Strength is one of the critical, but often overlooked elements of a proper triathlon training program. No matter how much you swim, bike, and run, it can always be complemented by an effective strength training protocol.
How does a strength training protocol become effective? Can’t I just go out and lift weights? Not quite, because you’re at risk of doing more harm than good if you a) do too much, b) do the wrong workouts, c) do the workouts at the wrong time, or d) do them with improper form.
“Less is more” is a good mantra for strength training for endurance athletes, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely. On the contrary, ignoring strength training can result in decreased performance, or even injury.
When a supporting muscle group is not strengthened, and remains weak despite an increase in volume of exercise, the muscle may fatigue during long workouts. When this happens, surrounding muscles overcompensate, your form will begin to break down, and this can cause pain or discomfort during exercise, and performance gains will be slow to come.
The solution is to practice a structured and consistent strength training program which targets the primary and supporting muscle groups responsible for swimming, biking, and running. The approach should follow in line with progression of training during the season, with an offseason maintenance program (designed to improve functional strength and mobility), early season “base” strength (where muscular strength and endurance is built), power phase strength (where we increase the sets and the weight, and reduce the reps), and finally a taper phase (where we taper down the strength training in lead up to race day).
The Extra Life strength training protocol incorporates one element of strength followed immediately by a associative mobility exercise. Each combination is repeated for the necessary number of sets. This combo not only promotes strength of the muscles being exercised, but also strength through a wider range of motion. Additionally, stretching is incorporated into each strength training workout.
It’s good to practice strength training about twice per week, spread out over at least a couple days. The elements of each workout should include significant core work, leg work, and upper body workouts. Much of the workouts throughout the training phases can be body weight only, but during the power phase it may be necessary to incorporate more weights.
For demonstrations of common workouts, please see the video gallery below.