arms.  Turns out, I use my legs QUITE a bit more now that I race.  I will be doing more lower body exercises than upper body.
  • Abs are still important, but not necessarily the "6 pack". The core is important to be as rigid as possible, to transfer increased force to your pedals, and keeping your hips from sagging while running.
  • Form is everything.  I won't get into the proper lifting techniques here, as you can find them in ALL sorts of places on the interwebs, but make sure you are lifting safely and with good form.
  • Doing exercises that involve multiple joints are best.  (ie squat vs knee extension)
  • Lifting should focus on your personal weaknesses.  For me, this has to do with my hamstrings and hips.  I have retained a good amount of upper body strength that helps in the swim, but I am starting to have a little hip and knee pain that I believe is the result of weak hip abductors. This winter, I plan on being "that guy" at my gym, doing hip abduction exercises at the racks. 
  • When lifting, try to simulate triathlon moves and body alignment.  For example, if doing the "squat" (a biggie for leg strength), stand with your feet as though they were on your bike pedals. 
  • Do the bulk of your strength training in the off season, or winter months.  Racing alone places enough stress on your body, and lifting once per week will keep your strength throughout the racing season without increasing your total workout obligations.
  • Stretching is also important (Hello Yoga!). This may be a future topic I look into, as I am TERRIBLE at remembering to stretch pre/post workout... Stretching may decrease the amount of time for recovery, and increased flexibility will aid in injury prevention, too.  It is important to stretch after each workout, regardless of resistance vs endurance.
Key Exercises:  AKA "the basics"

  • Hip Extension Exercises- Either squats, leg presses, or step-ups: Improves force delivery to the pedals in cycling.

  • Bench Press or Pushup: Stabilized the shoulder for swimming, and increases the push phase of the stroke.
  • Standing, bent-arm lat pulldowns: Mimics the movement of the swim pull phase and stabilizes the shoulder
  • Seated Back Rows: Strengthens core and lower back. Also simulates the movement of pulling on the handlebars while climbing a hill while in the saddle.
  • Abdominal crunches with twists: Improves the transfer of energy from the upper body to the lower body.
  • Hamstring curl: Improves strength ratio and muscle balance between anterior muscles of the leg (quads) and the posterior muscles (hamstrings).
  • Calf raises: May reduce the susceptibility of calf and Achilles tendon injuries

**One comment I would like to mention involves knee extension machines:**

If you value your knees and the ability to bend and straighten them, do not use this machine.  I cringe every time I see someone on there with 150+ lbs on top of their ankles.  There is no need to add weight on this specific motion and singular joint (!!!), and the added stress the weight adds to your knees will only result in pain and injury.  You can easily build the muscle and strength you need from performing squats and step ups correctly. So DON'T USE IT!!!

I hope you consider adding some resistance training to your training this winter.  Winter is definitely the time to do it, especially with the decreased training volumes. Come spring and summer, you will be reaping the benefits when you have an increase in strength and are injury free (well, hopefully...)!

Thanks for reading!


sa499 said...

This is exactly what I needed. The crew team has use of the varsity weight room, but they're all football/basketball guys who specialize in that so I've never really had a weight training program.

Have you ever used the body weight straps? (I forget what they are called.)

Also, if squats become to easy, move towards jumpies; basically squats but you jump after reaching the bottom.

sa499 said...

Oh and nice 'stache.

Jr said...

I've seen the body weight straps and vests before, but have never used them myself because they are pretty hard to track down sometimes. And I have done "jumpies", and they are pretty good about developing some explosive power! I used to do those and hang clings. And thanks for the stache comment. I miss that thing...

Mark said...

awesome! Thanks for doing my homework for me :) I really hope to add in some decent strength training over the off-season as well, since I don't do much of anything now and I could really use some added muscle mass.