Triathletes are the masters of many disciplines. After all the time spent running, riding, and swimming, however, strength training often falls to the wayside. It turns out this can leave a triathlete at a major disadvantage.
In addition to its performance benefits, strength training can also play an important role in keeping you healthy and injury-free. While fitting in yet another activity may sound like an enormous feat, you can make yourself a better all-around athlete with a simple strength plan that takes just 25 minutes a week. Not only can this make you faster, it'll also keep you feeling your best as you swim, pedal, and pound your way to the finish line.
Many of the best triathlon coaches in the world will tell you the same thing: strength training is a vital part of multisport training. "Strength training is really important from a performance standpoint for triathletes because there is so much upper body musculature involved in swimming and lower body for running and cycling," Luke Carlson, CEO of Discover Strength as well as a strength coach for a number of elite endurance athletes, says.
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Indeed, a large body of research supports the contention that strength training and improved endurance performance are linked. One literature review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at all the associated studies conducted in Spring 2007. Considered together, the research showed a 4.6 percent improvement in running economy among those who strength trained along with their regular endurance training. The research also demonstrated a 2.9 percent improvement in 3K and 5K performances.
Yet another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at both runners and cyclists. After a 10-week resistance training program, leg strength among participants increased by 30 percent, running time improved by 13 percent, and cyclists were able to ride 14 minutes longer to exhaustion than they could initially.
While performance benefits are perhaps the most tangible, strength training can also help keep you from getting injured. "If you took a survey of elite level coaches, they'll say the most important controllable factor is your ability to train without injury for an extended period of time," Carlson says.
"Injuries are often caused by muscle imbalances and chronic weaknesses in certain areas," he says. "A very basic strength program is the best way to increase the strength of the muscle tissue, as well as the connective tissue, such as tendons and ligaments." As that tissue is strengthened, you will be able to put in more training and remain healthy, which leads to better and faster performances.