The Price of Performance – Strength and Stability

Alex Price, physiotherapist to the pros, shows us how to maximise the timing of your strength and conditioning work for performance

In my first article on Activation, I touched on some different categories of strength and conditioning training specifically for triathletes: activation, strength and stability and skill based exercises. In this I presented the idea that the ‘timing’ of these exercises is critical to gain the maximum benefit and explained the role of activation exercises in a weekly program.

When most people think of ‘gym work’ they are referring to strength and stability training in a gym setting – unfortunately it is common for triathletes to waste time on non-specific exercises in this routine and therefore they don’t reap the rewards from the time invested in either training or racing.

While I won’t go into ‘which’ exercises to do in too much depth (that is for another article, or for a musculoskeletal screening and concurrent S & C program that I do regularly) I will say this – a strength program for triathlon should be focused on movements which mimic the 3 sports that we do, to ensure it is specific and functional. The exercises should be designed around making the athlete move more efficiently, with greater stability and power transfer in our specific disciplines, and around developing areas of individual weakness – as opposed to the blind goal of making the athlete stronger in a gym based setting.

Assuming that the athlete has an individualised program for their needs, the exercises should be performed at different times for different reasons.

1) When ‘fresh’ – I typically schedule this for the evening when all other training is well over and done with for the day. It is great timing because the athlete can work really hard without the concern of fatiguing their bodies too much and therefore compromising another training session later in the day, having the night to recover and repair. This approach is excellent for building sport specific strength.

2) When ‘fatigued’ – I schedule this session immediately following a key session. This trains the athlete, their muscles and nervous tissue to improve function in a fatigued state. It stimulates increased recruitment of motor units, which facilitates more efficient contraction when fatigued. I often use this very directed strengthening approach specifically for athletes who fatigue and lose form during training or racing. These are often the athletes who end up with recurrent injuries – they may start sessions well, but fatigue and lose form and therefore increase their risk of injury.

Exercises

There are many exercises I use for this form of training. Three of my favourite tools to use during these sessions are:

1) Thera-band – especially good for around knees to develop gluteal stability and strength, along with shoulder strength for swimming

2) Suspension trainers (e.g. TRX) – you can mimic the swim, ride and run very well with these and make the exercises very functional and sport specific

3) Gym ball – the good old gym ball has multiple uses and provides a good level of instability, a vital element of a good S & C plan. This instability is what we face in all three disciplines of triathlon and the more effectively we can manage it, the better our efficiency and the lower our risk of injury while training and racing.

‘Gym work’ or strength training is often forgotten in a weekly program, but if you are serious about reducing injuries, improving efficiency and overall getting quicker, it should be as important as any swim, bike or run session that is done throughout the week.

Check back over the coming weeks for Alex’s new training blogs or follow him on twitter @apricey10

You can also check out Alex’s video on 5 Triathlon Specific Exercises to Stay Injury Free on triathlon220.com.au

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