Strength Training For Ironman Triathletes?
Have you ever wondered if there are any benefits to strength training for Ironman triathletes?
This weeks instalment weighs (lol) up the pro’s and con’s of getting heavy in the gym.
To check out last weeks review on bike fitting please click HERE.
Before we get started I need to tell you that I am NOT a certified triathlon or Ironman coach.
I am, however a Personal Trainer with 15 years experience of not only working with clients but also teaching the next generation of trainers.
So now that is out of the way here is my opinion on strength training for Ironman triathletes….
Benefits of Strength Training For Ironman Triathletes….
There are a lot of logical reasons that long distance triathletes should take part in strength training. Here are the top 3.
1 – Injury Prevention
This is as simple as it gets – strong bodies do not break.
It is a fact the hardest part of racing/completing Ironman distance triathlon is getting to the start line in one piece.
The largest part of that challenge is avoiding overuse injury. Especially in the build period where your training volume will be at its height.
You can minimise the risk of this by making sure that not only are the ‘triathlon muscles’ (the ones that drive you forward) strong. But all of the supporting and assisting muscles are as well.
This means that during the base period a well thought out strength program is SERIOUSLY beneficial. However these sessions may not look as you would expect.
2 – Strength Endurance
Bear with me on this one please.
Let’s use cycling as an example. In cycling the trend now is to measure performance using power.
Power = Force X Speed
So one element is the force that you can generate, the second is the speed at which you can do it.
Example to follow – it is massively simplified so please keep that in mind.
Take two triathletes exactly matched in every way except athlete 1 can generate 100kg of force in one repetition and athlete 2 can generate 200kg.
That means that if both athletes are working at the same level of power (lets say 250watts) athlete 2 is using significantly less of their potential force.
Therefore the strength endurance of athlete 2 is likely to far outweigh athlete 1.
Again, this is an element that needs to be developed within the base period of training.
3 – Overall Health
Unless you are a top level elite, the likelihood is that you have a life away from the sport.
Being strong is a huge indicator of overall health (outside of the obvious CV markers etc).
The problem is that the reams of CV and endurance training have a negative impact on muscle mass, metabolism AND strength in the long term
So a solid and well planned out strength program is vital for not only performance on race day but your health after race day.
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Drawbacks Of Strength Training For Ironman Triathletes…
The drawbacks are a little harder to come across (although many triathletes thing these far outweigh the benefits.
1 – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
When you start a new training program OR change up your strength training your muscles like to have a bit of a moan about it.
So generally the first 24-48 hours after the first or second sessions can get a little uncomfortable.
The interesting thing is that DOMS does not always impact your ability to train.
I hit up a brand new lower body programme on Thursday which left me in serious discomfort yesterday (Saturday) but still managed to hit up a 12.5mile run including intervals at an average pace of 6.55/mile.
Evidence below lol,
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2 – It Makes You Slow
There is actually truth in this statement, but it needs to be put into context.
When you start a strength training program and are in the middle of some big blocks of training it will indeed slow you down in some of your sessions.
You are not meant to do it all year.
As I have said, the majority of your strength work should stay in the base period.
As you move to the build period then your strength training should move towards power training which actually increases your speed.
Finally, in the peak period you should be just maintaining strength. Which can be achieved with 1 session per week.
So there we go – if you get it right it will not make you slow. At least not when you need to be fast!
3 – It Is Time Consuming
Yes, it can be, but only if you are a bodybuilder who needs to get MAJOR volume in your muscles and is therefore isolating every individual muscle group.
As an Ironman triathlete you will never do this.
The most you should really train is 3 strength sessions per week. All of these should focus on large, compound moves that challenge the body as a unit.
This makes the sessions very efficient, in fact, you should spend a maximum of 50 minutes in the gym. Any more and you are wasting time.
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So – Should You Do Strength Training?
Ultimately YES – I think everyone can benefit from strength training.
Make sure that you investigate the proper way to integrate it into your training and what you should do exercise wise.
If you have no previous experience of gym based training then definitely get yourself a good personal trainer to help you at the outset.
If you would like to chat with me about the training I do or how I structure it then feel free to drop me an email.
[email protected] is the address 🙂
As always, thank you so much for reading this far.
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