Key points to strength training
Strength training and endurance athletes don’t often get along. However, it is a very valuable tool, especially in the winter and/or during the off season to get ahead.
Seeing how I am back at the gym myself to what I lovingly call ‘pushing some weights around’, aka strength training – in the gym – on machines, I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly talk about how to go about strength training! Again, as we’re headed into the off season, this is a great time to get back into the gym for some proper lifting – after a little mental and physical break of course!
Why strength train?
Strength training will not only help improve your performance in the next season. It will increase your power on the bike by increasing muscle recruitment and neuromuscular control. Lifting weights can also help reduce the risk of injury (one study found it to reduce the chance of injury by about half!), as well as reduce fatigue during a long endurance race. Strength training increases bone density which is especially important for female or older athletes. Furthermore, it can help maintain postural control and muscular balance.
What exercises should I do?
Based on my personal experience, a winter of lifting weights, using exercises that closely mimic the movement of the sport you want to improve in, can be instrumental to set you up one step ahead of the competition. As triathletes, exercises such as squats, lunges, step ups, lat pull downs, rowing and variations for all of the above work great. It doesn’t have to be complicated!
How do I start?
The key is to start slow, with lower weights and higher repetition counts. If you haven’t lifted weights in a while (or ever), you will be sore for a few weeks. Space the sessions evenly throughout the week, e.g. Mondays/Thursdays or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday for the biggest gains by allowing the muscles to adapt.
And of course, don’t forget to work on core strength all year long. The core includes everything between your armpits and your groin and it sets the basis for a strong body. Or, as Joe Friel puts it: “Core strength is akin to the foundation of a house. The more solid and sounder it is, the more stable the structure built onto it will be.”