Fitness and Lifestyle

Triathlon Training - The Extra 1%: Strength and Conditioning (Home Workout Routine)



As an endurance sport, triathlon can be incredibly tough on both the body and the mind. With three disciplines to master and - when it comes to age-groupers - up to 17 hours of constant movement to contend with in Iron distance races, race day success relies upon a body that's not only fit but also strong and resilient. This is where conditioning through strength training is a key factor in helping your body to cope with the demands of swim-bike-run training, so you can produce a powerful performance come race day. As we head in to the off season, now is a great time to start introducing some strength work to your regime.

There are heaps of great articles out there which give detailed examples of gym-based strength programmes. 220 Triathlon is great place to start for training advice (on a side note - guess who's wetsuit clad butt made it into the 'your pictures' section of the November issue. Totally fan-girled). My other half and I have also found The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel really handy when it comes to adapting your strength work according to your phase of training.

As a general pointer for getting started, identify your weak areas and work on them. For me this is definitely my upper body - years of ballet classes have made my legs pretty sturdy but my arms are notoriously weedy. I'm working on it! Include a mixture of strength work, to build muscular force and endurance, along with some plyometric exercises (such as box jumps, burpees and jump lunges) to build power and turbo-charge your fitness. Short, sharp high intensity stuff is a good way to keep your fitness whilst reducing your overall training volume over the winter. Core work is a vital component too - a strong core is going to help you keep an efficient body position in the swim, on the bike and during the run. It's your body's powerhouse so make sure it's nice and strong. When it comes to what sort of weight to use, if you're just getting started opt for something slightly lighter - that goldilocks level of challenging but manageable - and safely build your way up to lifting heavy. As with all things fitness related, diving straight in at the deep end is a big injury risk factor so start at an intensity that's safe and appropriate for you. If you're not sure and need guidance, or if you just want help switching up your routine it's always worth speaking to a PT who has some knowledge of how your strength work needs to fit in with your triathlon training. (Hi, hello, over here!)

Okay, so that's a quick note on gym stuff. Great. But for most age groupers, triathlon training has to fit in with an already very busy lifestyle. When you're already squeezing numerous hours of swim-bike-run alongside work and family commitments the thought of having to fit in even more sessions and spending time travelling to a gym can be off-putting. Strength training is quite often neglected by us age-groupers and I totally get it: when time is precious you'd much rather spend it out on the bike or stomping the trails than picking things up and putting them down again in the gym.

That's why I've put together a quick video (featuring a cameo appearance from my sausage dog) with a time efficient, no equipment, full body workout that you can do in the comfort of your living room. It's designed to help you build strength, power, stability and core control to make you resilient and efficient so you can swim-bike-run harder, for longer. 


The workout:

Warm up: Spend 5 minutes or so getting warmed up - this could be walking (try going up and down the stairs a few times - you'll be feeling warm in no time!) or taking a gentle spin on the turbo trainer. Follow this up with a few dynamic stretches to make sure your body is ready to work.

Perform each circuit three times through, taking 1-2 minutes rest in between each circuit. 

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds (you can ramp up the intensity by increasing this once you're comfortable with the routine)

Circuit 1:

Squats - step the feet wider than hip distance, bend the knees and push your hips back (imagine you're doing a poo off the edge of a cliff!) keeping your back straight and your chest up. Use those powerful lower body muscles to push back up to standing.

Lowering phase push ups - great for building upper body strength and control. Start in a push up position and slowly lower down until you hit the mat, keeping your body parallel and maintaining control throughout. Reset and repeat.

Spiderman climbers - strengthen up that core whilst getting some mobility in the hips and working those shoulders. Adopt a push up plank position and then take your knee to the outside of the elbow on the same side, keeping your core muscles tight and your back straight. Just like old spidey-pants scaling a wall... kind of.

Burpees - the one we all love to hate. Start with a jump (go for a tuck jump if you want to make it harder!) then come down to a crouching position before jumping your feet out behind you, keeping your legs straight, and jump them back in ready to go again. Burpees are revolting but they're great for building explosive power.

Circuit 2:

Side lunges - by strengthening up the outer and inner thigh muscles whilst challenging your balance, side lunges can help you to remain strong and efficient on the run. Start with your feet together and lift one leg. Step it out wide to the side of you, bending the knee and keeping the other leg straight, pushing your hips back so your knee isn't pushing forwards. Power off of that working leg to return to the centre, using your core muscles to stay balanced.

Tricep dips - you can do these from the floor like I have in the video, or perform them using a bench or a sturdy chair if you prefer. Place your hands behind your bum with your legs stretched out in front of you and your fingers pointing towards your toes. Lift your hips and straighten your arms (make sure you don't let your shoulders creep up towards your ears) to adopt a reverse plank position. From there, bend your elbows keeping them tucked in behind you (rather than flaring out to the side) and lower your body before returning to the straight arm position. To really get those triceps burning, hold the reverse plank position for 30 seconds before going into the dips.

Step through planks - another core exercise that gets your shoulders working too. Start in a push up plank position and step your leg through to the opposite side, twisting in the waist but keeping the shoulders stable.

Star plank with squat thrust - call me a sadist, but this is one of my favourite exercises right now. It's a great plyometric exercise that works your upper body, lower body and core all at once. Start in your regular plank position and then jump your hands and feet out and in like a star jump. Then keep your core and upper body strong whilst tucking your knees in towards your chest. Keep your back neutral and try not to let your hips creep up too much.

Circuit 3:

Split squats - not only does this exercise really work into the quads, hamstrings and glutes, it also gets all the little stabilising muscles in your foot and ankle working while you balance which helps to promote good running form. Lift one foot and place it behind you on a chair or a step. Bend the supporting leg and perform a single leg squat - make sure you sit back into the movement rather than pushing your knee forwards.

Elbow to push ups - get those shoulders working hard whilst thinking about core control at the same time. Start in an elbow plank and then move up into a push up position, placing your hand underneath your shoulder where your elbow started. Keep your core strong and try not to let your hips swing, so that your shoulders are doing the bulk of the work.

Single leg extension cross crunches - working your abs and your obliques, this exercise also works on stability in the pelvis and you get a nice little hamstring stretch. Lie on the floor and think about drawing your tummy button in towards your spine to engage the core and keep your lower back imprinted on the mat. Lift the legs and bend the knees so that they're at a 90 degree angle. Inhale and lift your head and shoulders from the mat, with your hands at your temples. Exhale and take your elbow towards the opposite knee, extending the other leg out straight horizontal to the mat. Inhale to return to the centre and repeat on the other side. 

Mountain climbers - stabilise and strengthen the shoulders whilst working the core and getting your heart rate up. These are essentially like doing high knees in a plank position. Start in push up plank and then bring one knee in towards your chest before quickly alternating with the other. 

Once you've done all three circuits three times through, take some time to perform some gentle stretching. 

Need help? Email me at jennifersophiefitness@gmail.com!


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