Many triathletes and runners understand that strength training is an important component of fitness, yet so many do not understand how to execute this type of training. They may think that any type of strength training is good when in fact they may be doing very little to improve in their sport. For example, a simple leg press exercise may seem sufficient to strengthen certain muscles such as the glutes and hamstrings yet the single leg squat would in fact be more beneficial to the athlete. Why is this? The single leg squat is a functional strength exercise that engages multiple muscles (glutes, hamstrings, calves, hips, abdominals, back) and planes of motion, whereas the leg press machine only allows the athlete to move in one plane and isolates the specific muscles being used (i.e. glutes, hips and hamstrings).
|The woman above is doing the plank jacks|
Functional strength training is accessible to athletes anywhere. A gym can be helpful but is not needed. Simply put your body is a gym and its own resistance is the only needed tool. Certainly you will want to add some additional tools such as a stability ball, resistance bands, etc.
Below is an example of a functional strength workout that can be performed at home or at your gym.
Warm up: You should warm up for 2-3 minutes with some dynamic stretching before you begin any of the exercises. You can do some simple butt kicks, toe touches, jumping jacks, leg swings, etc just to get your heart rate elevated and help warm up the muscles to reduce the chance of injury.
Following the warm up you can repeat the series of exercises below anywhere from 3-5 times depending on your schedule and comfort level.
1. 12-15 reps squat and reach with stability ball (hold the stability ball out from your chest as you squat and in by your chest as you stand before the next rep)
2. 12-15 reps of single leg squats on each side (do one cycle on the first side then alternate so you are getting an even workout on both sides of the body)
3. 12-15 plank jacks (begin in a high plank and jump your legs open and then together for each rep)
4. 12-15 russian twists with med ball or dumbbell (seated with your feet up and back leaning towards the floor, move the weight from side to side, count both sides as 1 rep)
5. 12-15 lunge and reach with med ball or dumbbell (starting with your right side, do a lunge to the right holding the weight and bring the weight up overhead to that side, alternate sides after each cycle)
6. 12-15 woodchops with med ball or dumbbell (holding the weight in your hand, swing your arm up in a chopping motion, switch sides after each cycle)
7. 3 x 30 seconds of steam engine (hands behind your head or neck bring your right elbow to your left knee and alternate to other side with left elbow to right knee)
8. 3 x 30 seconds of mountain climbers (begin on hands and knees and jump your legs forward and back one at a time)
9. 12-15 hip circles (lying on your side, bring your right leg up and do a circle motion with your leg, switch sides after one cycle)
10. 12-15 bicycle crunches (lie on your back as you would for a simple crunch and then as you crunch in, bring your right elbow to your left knee and then immediately switch to your left elbow and right knee and back and forth through each rep)
Cooldown with 1-2 minutes of stretching