Part 6: The First Transition Period

The Triathlete Strength Training PrimerPart 6: The First Transition Period

The series continues!  Last week’s epic edition provided us two example cycles for a triathlete to use during their off-season.  For each cycle, specific exercises were selected based upon the physiological adaptations they provide and whether or not they matched the goals of the General or Specific Preparation Period.  This week we’ll tackle the First Transition Period, otherwise known as the pre-season.

The First Transition Period…

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about how we use the First Transition Period to shift from high-volume to high-intensity training.  This philosophy makes sense for power and strength focused athletes, but not so much for the triathlete.  Let’s take a look at why this is the case.

  • For power and strength sports, the pre-season in the weight room is full of grunting, aggressiveness, and heavy weights. These athletes have dedicated the past few months to filling the holes in their game, and getting as strong, as fast, and as explosive as possible.  During the off-season, they had the luxury of spending four to five days a week in the gym, but sport-practice has picked up with the arrival of the pre-season.  These athletes may only be able to spend 2-3 days in the gym, and they need to make those days count.  The high-volume off-season training will be replaced by a cycle or two specifically devoted to lower volume, higher intensity training in order to peak their physical condition for competition.
  • For a triathlete (or any endurance athlete)you should utilize the pre-season in a slightly different way.  By dividing the off-season into “general” and “specific” periods, we truly extracted the most out of our training thus far.  Our strength focus began in Week 1 of the off-season.  We built up a massive total body strength base in the Gen. Prep. Period, and then changed our exercise selection in order to convert this strength increase to muscle groups and movement patterns that have the most carry-over to the sport of triathlon.

A Triathlete’s Pre-Season Focus…

As triathletes, we recognize that maximum strength isn’t the most important aspect of triathlon, and we want to use the pre-season to peak our ability to tolerate the physiological demands of our sport.  In this case, that would be local muscular endurance and ability to sustain a high power output for extended periods of time.

As for conditioning, the bulk of our conditioning work in the weight room will be aerobic based.  We accomplished the goal of building anaerobic power and then improving our anaerobic capacity during the off-season.  The implementation of interval track workouts and tempo training in our sport-practice will allow us to take our increased power and capacity, and apply it to endurance racing.

Our sport-practice should have largely been focused on building up our aerobic base as much as possible in the off-season, and now we transition into sharpening our racing skills and ability to tolerate higher intensity levels.  In the pre-season, we should still include at least 1 or 2 longer duration, endurance-focused workouts throughout the week, but our goal is to maintain what was accomplished during the off-season, and improve upon the previous skills mentioned.  In addition, we’ll implement 1 or 2 aerobic-based conditioning circuits in our strength program from now on in order to complement our sport training and enhance our ability to retain our aerobic engine.

In Conclusion….

Let’s take a quick second to summarize our pre-season goals.

  • Develop local muscular endurance in the musculature we use to swim, bike, and run.
  • Improve our ability to maintain high levels of force production over a pro-longed period of time.  This will allow us to maintain performance over the entire race.  The more force we can create with each revolution or stride, the faster we will be.
  • Shift the use of strength training conditioning circuits to focus more on developing aerobic endurance in order to complement our sport training and maintain our aerobic engine.

That’s all for part 6.  Now that we know what our pre-season training goals are, we’re in a great position to design a pre-season strength program.  Next week, I’ll show you how to train for local muscular endurance and sustained power production, as well as provide example templates with specific examples.  Until the, train on my friends.

The Triathlete Strength Training Primer

Part 1: An Intro to Periodization - Seeing the Bigger Picture Part 2: The Repetition Maximum Continuum Part 3: The Preparatory Period a.ka. the Off-Season Part 4: Off-Season Periodization Part 5: Off-Season Periodization, cont. Part 6: The First Transition Period Part 7: The First Transition Period, cont. Part 8: The Competition Period - In-Season Strength Training Part 9: In-Season Template Part 10: Post- Season Training