Many first time triathletes, or those looking to improve their swim, feel weak in the water. The immediate natural tendency is to get stronger in the weight room by adding more weight to bench presses, bicep curls, tricep extensions and lat pulls. The problem with this approach is that most of it does nothing to help one swim faster in an open water race or triathlon.
Strength training for the swim specifically is an important part of preparing for a triathlon. However, rather than hitting the weight room in a traditional manner, the best approach is to work the core and simulate the muscle movement used during swimming.
Core training involves training these stabilizer muscles: abdominals, low back, and hips. Strengthening these muscles is the foundation for your strength training program; for swimming, triathlon, or overall strength and health.
This need for core strength is even more important for swimming, given the use of these muscles not only for stabilization, but for the side-to-side rotation that helps propel the body through the water.
Remember, in swimming we are trying to swim more efficiently and slide through the water like a fish or a boat. Fish and boats don’t need appendages to move quickly through the water, which shows you just how important these core muscles are to swimming humans.
There are many different approaches to core training, but I’ve found that simpler is better when it comes to strength work for a triathlon (with the time it takes to train for three sports, most of us don’t have a lot of free time left). You only need a minimal amount of equipment to perform this routine.
Since right now is the offseason for many triathletes, we'll cover a three times a week program.
Day One: Yoga
Yoga helps with flexibility, strength, concentration, and balance. All of these are essential for the swim.
Take a one-hour yoga class once a week to work on these areas. Many different types of yoga are beneficial, but classes that combine all of the above are typically best for triathletes.
If you can't make it to a class, start with these exercises at home:
1. Downward Dog
2. Bridge Pose
3. Tree Pose
4. Warrior 2
5. Balance posture (one leg)
One yoga session per week will open up your body to huge improvements in the water, but add the next two exercises for even greater improvements.