Functional Strength Training

Functional strength training is an important part of your preparation for your triathlon. It may sound esoteric, but it is just a series of exercises that involve more than one muscle or joint and often are designed to replicate the movements you use in one or more of the three triathlon sports.

Knee Extend: Sit in a chair with your legs crossed so that your left knee is resting on your right leg. Loop an elastic band over your left ankle and under your right foot. Straighten your left knee. Return to starting position. Do two sets of twelve reps.

Your primary aim as you complete the exercises is to improve your flexibility and stability. While there may still be some weight training involved, most of the exercises recommended in this book do not require dumbbells or machines. Rather, they involve pushups, sit-ups, and squats, which provide the strength training you need without weights or machines.

Pushups: Kneel on the floor on all fours; your hands should be directly under your shoulders. Straighten your legs, supporting your lower body weight on your toes. Engage your abdominal muscles and lower your body using your arms. Push back up through your palms. Do as many as comfort permits, building up to three sets.

Can yoga help with my strength training?

Yes it can. Yoga trains the entire body and is ideal because it is a low-impact activity with great benefits. Regular participation in a yoga class can vastly improve your balance, and you will definitely reap strength benefits.

Not Hip

Many triathletes have issues with their hips. Runners especially are prone to weak gluteus medius (hip) muscles. The upshot is the kind of imbalance that results in injuries. The problem is that runners, unlike soccer or tennis players, rarely engage in any lateral movement; they always run straight ahead. The result of the imbalance is often iliotibial band syndrome or lower-leg problems such as shin splints.

Hips: Lie on your side on the floor, legs straight and stacked on top of one another. Tighten the muscles on the front of your leg and then lift your leg eight to ten inches off the ground. Hold for two seconds and then slowly return to the start position. Repeat ten times, two sets.

Swimmers often experience problems with their rotator cuffs (shoulders) because of an imbalance between pectoral and upper back muscles. Functional strength training will address these imbalance issues and help avoid the injuries that will have you on the sidelines instead of in your race.

You can strengthen your rotator cuff by using the seated rowing machine. In the absence of a rowing machine, you can lie on each side and pull your arm up and across your body with a weight of three to five pounds. You can do the same drill standing up with a stretch band that you pull across your torso. Also, take three to five pound weights in each hand and let your arms hang at your sides. Slowly lift the weights outward from your body so that your arms are parallel to the floor.

For all exercises, do two sets of twelve repetitions three times a week.

Leg Raise: Lie on your back on the floor. Bend one leg and place your foot on the floor; keep your other leg straight and locked. Tighten abdominal muscles, slowly raise locked leg eight to twelve inches, and hold for two seconds. Repeat ten times, two sets.

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