It’s time to get strong this pre-season. That’s right. It’s no longer the off season… it’s pre-season! You may not be diving head first into your season training yet, but there are some things you should be doing now to be getting ready for the season. One of those is strength training!
A few words before we get into they why’s and how’s of strength training. First, I’m not talking about weight lifting. While strength training may utilize weights, it’s a totally different animal. Weight lifting is about seeing how much weight you can lift. Strength training is about getting stronger for sport specific movements. A soccer player doesn’t need to bench press his body weight plus. Neither does a triathlete for that matter. Second, yes, you may gain weight. That’s ok. It’s functional weight. That’s a good thing.
With that, let’s answer those why’s and how’s I spoke of earlier!
For starters, the main reason you should strength train is for durability. This is especially important t on the run, but it can also help on the bike. The constant pounding every step of a race can take a toll on your body. I heard someone say that you never see someone slowing down in an Ironman because they are out of breath. They slow down because their muscles are giving up. In endurance sports it’s all about enduring (novel concept, I know). Strong muscles endure longer.
– Injury Prevention
This was drilled into my head in High School by our strength coach (I played baseball… not a sport known for strength). Strength training is all about preventing injury. This goes with the point on durability, but from a slightly different angle. A durable body doesn’t get hurt, but you need to spend as much time… or more… training your supporting muscle systems as you do your primary movers.
Are you working on your quads? Great! What about the hamstrings and glutes? Those muscle groups work in opposition to one another. Strengthen one without the other and you have a huge imbalance! Have knee problems? Maybe IT band issues? That could be a weakness in the hips and glutes. Make sure you are strengthening all your muscles, not just the primary movers.
– Power and Efficiency
Power and efficiency go hand in hand. It was explained to me this way: The higher your max force is, the lower the percentage of that max you need to put out the same force. This means pedaling is more efficient. Running is more efficient. Hills don’t use up all your reserves. Simply put, you are raising the ceiling to allow you to do more work and therefore work harder and still be under that ceiling.
The next logical question is, How do we accomplish this? Like I said, not by bench pressing loads of weight. If I could only pick 4 exercises to do, here are the one’s I’d choose. (Note: If you don’t know how to do these, a simple YouTube search will help guide you)
Planks were probably thought up by the devil himself. I hate these things. But they work. They strengthen the core better than sit-ups or crunches, and a strong core means more efficiency and decreased likelihood of a back injury after hours in the TT position. You can do multiple variations and I’d recommend that.
Start with the traditional plank on your elbows. This mimics the TT position very well. You can also do side planks or side planks with a rowing motion. This will strengthen those muscles all across the stomach and back up to the shoulders in a very functional way.
Squats will strengthen those primary movers in the legs. You can do a squat on a rack, but I don’t recommend using a machine like a leg press simply because of the point I mentioned earlier about injury prevention. One great advantage of a traditional squat is that it forces you to work on balance and helps your supporting muscles. You can even do a single leg squat or a pistol squat. Both of those are very effective at not only strengthening your quads, but increasing balance and strengthening the supporting muscles.
Here is where you work on those opposing muscle groups. Deadlifts are all about the hamstrings. when you do them right, your back stays straight and your hamstrings do the work. You should feel it in the back of your legs. If you don’t have a bar to use, dumbbells, medicine balls, and kettle bells all work. In a pinch you can even use 2 gallons of water. Whatever you do, make sure you are working those opposing muscle groups.
I left this one vague for a reason. Each athlete is their own individual with unique needs. Where are you most likely to get injured? Do you need to rehab a certain joint or muscle? Focus at least one exercise on that weakness. Strengthening those muscles will keep you in the game longer and help you have a strong, healthy season instead of spending time sidelined because of injury. Remember, consistent, quality training is the only way to improve, and you can’t be consistent is you are getting injured.
What strength routines do you do? Let me know in the comment below or hit me up on twitter! Also, don’t miss any of the new content that hits the site by signing up to get the posts directly in your inbox!