Why Triathletes Need Strength Training

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Despite all those reasons to strength train, it’s usually counterproductive to try to get stronger during the season. You should use the off-season to get strong, and then aim to maintain your strength during the season.

Strength training helps you get stronger, develop more endurance and probably gain speed. (Who doesn’t want that?)

Here are some of the reasons why you should incorporate strength training into your triathlon training:

Strength training can prevent injury and promote proper form

Weak muscles can lead to improper form and put extra weight on joints, ligaments and tendons – all of which are main factors contributing to overuse injuries.  For example, if you have weak hips, glutes, or quads, your knees may collapse when squatting or running, leading to knee or Iliotibial band (IT) pain.  Strengthening the muscles around the joints can facilitate proper form, allowing you to exercise more efficiently and can help prevent an injury.

Strength training can improve your running economy

Strength training is one of the best ways for you to boost performance in your run. Lift weights, train the core, and complete jump training movements to improve your running economy, or how efficiently your body uses oxygen. An efficient, well-trained body uses less oxygen to control muscles when you’re pushing the pace, so you’ll be able to run harder for longer amounts of time.

If you lift weights, you will get faster

Endurance sports require strength – you need the ability to generate enough force to actually go fast.  You do not need to gain a lot of muscle mass, you just have to be strong relative to your weight – because the strength required for swimming and cycling to propel yourself requires significant muscular power.  You’ll exert less energy the strong you are; and you will also maintain your form when muscle fatigue sets in later in the race ending with a strong finish.

You will stay fit and recover faster

Lifting weights can boost metabolism and induce the release of hormones leading to leaner body and faster recovery time if you do get injured.  Doing compound movements when you use several large muscle groups at one time, such as squats, are most effective at burning fat, stimulating metabolism and releasing hormones.

You will maintain fitness as you age

As you get older, muscle mass and strength naturally decreases (and things begin to sag!). Lifting weights can help stall or even reverse this. It will help you maintain muscle mass and continue to generate the power that will enable you to complete your workouts.

In the grand scheme of things, strength training is still a small percentage of your total training time. It should always be quality over quantity – that should apply to your swim, bike and run sessions as well. You should be strength training 2-3 times per week, but these aren’t three long, time-consuming sessions. So now the question is when and where?

First or Second?

Most likely you’ll be doing strength training on the same day as another session, but which should you do first?

This will depend on the intensity of the other session that day. Your triathlon training is the main focus, so any strength training that could tire you may not be ideal if you have a timed session or race simulation that day.  But if you have a swim or steady ride, then the order won’t matter as much.

You strength straining session should be about 30-45 minutes, but be adaptable. If you’re too tired or not in the mood, make any changes you feel are necessary for that day – re-order the exercises, reduce the load or refocus and pick up where you left off on another day.

It is unfortunate that so many triathletes are watching from the sidelines with injuries. That indicates they may not be incorporating strength training and they just want to be running, biking and swimming. Don’t let that be you. If you don’t know how to get started with a strength training workout, contact me today and I’ll get you on a training program which includes strength training.

Train Right, Tri Right!

Coach MJ

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