11 strength training tips for triathletes
Strength and conditioning workouts for age-group triathletes should be all about improving your range of motion, says top tri coach Darren Smith
1 IMPROVE BALANCE
Close your eyes, stand on one foot and see how long you can avoid touching the ground. About 5secs? If you reach 60secs, you have good proprioception; your body understands it’s going off alignment and corrects itself. The best runners run with feet, knee and hips aligned – so practise this drill on each foot every day.
2 FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH
Does Chris Froome look muscle bound? No. But he can ride up a massive hill pushing a massive chainring without wiggling. He has functional strength rather than brute force. Don’t focus on leg presses; instead, do big-gear work uphill.
3 BLIND FATIGUE
A further advancement is to reach 60secs with eyes closed after a hard run. That makes you bulletproof and shows your technique will hold up off the bike.
4 ONE-HANDED PAIN
To engage your core further, place one hand in the back pocket of your jersey, the other holding onto the bars and push a big gear. Do it to the point that you feel you’re going to fall off. It’s not good enough to get up the hill; you need to get up the hill looking neat.
5 WHACK NOT SLAP
The best runners aren’t soft on the ground, not fleet-footed like some portray them. Hit the ground with a fair whack, which you’ll manage with quick-feet drills.
When you finish running hill reps or big-gear work, your butt should be on fire. They’re the muscles we want working; they’re bigger muscles.
7 HOLD NOT PULL
Swimming isn’t a pulling action so it’s not about lat pull-downs in the gym. Lats are involved but it’s more about holding while the body goes past. That’s key because 95% of age-groupers will pull. A stretch-cord helps here. They turn on the right muscles for swimming, which are the core for twisting and isometric contraction of the shoulder.
8 STRETCH AND SHAKE
We have a stretch-cord session before every swim and our athletes never injure their shoulders. The shoulder doesn’t move but the arm does, and they hold that for 10secs to begin with in each position of the stroke. And then step back further and hold in each position for another 10secs. There’ll be a point where you start shaking and that tells you that you’re not strong enough for that level.
9 CORE STRENGTH
The plank and bridge are good core exercises. As is a movement called the downward dog. Basically, it’s hands down, butt up and you slide through those positions using control of the shoulders.
10 SPOT OF YOGA
Many of my athletes do yoga or pilates but it’ll be triathlon-specific. In San Diego last year I had a yoga teacher come in every Thursday for my group, so aim to find a weekly tri-specific yoga or pilates session.
11 SUBTLE STRENGTH ROUTINE
Set up a circuit at home. Grab a ball, a stretch cord, brush your teeth and go through a routine where you’re focusing on tension and strength. A 15min session twice weekly will strengthen your performance.