Triathlon Training with the Total Gym: Build A Strong Body Foundation
Congratulations on deciding to commit to the task of completing a triathlon. You’ve chosen the length of the race; you’ve got a location for the event; and you’ve given yourself enough lead time to train. Now comes the work of designing a training regimen that will condition the muscle groups to best serve you in a foot race, a bicycle race and swimming race. The Total Gym is your go-to conditioning tool when you aren’t on your bicycle, running or swimming. Over the next six weeks you will find specific exercises focusing on muscle groups that will improve your performance in each leg of the triathlon.
Be sure to fit these resistance exercises into your training plan two to three times a week. Elite athletes can get away with one or two thirty minute sessions a week. The option of creating a high intensity interval program can cut down on the amount of time spent in the gym. Eight exercises performed over the course of four minutes can be repeated five times. Perform an exercise for 20 seconds on, ten seconds rest, then switch to the next one. In four minutes, you can complete eight different exercises. Repeat this set of eight exercises five times.
Upper Body (arms, shoulders, back and chest)
Swimming uses the most upper body of the three events, but having strong arms will also help you during cycling. Your arms support the body while seated or standing on the bike. Building muscle in the shoulders, forearms and biceps prevents fatigue.
Research shows that arm power provides swimmers with the best competitive edge when it comes to increasing sprint swim speed. Although amateur swimmers may think that their kick is what propels them through the water faster, it’s actually their swim stroke, powered by the muscles of the back, shoulders and core.
The following three exercises target the upper body:
- Surfer: Kneel, sitting on your heels on the glideboard, facing the support column and hold the pulley cable handles palms down with the arms extended. Bend forward from the hip and bring the chest toward the thighs. As you rise back up, pull the cables without bending the elbows until the handles are positioned slightly behind the body. Return to starting position with the arms extended and the body leaning forward. Beware of bending the wrists or arching the back.
- Lying Triceps Extension: Lie down on the glideboard with your head toward the support column and your feet on the glideboard. Take one cable pulley handle in each hand and bend the elbows. Keeping the shoulder joints stationary, extend your arms as you press the handles down.
- Seated Front Raise Combined with Chest Fly: Facing away from the support column, sit on the glideboard with your knees bent and your feet on the glideboard. Take one pulley cable handle in each hand and raise your arms straight in front of you to shoulder height. Then turn your hands so the palms face each other and open your arms out to the sides. Squeeze the center of your chest and bring the palms back together and then turn your palms face down and lower your arms to your sides.
Core Muscles (abdominals, obliques, gluteus maximus, lats, traps, and erector spinae)
Swimming, biking and running all require good core strength. Building strength and endurance in the muscles of the abdomen, both front and back, also contributes to a better swim stroke. Strong core muscles help the body to rotate or roll for breathing during free style swimming. When the rotation technique is mastered, along with coordinating the kicking, swimming speed improves dramatically. The following exercises target the core.
- Oblique Twister: Sit on the glideboard sideways and with the hand furthest from the support column, grab the two handles and pull the glideboard halfway up the rails. Keep your hands at waist level and twist to face the support column. Then, using your oblique abs, twist away from the support column. Return to start position facing the column. Switch sides after completing the desired number of reps on one side.
- Plank to Pike-up: Start with the hands on the glideboard, arms straight, and the board halfway up the rails. Feet are on the floor. Squeeze your abdominals as you lift your hips into a pike and pull the glideboard down the rails. Return to plank by sliding the glideboard back up the rails until the hands and shoulders are aligned.
Lower Body (quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes)
The thighs have the most developed muscle groups in cyclists and runners; therefore, any triathlon training regimen must address these muscles. The quadriceps complex on the top of the thigh is responsible for pushing motions specifically while extending the knee and flexing at the hip. The hamstrings pull and bend the knee. The calf muscle complex (gastrocnemius and soleus) plantarflexes the foot at the ankle when the toes are pointed, specifically during swimming. The glutes are important in propulsion during running by extending the hip and keeping the torso stabilized. The last three exercises in this week’s post involve compound moves that recruit all lower extremity muscles. Unhook the pulley cable.
- Plyometric Skiing: Lying on the glideboard, bend your knees and place your feet hip distance apart on the squat stand, toes pointing to one side. Forcefully push off the squat stand, bring your knees to hip-height and then land softly with the feet pointing to the opposite side of the platform.
- Plyometric Double Leg Lift: Lying on the glideboard, bend your knees and place your feet hip distance apart on the squat stand. Forcefully push off the squat stand and extend both legs out, toes pointed over the top of the platform. You can raise your legs higher by flexing more at the hip. Remember to press the small of the back into the glideboard. Land softly with bend knees.
- Leg Curl: Unhook the pulley cable and remove the squat stand. Install the wing attachment. Lying on the glideboard, bend your knees and hook your feet under the wings. Straighten and bend the legs by contracting the hamstrings to slide the glideboard up and down the rails. Keep knees pointing to the ceiling and press your back into the glideboard. Keep your abdominals contracted throughout the exercise.