Should I be doing Strength & Conditioning?
The simple answer is yes!
In fact everyone, not just athletes, should be including strength & conditioning sessions in their weekly routines.
Strong muscles help people remain independent, active & healthy throughout life. After the age of 30 we begin to lose as much as 3% to 8% of muscle mass per decade. After the age of 60 this decline can be even faster!
As S&C is a weight bearing activity it can also help keep bones strong; this is especially important for women as they age e.g. pre menopausal woman lose bone slowly at around 1% a year whereas post menopause this can increase to 3% a year.
Therefore, although muscle & bone loss is an inevitable part of the aging process you can help reduce the rate of decline by strength training 2 or 3 times a week.
More specifically, for endurance athletes S&C can help maintain control of posture, balance & function when moving and so including it in your weekly plan can help you:
- reduce the risk of injury
- address any muscular imbalances
- bring balance to endurance training
- improve your performance
What is Strength & Conditioning?
S&C includes working on & building:
- muscular strength
- muscular endurance
Is about the ability to move and lift things.
Obviously it is a key element of S&C and what people tend to think strength training is all about, however, it is only one element.
Is the ability to do something over and over for an extended period of time without getting tired.
Endurance athletes need to be able to sustain repeated contractions against a resistance, e.g. whilst swimming, cycling and running throughout a triathlon.
Mobility & Flexibility
Mobility is the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion; whereas flexibility is about the ability of a muscle or muscle groups to lengthen passively.
e.g. how far you can actively move your thumb back towards your wrist without using your other hand to help it depends on how mobile you are, whereas flexibility is about how far you can pull your thumb back using your other hand.
Both are fundamental to all triathlon disciplines, e.g. swimming requires an optimal range of motion in the shoulders, hips and ankles, i.e. an inflexible ankle inhibits kicking and can cause unnecessary drag and slow the athlete down!
Allows the body to maintain postural control and supports joints during movement. For the athlete, well developed stability can help conserve energy and prevent wasteful and excessive movements which may lead to injury.
Good balance is the ability to return or sustain the body’s centre of mass or line of gravity over it’s base support. The benefits of good balance can be seen:
e.g. whilst swimming legs and torso need to be balanced during rotation; if not, swimmers may scissor their legs to compensate. With cycling just the ability to stay upright on 2 wheels takes a lot of balance, more so in aero position!
The ability to produce maximum force over a short period of time. This aspect of S&C should only be added to an athlete’s programme after a solid strength training foundation.
An athlete’s annual training plan incorporates the theory of periodisation with the goal of reaching race day in peak form.
Training is structured into specific time blocks with particular goals which stress the body in different ways and allows for recovery and adaptation to take place.
For triathletes there are a lot of sessions to fit in, so it becomes essential to use time wisely.
Periodising S&C allows it to complement other sessions as opposed to compromising them. e.g. you don’t want to go to the gym and lift heavy if it’s going to compromise the quality of your next session which in turn could have a knock on effect over the whole week of training!
A periodised, custom strength and conditioning plan can
- improve your performance,
- reduce the risk of injury
- increase the growth and development of the muscles
- improve bone density
About the Author
Sims S.T. (2016) Roar. Rodale pp.146-147.
Friel J. (2010) Your Best Triathlon. Velo Press pp. 37-38