Strength Training in Triathlon – A Hidden Treasure

Having coached, competed, and trained for many years now, I have learned so much.  Yet I have so much to learn.  Triathlon, unlike many other sports, is as complex as my wife.  Just kidding.  I am just scratching the surface of understanding her after 13 years of marriage, but I digress.  Not only do we need to understand 3 different unique sports, but we need to be aware of the muscle groups they utilize and how they interact.  For ultra events, the 4th discipline is nutrition, and lurking behind all of that is one of the most overlooked areas, other than nutrition, injury prevention/strength.

If you think about it, both running and biking both utilize many of the same muscles, most of them related to forward movement.  Heavy emphasis is placed on the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles with lighter emphasis on the upper body for biking and running.  Swimming utilizes upper body strength and is heavy on the core and flexibility.  Very little emphasis is placed on the lateral (side movement) muscles.

One of the primary causes of injury is muscular imbalance.  Many of the first lessons for personal trainers and strength coaches surrounds the use of opposing muscle groups in a well rounded exercise.  Want to strengthen the biceps?  Also focus on the triceps or you’ll walk like Popeye.  Is that lower back hurting?  Focus on core abdominal strength to support the lower back.

The point is, really, that as triathletes, we are focused on forward momentum.  We need to strengthen our lateral and core muscles.  We see injuries oft times related to weak hip flexors and tight IT bands.  Our supporting ligaments and tendons for our ankles and knees have adapted to forward movement only creating an opening [...]

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    Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power (FTP)- What a mouthful!  Well, at least it’s a pretty cool sounding mouthful.  You may hear cyclists speak about this often.  If you’ve training by using FTP, you’re a believer.  If not, you’re missing out on one of the most influential and unknown aspects of training and output for beginner triathletes.

FTP is the maximum power output you can hold for 1 hr of effort.  It is measured in watts.  If you want an example as demonstrated in a French commercial, enjoy:

Wattage is power.  Various devices measure power output for cyclists.  Power meters can be built into the hubs of bikes, integrated into the cycling trainer, or integrated into the crank of the bicycle.  The number represents the amount of effort you are generating as evidenced by the power output.  Most would ask why speed wouldn’t be enough.  Great question!

Speed would be sufficient for effort output if all other factors were equal.  If we always rode on straight and level roads, road the exact same bikes, and had no wind to contend with or cyclists to draft off.  You may accomplish this on an indoor trainer, but the variables when on the road are very different each ride.

Power numbers take everything into account as they measure your output of effort regardless of the environment.

When I ask my athletes what is the single most influential factor in them improving their speed in a triathlon, most would point to the power meter.  I’d like to think they’d point at me as their coach, but let’s not be delusional.

One of the first tests I perform on each of my athletes, other than the VO2 test, is an FTP test.  Once I [...]