Monday, 5 August 2013

How to Strength Train for a Triathlon Outside of a Gym Environment

Today I'm especially pleased to be sharing with you a post written for us by Mark Wood, BSc Lead Personal Trainer Course Tutor from Discovery Learning. Discovery Learning is a leading Fitness Training Provider in the UK, delivering training in the weight management and fitness field since 2001. Their mission is to provide and communicate accurate, meaningful information and high quality training relating to all aspects of fitness, overweight and obesity. As you know I took up triathlon this year and while I do have access to a gym, sometimes I would rather exercise at home or outside. To this end Mark is kindly sharing his advice on the best strength training exercises for triathlon and why it's so important to incorporate this at all.

How to Strength Train for a Triathlon Outside of a Gym Environment

Weight and strength training for endurance sports is a widely debated topic and can cause complications and confusion for a lot of competitors. Some athletes think it is unnecessary, while others will favour gym work and other forms of strength training to increase their performance. Personally I believe that any athlete, or member of the general public for that matter, should engage in a sufficient amount of strength training to help improve their performance/lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of strength training for endurance events like triathlons. For most athletes you will see that the benefits of strength training outweigh the fear of gaining too much “bulk”.

Injury prevention and improved ligament and tendon strength- making athletes more robust will mean they can withstand higher demands on the body through training, competition and environments. Protecting those knees, ankles, hips and shoulders is a very important part. A large percentage of endurance athletes pick up joint injuries which could be prevented if they strengthen the musculature around that joint.

Correcting imbalances- similar to the above, muscular imbalances can cause major injuries for some athletes. If their technique isn’t perfect and as an example they push too much during the cycle, the quads will become more dominant, leaving the hamstrings weaker and increasing the risk of injury. Or similarly the vastus medialis oblique in runners is usually their weak link which will result in knee pain.

Increased power output- this is a very important factor, the fastest athlete wins!! If you are not powerful, you will not be fast. It is important that you are able to generate force in order to improve how much power you can put down to improve your speed. This will come in handy when powering up hills or pulling yourself through water, lowering your stroke count and improving your efficiency.

Improve endurance- we all have a genetic limitation to how much we can improve our aerobic capacity. Strength training will improve muscular strength and endurance making you more efficient and able to work at a higher percentage of your aerobic capacity for longer.

Increase antioxidant levels and decrease oxidative stress- endurance training has been shown to produce a high level of oxidative stress which can lead to chronic inflammation. Strength training can counter act this and help avoid long term stress.

Best ways to improve strength
Not all competitors are lucky to enough to have access to a gym environment so here are a few ideas to help you improve your strength away from a gym environment.  Cycling in big gears will help improve your bike power. Find yourself a nice long steep hill and attack it in a very high gear which will cause your cadence to drop as low as 40rpm and stay in the seat the whole way up.  Using interval training is another great way to improve your speed and strength. Try this workout of one minute on and 30 seconds off for a total of 20 rounds.

Improving your strength and power for running will have great benefits on performance. Try these following exercises and workouts to help you get faster.

Box jumps- These are great for developing some power in the legs. To perform  this exercise you have to produce a massive amount of power. Try jumping slowly, you can’t! To complete the box jump you must move quickly which means you will improve your power output.

Squat jumps- Another excellent exercise to help you develop power and strength. Combine these with sprints or hill sprints to see some great benefits in your speed and power output.

Hill sprints- A great exercise to improve strength, power, endurance and your tolerance to lactate.

Resisted sprints- This is another great way to help you improve your speed. Try combining resisted sprints followed by non-resisted sprints if speed is something you want to improve.

Glute bridges- An excellent exercise to help you strengthen your core and gluteal muscles. Which are important in both the run and cycle section of a triathlon and will help you generate and produce more power.

Bulgarian split squat- This is a fantastic exercise to really improve the strength in the legs whilst protecting the back if people find squatting uncomfortable. Its also an exercise that can be done anywhere. Try finding a park bench, elevate the rear foot on the bench and away you go.

Single leg squats- An exercise that will really test your strength. Fantastic for improving those stabiliser muscles around the hip to help you not only produce power but also prevent injury. Start by trying this exercise on a stable platform on the floor while using something to support you for balance. As you progress try performing the exercise on a box/park bench to increase your range on motion. Just be aware this is a very advanced exercise that beginners should gradually work up to.

Intervals-  4x1 minute with a 2 min rest- These can be done either on a bike, in the water or running and are a great way to increase your tolerance to lactate.

All of the above strength exercises will really help you improve your performance. Your final thing to think about is tempo. Try playing around with the speed of contractions to really get the best out of your workout. Using slow eccentric phases combined with explosive concentric phases will help improve your power output. Also try pausing for 2 seconds in between the eccentric and concentric phase to start recruiting those higher threshold motor units. 

If you've found this article interesting then do pay Discovery Learning a visit. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. I will definitely be adding some of these elements to my training routines at home.

No comments:

Post a Comment