Don’t let complicated moves confuse you. Memorize these two simple routines for a strength workout anywhere.
by Rick Kattouf
Strength training for triathletes is a polarizing topic that everyone seems to have an opinion on. Some people seem to be caught in the 60s and 70s, where strength training was not extremely popular for endurance athletes.
There are many different thoughts and philosophies on strength training, from not doing it at all (believe it or not, still very common in triathlon today), to reserving strength work for the “off-season.” But what would happen to your body composition if you only ate right for part of the year? Most likely you’d see an increase in body fat and a decrease in performance. So why would you only want to strength train for part of the season? Let’s examine the benefits of strength training and various ways to incorporate it into your routine.
A host of benefits
What are two reasons people gravitate toward triathlon? Because they want to lose weight, change their body composition and get faster—strength training will help assist in these areas.
According to Alan P. Jung, trained distance runners have shown improvements up to eight percent in running economy following a period of resistance training. In addition, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity circuit training can be a fast and efficient way to lose excess body weight and body fat. And, when multiple large muscles are used with very little rest in between sets, they can elicit aerobic and metabolic benefits.
Circuit training with body weight
Circuit training is one of the most efficient ways to strength train. Get ready to work, because circuit training is fast and furious. For example, here is a basic body weight circuit:
Perform 10 repetitions of each of the following exercises: push-ups, situps, squats, reverse lunge, side lunge, and plank hold. This is one circuit. Perform a total of 10 nonstop circuits for a total of 100 repetitions per exercise (hold plank for 60 seconds).
For a more advanced circuit, replace the squat with jump squats and replace the reverse lunge with a jump lunge. As you progress, you can work up to 20-30 repetitions per exercise, sticking with the 10 nonstop circuits. This way, you will then perform a total of 200-300 repetitions respectively.
Circuit training with weights
Here is an example of a strength training circuit using the free weights or machines.
Perform 15 of each of the following exercises: bench press/chest press, triceps dips, wide grip pull-ups/assisted pull-ups, seated dumbbell shoulder press, seated dumbbell bicep curl, leg press, standing/lying hamstring curl, standing calf raise, and stability ball abdominal crunch. This is one circuit. Perform two to six circuits.
How much, how often?
As athletes, we want to focus on both muscular endurance—the ability to perform an activity over a sustained period of time, and muscular strength—the muscles’ ability to produce force against a certain amount of resistance. In the world of strength training, muscular endurance is built through using lighter weight and higher repetitions, and just the opposite for muscular strength. Both are very important for endurance athletes.
If you are new to strength training, ease into it from both a frequency and intensity perspective. Start out with one to two days per week and err on the side of lighter weight and fewer circuits. As you progress, build up to two to three days per week. When 15 reps are prescribed, your goal is to use an amount of weight that allows you to successfully perform the 15 repetitions, but where the last two to three repetitions are quite challenging.
If you are ready to take your training, racing and body composition to the next level, incorporate strength training year round for maximal results.