Strength Training for the Beginner Triathlete

author : Team BT
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NOT Six Simple Exercises

As much as I would love to give you 6 simple strength training exercises to do that will improve your triathlon time, I just can't. That would be unprofessional, unrealistic, and misleading.

The truth is we are all different, so prescribing specific exercises without any form of assessment or consultation is unfair to you, and puts your body at risk. What I can do is educate. With more knowledge, you will have more “tools” to work with, ultimately helping you become a better athlete.

In this first of many articles about Strength Training, we will discuss the principles and benefits as it relates to the beginner triathlete. There is plenty of science to show the benefits of strength training for the general population, but what about for endurance athletes?

In short, they are one and the same. In other words, the benefits don't discriminate based on your level of fitness! Improved bone density, metabolism, body composition, muscle and connective-tissue strength, and sleep aid are just a few general perks of strength training.

According to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science (Aagaard and Andersen, 2010), endurance-trained athletes who added strength training to their programs improved their endurance capacity by increasing type 2 muscle fibers. They also made substantial gains in maximal strength, force production and neuromuscular function.

Similarly, a literature review by Laursen, Chiswell and Callaghan (2005) showed that resistance training contributed to a 12 percent increase in lactate threshold without a change in VO2max in endurance-trained athletes. They also saw improvements in performance through better economy of motion, which can be attributed to neuromuscular adaptations.

Researchers also found no evidence that resistance training has any negative influence on endurance performance. A study by Mikkola and colleagues (2007) demonstrated specific explosive-type strength training leads primarily to neural adaptations (increased rate of neural activation of motor units) rather than to muscular hypertrophy(increased muscle size). This is beneficial in endurance sports, as athletes need to transport their body mass over long durations while experiencing high levels of impact.

Finally, one of the most important, if not THE most important benefit is injury prevention.

Endurance training is repetitive and mechanical by nature, and throughout the course of a training season, there is an accumulation of thousands and thousands of repetitions in a limited range of motion, through one plane of movement. Because our bodies are not designed to withstand this type of stress, injuries can occur.

The benefits are clear, so where should you start?

Functional Strength Training is a classification of exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life. In our case, training should be geared toward the triathlon!

All exercises should be based on what we call Primal Movements. The human body uses these to withstand the forces of gravity and ground-reaction-force. Primal movements should be performed with both mobility and stability, without pain, and controlled at varying speeds and intensities. They should also be done in combination with the three planes of human movement: Sagittal (forward and backward), Frontal (side to side) and Transverse (rotational) Planes. The primal movements are: Lunge, Squat, Bend, Push (horizontally & vertically), Pull (horizontally & vertically), Rotation and Gait (walk/jog/run).

Check out how to properly perform each basic movement here: While these are not individualized exercise prescriptions, they are all very important movement patterns and can be applied to training specifically for triathlons. Before progressing to more dynamic, intense exercises, be sure that you can complete each primal movement comfortably, and without pain.

Regardless of whether you are in season or off season, beginner or elite, all seven primal Movement Patterns should be included in your functional strength training program. In my next article, I will be discussing how to apply our Seven Primal Movements to Swimming. Stay tuned!

Stephen Murawski has 9 years of experience in the Health and Fitness field and possesses top personal training certifications with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and Functional Movement Screening.  During his career, he has worked with a wide variety of clients, but specializes in weight loss and athlete clients. Stephen trains clients at Pure Strength + Wellness in Columbus, Ohio.


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date: July 30, 2017

Team BT