Should I continue strength training in race season?
Yes says Nick Beer and Alice Hector - here they discuss how much time you should spend strength training during the triathlon season and what you should prioritise
Yes you should still do strength training during the triathlon season, say our experts. Here they discuss intensity and what to concentrate on now race time is here
Nick Beer is a GB triathlete and triathlon coach
One of the main purposes of a strength-based training programme is to prevent injury, which will lead to weeks of consistent training, an ability to increase training volume and intensity, a faster rate of adaption to different training stimuli and, above all, greater fitness gains.
As the season approaches, race pace and max efforts become a regular feature in our training. But increasing intensity will put our bodies under immense stress, and if our strength programme isn’t maintained imbalances, weaknesses or bio-mechanical irregularities will be highlighted and injury inevitable.
Our knees take a pounding when intensity increases, so it’s imperative that the muscles supporting the knee are strong, and can absorb the impact. Particular focus should be on the VMO (vastus medialis oblique), which stabilises the patella and controls the tracking of the kneecap. Also, a strong core needs to be sustained as this will help stabilise the pelvis, leading to better posture and less force being absorbed by the knee. Two great exercises are:
Stand with your back against the wall, then squat down so that your knees are at rights angles with your hips. Then place a soft football-sized ball between your knees and squeeze while holding the squat position. Keep your arms out in front, and maintain a straight back on the wall. Squeeze for 5secs and relax for 5secs (not letting the ball drop during the relax phase). Finally, hold the position for 30secs, and then repeat this process x3.
Lie on your back, with your knees bent, arms above your head and feet off the floor. Straighten and lower one bent leg at a time, while also lowering the opposite arm to the floor, and hold. Ensure there’s no arch in your lower back by squeezing your abs, and repeat x 10 on opposite sides.
Alice Hector is a long-distance pro and ultramarathon runner
Strength training is typically intensified through winter, but it’s essential to incorporate some form of it regularly through the entire year. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have come from an initial mindset of prioritising swimming, cycling and running over gym sessions. Without an effective ‘back-up’ programme for your cardio training, you could become sloppy, tight and more prone to injury. I now spend a significant amount of time each week in the gym: lifting, rolling, balancing and bending! I now move better, and previous injuries I struggled to get rid of have all but disappeared thanks to this approach.
For triathletes, an effective strength training programme is far removed from bashing out one-rep max’s and requiring tremendous amounts of grunting! Before taking up any strength training, you should first get your body used to moving effectively – this means your gym work should comprise mainly of mobility and stability exercises. Once you have basic functionality established, you can then progress to resistance work. I use light weights, bodyweight exercises and suspension equipment, and also incorporate one-legged squats, one-leg lunges and step-up movements, all focused around good technique. This can be done all year round, though I tend to back off the frequency in the week of a race. What is important is that you spend a few weeks with one programme, and then progress it. Continual, monitored progression is the key to success.
The mission for me is clear: performing sport-specific movements that translate into improved efficiency in the pool, on the bike and on the run. If you don’t understand why exactly you’re doing an exercise, seek clarification. I had a biomechanical assessment to check on my general joint health and flexibility. I’d recommend having one, or seeking advice from your local physio.