Fundamentals of Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

by The Coaches on December 20, 2015

Good Points by fellow USAT coach TONY ZAMORA

With the cooler and shorter days among us, now is the perfect time to head indoors and focus on strength training. Triathletes live busy schedules and have to find the time to train for three sports. Adding in a fourth of weight training always seems to get complicated, and the gym is usually the first to be forgotten when time gets crunched. But the gym should be prioritized into your training schedule to help reduce injuries and build strength, which will ultimately transfer over to speed come spring racing.

kettlebellLast year I wrote about the importance of building a strong base and addressing any nagging injuries. The good news is that you can combine some mobility exercises to address those injuries into your warm-up and cooldown during your gym sessions, thus knocking out two birds at once.

Here’s a sample warm-up, main set and cooldown that can be personalized based on your mobility needs. Just be sure to not skip the warm-up and cooldown. The main set should take anywhere between 20-30 minutes as I believe in efficiency, full body movements and generally getting the most bang for your training time!

Warm-up: 10-15 minutes
Start off with some foam rolling and general mobility movements. Body weight lunges, push-ups and pull-ups are also great additions.

Main set: 20-30 minutes
I like to combine 2 sets of exercises into one set, or supersets. This helps with the time efficiency aspect and also helps get a great sweat on with minimal breaks. Do the same lettered sets back to back then take 1-minute rest between sets. Start off with 3 sets of each exercise and see how that feels. You should lift heavy enough weight where your form stays true, but you feel a strong burn by the last rep.
Set A1
Single Leg Squats, 8-10 reps (each leg)
Stand facing away from a weight lifting bench, place the top of your right foot back on the bench while holding a pair of dumbbells in both hands; then squat down with your left leg keeping your torso straight and tall. Do 8-10 reps, then repeat on other side.

Set A2
One-armed bench rows, 8 reps (each arm)
Using the same bench you are at, place your right hand and right knee on the bench. With your left hand grab one of the dumbbells and pull the weight toward your chest. Do 8 reps, then repeat on other side.

Set A3
Dumbbell bench press, 8 reps
This time lay flat on the bench facing up holding dumbbells in both hands. Press the weight straight up, keeping your abs tight and the weight under control — don’t let it wobble everywhere.

Take a 1-2 minute break, and then repeat A1, A2 & A3 (no breaks between those exercises!) two more times.

Set B1
Squat, 10 reps
Using a dumbbell or kettlebell; grab the weight and hold it close to your chest. Squat down, keeping your torso tall. Lower until your elbows touch the inside of your knees, then slowly stand back up.

Set B2
Push-ups, 10-20 reps
Right where you are performing the squats, you can get down to the floor and knock out some push-ups.

Take a 1-2 minute break, and then repeat B1 & B2 (no breaks between those exercises!) two more times.

Set C1
Kettlebell swing, 20-25 reps
Using a kettlebell perform a set of 20 swings. Stand with feel shoulder width apart, grab the bell and initiating with your hips swing the bell until it is at chest height straight in front of you. With a quick and fluid movement, bring the bell back down to starting position and go right into the next swing. These should not look or feel like a squat. Your heart should be pounding at the end of this exercise.

Set C2
Planks, 30 seconds
Right after the swings, go down into a plank position on your elbows, with the palms of your hands facing down and straight ahead (not touching hands). Squeeze your abs and your glutes during your plank, and pretend you are pulling the floor back toward you with your hands (you’ll actually feel more burn in the abs!).

Take a 1-2 minute break, and then repeat C1 & C2 (no breaks between those exercises!) two more times.

Cooldown: 10-15 minutes
Once you’re done with the workout, perform a little static stretching, some more mobility work and foam rolling.

Tony Zamora is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach who coaches athletes throughout the world as founder and head coach of TZCoaching, based in northern Los Angeles.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

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