Building Race Specific Strength
While working on strength development in the weight room, strength can be gained through a swimming, biking and running program. Utilizing swim tools can assist in gaining strength in the pool. Stretch cords can be used as a dynamic warm up before beginning a swimming session. Stretch cords simulate the swim stroke while increasing strength in many of the connector muscles. Swimming with a band around your ankles promotes upper body engagement while the ankles are bound together. Swimming with a buoy eliminates the use of legs all together, which will isolate the core and upper body. Paddles increase resistance while helping to develop an effective pull. Kicking while holding a board increases lower body strength and power. Fins increase the workload on the lower body.
On the bike, strength can be gained with a focus on adding resistance through hilly routes, hill climbs, headwinds, and big gear work. Just like on the bike, to gain strength running, find some hills! Running hills helps increase power output and enhances running economy. Hill training greatly increases the force load, so be sure to progress properly.
Below are two example weeks that will help guide your strength building workouts.
Example Week 1:
Swim: 2400 yards working on combined upper/lower/core strength
- Stretch Cords 2 x 10 focusing on a quick catch
- 600 warm up focusing on establishing a rhythmic stroke: 30
- 12 x 25 kick with fins/board, odds easy, evens all out focused on quality form: 10
- 4 x 50 band/buoy with connected body rotation: 10
- 4 x 50 band only focused on a quick tempo: 10
- 3 x 200 paddles/buoy moderate focusing on a perfect catch: 10 seconds rest
- 2 x 150 paddles/buoy fast focusing on a perfect pull: 15 seconds rest
- 1 x 100 all out holding your speed throughout: 20 seconds rest
- 100 cool down
Bike: 90 minutes
After an easy aerobic warm up, find a gradual climb. Build your effort to zone 2 while keeping cadence under 60 RPM. Hold this effort for 30 minutes of continuous riding. Finish with 20 minutes at zone 3 effort alternating between 5 minutes at 60 RPM, 5 minutes at 70 RPM, 5 minutes at 80 RPM, 5 minutes at 90 RPM. Spin easy for cool down.
Run: 40 to 60 minutes working on combining upper/lower/core strength
After an easy warm up, find a moderate uphill and run 4 to 5 x 3 minutes building to zone 5. Good form on each repeat. Recover easy down the hill. Then head to a flat terrain and do 5 x 30 seconds hard mile race pace, 60 seconds easy. Focus on quick and powerful strides. Finish with an easy cool down.
Swim: 2500 yards
- Stretch Cords 6 x 10 focusing on a high elbow catch
- 200 easy swim: 10 seconds rest
- 4 x 50 kick easy: 5 seconds rest
- 20 Tricep Dips on pool deck
- 4 x 50 band/buoy: 10 seconds rest
- Single Arm Stretch Cords 4 x 10 focusing on a good pull
- 200 moderate swim: 20 seconds rest
- 4 x 75 kick, build each 25: 10 seconds rest
- 15 Tricep Dips on pool deck
- 4 x 75 band only: 10 30 seconds rest
- Stretch Cords 2 x 10 focusing on a high elbow catch
- 200 fast swim: 30 seconds rest
- 4 x 100 kick as best efforts: 15 seconds rest
- 10 Tricep Dips on pool deck
- 4 x 100 band/buoy: 10 seconds rest
- 100 easy cool down
Bike: 60 to 90 minutes
After an easy aerobic warm up, find a 6-8 percent grade hill and do 4 to 6 x 3 minutes building to zone 5. Stay seated on each climb. Recover easy down the hill.
Off, enjoy a rest day!
Brick: Aerobic brick workout gaining as much elevation as you can.
Run: 75 to 100 minutes
Head to the hilliest trails you can find for your long run. Start easy and progressively build your effort.
Example Week 2:
Swim: 2500 yards working on combined upper/lower/core strength
- Stretch Cords 3 x 10
- 600 easy warm up: 30
- 4 x 50 as 25 tarzan/head up, 25 free: 10
- 2x (4 x 25 band only: 10, 4 x 150 pull only as 50 easy, 50 hard, 50 easy: 20, 4 x 25 all out with fins: 20)
- 100 easy cool down
Bike: 70 to 90 minutes
After an easy warm up:
2-3 x (10 minutes big gear at 60-75 RPM at moderate effort, 10 minutes at zone 3 effort at 90 rpm, 5 minutes easy) Spin easy for cool down.
Run: 30 to 60 minutes
After an easy warm up, find a steep hill for hill bounds. 3-5 x 20 seconds bounding up the hill, pushing off your toes. Easy jog recovery down the hill and repeat. Finish with an easy cool down.
Strength: Combo upper/lower/core
Swim: 3000 yards
- Stretch Cords 3 x 10
- 400 warm up, stroke focus: 30 seconds rest
- 16×50 kick with fins, odds easy, evens fast: 10 seconds rest
- 4 x 50 band with buoy focusing on stroke rate: 10v seconds rest
- 4 x 50 band only focusing on your catch: 10 seconds rest
- 6×200 paddle/buoy build 1-3, repeat build: 15 seconds rest
- 200 easy swimming
Bike: 50 to 90 minutes
After an easy aerobic warm up, find a hill that is 5 percent or steeper and perform 5 x 2 minutes hill climb. At 30, 60, and 90 seconds attack HARD for 10 pedal strokes. Recover easy down the hill.
Off-enjoy a day off!
Brick: Aerobic Brick over hilly terrain
Run: 60 to 90 minutes
After a 30 minute warm up, perform a ladder fartlek over a moderately hilly terrain. Aim for 1 minute on, 1 minute off, 2 minutes on, 1 minute off, 3 minutes on, 1 minute off, 4 minutes on, 1 minute off, 3 minutes on, 1 minute off, 2 minutes on, 1 minute off, 1 minute on, 1 minute off. Descend the bottom half of the ladder to finish faster! Finish with an easy cool down.
It is important to incorporate strength training into your training program in order to improve on different areas that affect triathlon performance. To take full advantage of the adaptations created by swimming, biking, and running, strength training must reflect any changes that happen in your triathlon training. Combining high force output strength training with hill runs and fartleks is a great combination.
Moving on to more race specific training should elicit a change in the weight room from strength training to increased power training utilizing plyometrics and other explosive movements. An important thing to consider is that your main focus is performance on the road and strength training is strictly a compliment to your triathlon training. If you ever feel like your strength training is negatively affecting your swimming, biking, and running; you should take a step back and reevaluate your strength training program. The weight room is an important tool that can take your performance to new heights, but it must be coordinated properly with your triathlon training. So get out there, push your boundaries, and reach for new milestones!
This article originally appeared at Trainingpeaks.com.