Strength & Conditioning for Triathletes
S&C is often the training session that first gets dropped or overlooked by triathletes, but it essential to build musculoskeletal health and to build a strong body that can withstand the repetitive stress on the body. The musculoskeletal system provides form, support, stability, and movement to the body, strengthening this system as a triathlete is key.
So what is Strength & Conditioning, and why is it so important for athletes?
S&C strengthens muscle groups, movements to improve efficiency, works on muscular imbalances and weaknesses to avoid injury. Swimming, cycling and running use repetitive movements over long periods of time, if there are weaknesses in your body this can cause other more dominant muscles to become over worked, often leading to injury.
S&C exercises and movements are specific to the movements in your sport, also known as functional training. I'd recommend any athlete to have a S&C weekly session all year round. It's about focussing on flexibility, mobility, plyometrics (practising explosiveness movements of the muscles), balance and more. It's also important to remember that a S&C plan needs to be specific to the individual
Below listed why S&C should be incorporated into your weekly training plan. Its not about lifting and smashing out super heavy KG's but rather focus on building a well conditioned body that will allow you to pursue your sport with more efficiency, power, strength, avoid injury, improve imbalances and strengthen weaknesses:
Improve performance - efficiency in all 3 disciplines.
Injury prevention - S&C helps to avoid overuse of muscles in imbalances in the body, imbalances in muscle activation.
Improve muscle recruitment.
A strong core will stabilise the body and maintain a good posture on the bike as well as running.
Having weaknesses & imbalances in your body can lead to a decreased power production in the legs, overuse of injury, poor posture and muscular imbalances.
Core strength & flexibility is important to hold a good aero position on the bike
Improving range of motion
Mobility & Activation
Mobility and activation exercises activate specific muscles being used in your training, firing up your neuromuscular system and increase range of motion. Ultimately prepping your body for the exercise it's about to do. It offers huge benefits to your workout, and it's something often disregarded. A few examples:
Glute activation exercises before cycling prepares the muscles before ride (clams, bodyweight squats, lateral arms pumps)
Resistance band work before rides to activate the muscles
Foam rolling before rides and runs
Examples of strength and conditioning exercises
There are many exercises and this list isn't exhaustive. Please check out this article on S&C I wrote for Liv Cycling and Bike Radar.
Please note that S&C training needs to be specific to the individuals' needs in terms of weakness, imbalances, strengths etc.
Lat Pulldown - great for swimmers, working those latissimus dorsi muscles. This is my staple weekly shoulder, arm and back exercises.
Single Leg Squat
Squat - Ideal to work on those glutes, often cyclists have weaker glutes, working their hamstrings and quads more. This exercise helps to protect the back and knee joints with a strong glute.
Lunges - forward and back to work acceleration and decceleration
Core stabilization exercises such as Dead Bugs and Planks
Your strength & conditioning programme should be tailored and specific to the athlete. Focussing on weaknesses, strengths and imbalances in that person.
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