Strength training is a secondary thought for many endurance triathletes. A common push back is: why spend an hour on strength when you swim, bike, or run? This is odd though because most endurance sports are strength based at their core.
Taking the basic argument to task, there are a number of reasons why, and for most of us, as we get get older, the strength training becomes more important. Being able to compete in your 50’s and 60’s will be based on what you do before that. And without a significant strength base, injury is very likely. Repeatedly being injured will ultimately result in the inability to train, and no training equals no racing.
During this Covid caused downtime, strength has been a nice new focus to my routine. Over the last four months I have increased to 3 days a week which has brought with it some great strength gains. These translate into better performance on the bike and swim but also for holding the form on long runs. I have been measuring progress but should have very specific results in a few weeks (Lake Placid training camp).
My primary strength training has been with a coach over live remote sessions. This allows him to still push me to the edge and lets him work on my weak areas. Most of the sessions are high intensity and have my heart rate fluctuating between 115 and 150 for an hour.
Getting solid results don’t require much in terms of equipment or space. A pullup bar, yoga mat, and some basic weights are all you need to focus on the muscles groups most used in training and racing.
As for the workouts, we include things like planks, squats, lunges, push ups and pull ups. There is nothing crazy needed just stick to the basics. Create circuits that cover each muscle group and try to get through each circuit without breaks. Slowly add in the weights as you get stronger and remember to stretch after each session.
To give an idea of what a simple circuit might look like:
- 15-25 pushups
- 10 lunges each leg
- 10 squat shoulder press
- 5 pullups
- 45 second plank
Repeat this circuit 4-5 times with minimal breaks between the exercises and sets. This hits most of the major muscle groups used during a triathlon, doesn’t require much space, and will keep you stronger and injury free for longer. An added benefit is that if you are pushing yourself, the heart rate will be up there as well. As this becomes easier, begin to add light weights to the lunges and shoulder presses, and up the reps. The above will take about 30 minutes, but that is all you need to see improvements. When done, if there is still time, use another 5-10 minutes to stretch afterwards.
A last note, and this is important: DON’T SKIP THE HARD THINGS! They are hard because we are not proficient. If push-ups are difficult but squats are easy, focus on the push-ups. Use this off season time to work on the weaknesses but maintain the strengths, and don’t cheat on the form. Nobody is watching. Make sure you execute the best form possible even if it means less reps. This also prevents injury, but more importantly helps to develop the full muscle range of motion.