Endurance athletes can undeniably benefit from a properly designed Strength Training program. Many triathletes/duathletes think of strength training as lifting heavy weights and spending hours at the gym, but actually in just an hour a week, it can provide better stability and increased power while decreasing chances of injury. It is important to have a plan that is specific to your needs, periodized so you know what you should be doing every phase of your training and also be time efficient.
Many endurance athletes don't have the time to get in the gym twice a week for resistance training, so, as their trainer, I provide exercises they can do at home with very little equipment. These exercises are dynamic in nature so they'll be working on flexibility, strength, power and core, all at the same time.
Six strength training exercises for multi-sport athletes during the off-season are detailed below. These are just a sample from more than 15 exercises I recommend to my clients. (Equipment needed in parenthesis.)
Plank Up-Downs (Yoga Mat)
- Start in a neutral plank position, push hips up and pause slightly at the top of contraction. Slowly return back to start position. Continue for 15-20 repetitions. This is a great exercise for the lower back and core.
Standing Straight Leg Raises (Yoga Block & Stretch Cord)
- While standing with one foot on the yoga block, allow cord to pull free leg across your stable leg. Pull leg to outside and contract the abductor muscles. Return to start slowly and repeat 12-15 times. Then rotate 180º, pulling the free leg across the free leg to work the adductor muscles. You should also do this exercise by extending the free leg forward and backward as well. Complete between 15-30 repetitions in each direction.
Sumo Walks (Elastic Band)
- Step into band and with knees bent (shoulder width apart), lift knee and raise foot about 12" off the ground. Walk forward slowly for 10 yards and then with the same technique, walk backward 10 yards. This is a great exercise for the quads and glutes, strengthening the muscles that move the hip.
Stretch Cord Catch Drill (Stretch Cord)
- With arms extended, set elbows as high as you can with fingers pointing down (slight wrist flexion). Using the same technique as you would in freestyle but with both arms at the same time, thinking vertical forearm as you pull hands towards chest. Slowly return to start position and repeat for one minute. You should feel this in your shoulders and scapula; make sure to use the same technique, as you would while swimming.
Heel Drops (Yoga Block)
- Step down with free leg and touch heel to floor, return to start position with a contraction of stable leg.
- This is my favorite exercise for triathletes! (Another great exercise for the hips and quad muscles.) You end up working almost every muscle in this sequence. Keep your back straight and eyes forward as lower the dumbbells within a couple inches of the floor. Then stand up, curl the dumbbells to the shoulders and finish with an overhead press. Lower slowly and repeat 15-20 times. If you cannot do at least 15 repetitions of the weight, use lighter dumbbells so you can retain good form.
These are just a few of the many different exercises you can do at home to strengthen your body and prepare yourself for next season.
After about 2-3 weeks of doing these exercises at high reps and low weight, move onto the next phase of your strength training in which you'll do slightly heavier weights and fewer reps to build more strength. Keep in mind that when you start weight training, start with simple movements and then move onto more complicated ones, as you get more comfortable.
A personal trainer, or experienced coach, can lead you through the exercises with proper form if you are not sure what to do. Work hard this off-season. Train smart and you will get the results you desire! DO NOT attempt a movement without the proper mechanics; you can risk injuring yourself.