As triathletes we spend a lot of time swimming, cycling and running which tends to leave us with very little time to eat, sleep and work. The first thing to get forgotten about is usually the most vital secret to any athlete's performance: Strength.
A lot of the time athletes misunderstand the meaning of ‘core’ work and strength. Most athletes are under the impression that their ‘core’ is abdominal work, and does not involve weight training, and there tends to be a fear of touching weights or doing different movements because of a worry of injury and muscle bulking. The ‘safe zone’ is usually the simple movements such as sit ups, planks, crunches and maybe some push ups.
This is misguided and a very common error. Weight training, done correctly, won’t bulk you, and it will not injure you (except for the first two days after some initial muscle stiffness of course ;-)
What is ‘CORE’:
“Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. These muscles can act as an isometric or dynamic stabilizer for movement, transfer force from one extremity to another, or initiate movement itself.”
In addition to all performance-related benefits, strength training also plays an important role in keeping you healthy and injury-free.Something as quick and simple as a standard, base strength, 20-30 minute session, can make you faster and keep you feeling your best while doing all your swims, bikes and runs
The most important benefit of strength training is injury reduction, and prevention. With the correct exercises and movement patterns, athletes can help correct muscle imbalances and weaknesses in specific areas, as well as strengthen muscle tissue, tendons and ligaments.
The main problem with triathletes is the fact that all three disciplines are performed within one anatomical plane. We swim, cycle and run in a sagittal plan and because of this our muscles strengthen along this axis, but, as soon as we try to cross this axis with an unfamiliar movement such as a twist, or because of a muscle imbalance, we are in danger of an injury.
So we will benefit from strengthening all muscles, big and small, but most importantly, we need to incorporate all exercises which get us to cross over the longitudinal plane and strengthen opposing muscles.
Isolated movements such as tricep raises, crunches, leg extensions are great, however only as base strength work. The real benefit comes when you start to incorporate more functional movements such as variations of squats, walking lunges, push ups, bench press and various other ‘lifting’ exercises. Plyometric exercises are only going to boost your muscle strength and the efficiency of your muscle build up on a day to day basis, and the effects in your training will be greatly noticeable.
Examples of basic exercises which triathletes should try incorporate into a strength program are:
Muscles used: Quadriceps, Gluteus Maximus, Adductor Magnus, Soleus, Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius, Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominis and Obliques
Muscles used: Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximis, Gluteus Medius Hips, Hamstrings, Anterior Deltoid, Latissimus Dorsi, Upper Trapezius, Vastus Lateralis, Deep and Intermediate Back Muscles
Push Ups with Twists
Muscles Used: Pectoralis Major and Minor, Triceps, Anterior Deltoid, Obliques, Gluteus Maximis
Muscles Used: Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Quadriceps, Triceps, Forearms, Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Lower Bac, Gluteus Maximis, Hamstrings, Gastrocnemius
The above are just a few of many more exercises which will benefit all athletes, there are so many which can be incorporated. Get started now and don’t let them go throughout your training, and you’ll only benefit throughout race season!