Foundations of Strength Training

Guest post by Carrie Barret: Trainer, Coach and Freelance Writer

Every Tuesday morning I make the 20-minute drive to Train 4 the Game for my twice-weekly strength and flexibility sessions. These hour-long workouts are some of my favorite workouts of the week. They are also probably more vital than any swim, bike and run workout, even though I’m currently training for an Ironman. In the last year, I’ve developed a respect and appreciation for the importance of strength and flexibility training as part of any triathlon training regime. Like most, I maximized my time running, biking and swimming and let functional strength fall by the wayside when I was too busy or too tired. A chance meeting at a party connected me to Performance Coach Jessica Vaiana and changed the way I view my body mechanics forever.

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She trains athletes from all sports and all levels. She admits, however, that she doesn’t see a lot of runners and triathletes, mostly because they are spending most of their time doing what they think we should be doing: running, biking and swimming. “Movement is driven in all three planes of motion,” she says. “The sagittal plane is forward/backward movement. The frontal plane involves lateral side to side movement, and the transverse plane includes rotational movement.” Triathletes spend almost all of their time in the sagittal plane of movement and often neglect the joints and stabilizing muscles in the other areas of the body. Hence, knee and hip injuries are very prevalent in the sport.

When developing a strength training routine, it is important to keep in mind the following universal truths of motion. Movement is a chain reaction and our bodies are integrated units that do not operate in isolation. Therefore, a strength training and functional movement routine should incorporate not only all three planes of movement, but also exercises that force multiple movement patterns at once. Drills such as side shuffles, skipping, pivoting and cross over running drills utilize these patterns of movement as it forces the body to work as a coordinated system.

Core work is a fundamental feature of any strength routine since all movement is driven by gravity. Most movement and activity is done in the upright position, so most strength and movement training should also be done this way. Plus, you can also use the ground to harness energy, create power and drive momentum. Work on the TRX Suspension systems teaches you to work with your own body weight to fight the effects of gravity.

A triathlon is all about creating momentum with the use of our bodies. In swimming, a good catch is felt in the lat muscles as well as in the hip rotation. In cycling, an efficient pedal stroke utilizes ankle, calf, hamstring and quad muscles. Of course, in the run, the momentum of an arm swing causes rotation in the trunk and the movement of legs causes a chain reaction of effects throughout the body. Momentum can be an obstacle or a great tool if you use it and control it to your advantage. Medicine Ball throws use weight to create movement and momentum. Even sand bag tosses work all muscle systems that treat your body as one unit of movement.

I encourage athletes to seek out some form of strength and flexibility training at least two times per week.

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