Two years ago I wrote an article on this very subject. How funny it is to hear some of the same athletes asking the same questions with the same concerns so let’s go over this again...
Resistance training has for the most part been linked to people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolf Lundgren. Some have linked it to rehabilitation of an injury yet a miniscule number link it to improved performance.
In years gone by no one knew any better and while the 100m athletes in the finals of most major athletics events started to become bigger, along came Kim Collins and whipped everyone’s butts at the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and again at the World Athletic Champs in 2003. Yet if we look at his physique, he is nowhere near the same in muscle stature as Linford Christie or Justin Gatlin. SO if a man so small can win Gold in what is regarded as the fastest race on Earth for humans, why do we still think it will make us slow? After all, Collins used resistance training as part of his routine.
A resistance program needs to be properly constructed by a qualified strength and conditioning coach. Their job will be to match the exercises to the sport along with the number of repetitions and intensity. This approach (which is usually a low-resistance/high-rep one) ensures the benefits from weight training without the unwanted excess of the bulky, heavy, fast-twitch muscle found in the Arnolds of the world.
Resistance training for triathletes can help in several ways:
1. The first is power and we can all do with a little more of this when it comes to running or cycling up hills. Yes it is no secret that you will be better at hills if you train on hills. Hill repeats are an example of a resistance exercise that helps develop the muscles and strength needed to run or cycle up them provided we keep our technique sound.
2. The next is a more stable core (gee, fancy that hey). Think of all the muscles surrounding or connecting to your hips. If these are strong and flexible, your body’s natural contra lateral movement and forward momentum is far more fluid.
3. Weights can also help you lose unwanted fat. As a weight training program progresses there is an increase in muscle mass. The increased muscle mass requires a greater expenditure of calories at rest. Thus a leaner individual (who has a lower percentage body fat) will use more calories sitting on the couch, than an individual of the same weight with a higher percentage body fat. The bonus is that the calories for this increased basal metabolic rate come primarily from fat.
4. Overuse injuries are an extremely common occurrence. One muscle group becomes shortened, tight and weak as the result of overtraining or a biomechanical problem. This often goes unnoticed for a considerable period of time until "suddenly" an injury occurs. Resistance training can help show you weak or tight areas before they cause problems. Likewise, recovery from an injury often involves strengthening or "retraining" a given muscle or group.
5. Finally, if you're one of those athletes who always seem to have a tight or sore neck and/or shoulders, then a light upper body routine combined with stretching may be your cure.
While most of you are most probably about to start your season I challenge you all to start a resistance program during the off-season and see how much better you are when next you begin your spring training.