The Triathlete’s 15-Minute, Do-Anywhere Strength Routine

by Lance Watson

Swim—bike—run—injury? Many triathletes are happy to hammer out their swim, bike and run sessions, but completely neglecting strength and conditioning work drastically increases their risk of injury.

Therefore, even the time-constrained-triathlete cannot afford to exclude strength training, with a specific focus on core movements.

The following exercises below can be incorporated effectively around your other training sessions and can be done pretty much anywhere. Strength designed with the sport-specific movements of triathlon should focus on is stabilization.

Stabilization is the body’s ability to control movement efficiently and provide a stable foundation the limbs can move and perform from. For triathletes, this means training the stability of the lower limbs, torso and shoulders.

It is also worth contemplating what it means to engage your core. When engaging the core muscles during exercising, perform the talk test. Engage your core, and then talk. If you cannot talk and keep the muscles engaged, you were merely increasing the abdominal cavity pressure. If you can talk and maintain that pressure, your core is engaged.

Beneficial results will be seen when the core is engaged during all activity. Biomechanical transfer of momentum through the joints for most gross motor skills (big, powerful movements) tend to initiate from the core. This is true whether throwing a ball, swinging a golf club or pulling a strong swim stroke. It is important to train these muscles through a variety of movements and range of motion.

Strength is important for all athletes, but increasingly so as athletes move into their mid 40s and 50s and beyond.

ExerciseDescriptionReps / SetsNotes
Single-Leg SquatBegin in a standing position and stay tall as you shift your weight to your left foot. Engage your core to keep your hips level. Keep your eye gaze forward at shoulder height. Shift your weight to the back of your foot and slowly lower down as far as you can and then push back up to the start position. Perform all reps on one leg before switching to the other leg.6-10 reps / 2-3 setsStand in front of a chair or stool that you can use as a consistent depth measurement.
Push-upsGet into a plank position with your hands under, but slightly wider than your shoulders. Slowly lower to the ground by tucking your elbows close to your body, pause at the bottom and then push back up to the starting position. Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise.6-10 reps / 2-3 setsThis can be done on your toes or knees.
Glute BridgeLie flat on your back, bend your knees and place feet on the floor shoulder width apart. Feet should be just close enough to your buttocks that your fingertips can graze the back of your heels. Drive your hips up as high as possible, squeezing your glutes hard and keeping your belly button drawn in. Take 3 seconds to rise, hold at the top to feel your glutes activate and 3 seconds to lower.6-10 reps / 2-3 setsYou can increase the level of difficulty of this exercise by performing single-leg glute bridges or you can place your feet up on a bench or box step.
Dead BugLie flat on your back with arms straight up towards on the ceiling and legs bent at 90-degrees. Maintain a flat back against the ground as you exhale and slowly lower you right arm and left leg toward the floor (as far as you can without compromising your back and core position), inhale to return to center and switch sides.8-12 alternating reps / 2-3 setsYou can increase the challenge of this exercise by lowering your arm and leg all the way to the floor or adding weight.
Single-leg 4 Corner HopsStand on one leg with a soft bend in both knees. Create an imaginary square as you hop to each corner. Stick each landing with a running ‘A’ position: opposite knee up, toe dorsi flexed and heel underneath buttocks.8-12 hops in each direction on each foot / 2-4 sets total (1-2 sets on each side)Perform this in front of a mirror so you can monitor your form.
I-Y-T Kneeling Front PlankStart in a kneeling plank position (modified push up position), with hands on the floor under your shoulders, with knees and feet shoulder width apart. Keep your torso solid and your hips square to the ground as you raise your right arm forward and up into the “I” position – perform 8 small lifts and then move your arm down to approximately a 45-degree angle to the “Y” position – perform 8 small lifts, and then move your arm down to 90-degree angle to the “T” position – perform 8 small lifts. Switch sides.8 reps in each position / 4 sets total (2 sets on each side)Take a break between the I’s, Y’s and T’s of this exercise if your core position becomes compromised (belly sags, hips hinge).

Thank you to Lauren Babineau for her contribution to this article.

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