The Triathlete Strength Training PrimerPart 7: The First Transition Period, cont.
Ahhhhh, preseason training! The weather is ever so slowing becoming less and less of a nuisance. Running and biking outside no longer require 5 layers of clothing, only 2, and you can tell spring is just around the corner. (Note: it’s currently 40o in mid-Nov… writing this article is becoming obnoxious) The birds are chirping and there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to go for an open-water swim in another month or two. As the weather gets nicer, let’s not let the gym become a distant memory, and remember what can be accomplished from an intelligent, well-programmed pre-season strength training plan.
Let’s take a minute to revisit last week’s article. During our pre-season strength training, we want to create a program that will…
- 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.
Now that we have a good idea of what we’re trying to accomplish during the pre-season, let’s take a look at an example template.
You’ll notice that most of our rep ranges have increased. This ensures we’re primarily training to improve our local muscular endurance. Higher rep ranges subject our body to stress for a longer period of time, which in turn allows our body to become more efficient at generating force for extended periods. That’s not to mention that a longer amount of time-under-tension creates a metabolic effect, resulting in the build-up of metabolites in our tissues. Our body then uses our aerobic system to buffer this build-up of byproducts. In effect, we’re essentially training our aerobic system’s ability to help us recover from stress.
We’ve made the switch to training safety squat bar split squats. We’ve moved away from the front-rack position to give our shoulders a bit of a break, and tweaked the stability demands by placing the load on the back of our shoulders instead of the front. The split squat still allows us to train our legs in a unilateral fashion, while also incorporating the 2-0-2 tempo. The tempo method is something I’ve borrowed from Joel Jamison’s book Ultimate MMA Conditioning, and the purpose is to improve oxygen utilization by the working muscles and trigger a hypertrophic response in our slow-twitch muscle fibers. A physiological adaptation that is hugely beneficial for a triathlete. We’ve further applied this concept to the push-ups and pull-ups. Also, you’ll notice our hinge-dominant movement has been changed to RDLs from last cycle’s glute bridges. This is to increase the time-under-tension we’re subjecting our muscles to, in an effort to further drive gains in local muscular endurance.
Our first series begins with weighted chin-ups, but we’ve moved to higher rep ranges to target endurance in swim-specific musculature. These are followed up by higher-rep barbells lunges in order to train force absorption in a run-specific manner. We’ve kept deadlifts to maintain a hip extension stimulus, but moved to the trap bar, which should allow us to take some of the load off of the back and move it to the legs. Our final series is organized in a circuit fashion and should be performed with little rest in between to create a metabolic effect throughout the entire set and truly work our aerobic system.
You’ll also notice that both days have a conditioning circuit that concludes the workout. Day one features an aerobic plyometric method that is designed to improve our explosive endurance by recruiting a high amount of fast-twitch fibers, and then making them work for an extended period of time. We’re essentially challenging our fast-twitch fibers aerobically.
Day two utilizes a method we’ve discussed many times on the SAPT blog, and is something that we’ve found highly effective for our athletes. We want the exercise intensity to be high based on resistance, but we want to keep a slower tempo going that will allow us to keep our heart rate under the anaerobic threshold. This allows an adequate supply of oxygen to be used by the athlete, and helps us focus on improving the aerobic capacity of our fast-twitch fibers.
A tweak that you could make in order to make this triathlete-specific would be to apply this method to a stationary bike. You would simply want to crank the intensity up to a resistance that doesn’t allow you to pedal past 20-30 rpms, and perform the method this way.
The pre-season is where we sharpen our skills and finish up our preparation for competition in-season. Our sport workouts have become more intense, with the inclusion of tempo runs and interval workouts, in order to acclimate us to the rigors of competition. Our strength workouts are also becoming more sport specific, as we’ve shifted our focus toward refining our local muscular endurance and sustaining high power inputs. Next week we’ll dive into the competition period, and discuss what changes we should make to our strength work.
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