By Jarrod Shoemaker
Strength training should help your body provide balance. Training for a triathlon or single sports like running, cycling, or swimming provide lots of repetitive movements. These repetitive movements can cause injuries especially if you are slightly off balance or have a slight injury. These slight imbalances can quickly cause major injuries if you are not careful. One of the biggest faults people make is they stop strength training in season! Do not stop, keep going and decrease the sets during race week or if you are not able to hold proper form.
A lot of athletes are afraid of packing on the pounds through strength training, and while yes this can happen, the easiest way to avoid this is to continue to train in your other sports. Adding in strength workouts two times per week is the best way to integrate strength into your schedule.
Several studies have also shown that doing a strength workout directly before a hard cycling workout can actually help the cycling adaptation.
One key aspect of training that gets overlooked by most athletes is strength training. When most people think of strength training, they immediately think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or World’s Strongest Man competitions. While this is one type of strength training, you do not need to gain significant muscle when strength training.
The goal of a strength workout should not be to just move some weights around, I do sets of 2-3 exercises (usually an upper body, lower body and one more) with 6-8 repetitions of each exercise at a heavy weight that you could do 1-2 more reps of if you needed to. This should be around 80-85% of the max weights you could lift. Doing more reps (10-12+) does not necessarily stimulate your muscle to grow - you are mainly just moving. Doing a few reps (1-5) can have a real strengthening effect on your muscles and can stimulate them to increase mass. I like to think of it as it should hurt by the end of 2-3 sets but not be wiped out.
Some exercises that I have found helpful to include are split squats, goblet squats, deadlifts, TRX body saws, pushup into rows, anti-rotational presses, and chop and lift glute bridges. These are just some exercises that I find helpful, there are obviously a lot more, but several of these are not exercises that endurance athletes typically use, like deadlifts. If you are going to add in more specific exercises make sure that you are using the proper technique and form, that can be a very quick way of injuring yourself!
Overall, strength training can be a valuable asset to an overall training program for endurance athletes, if you have a question ask a coach, or talk to a trainer at your gym. Remember to lift heavy, but not all out and do not cut strength work out during the season, just adjust it accordingly.