Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mobility, Strength and Power Training for Endurance Athletes

Interested in a winter strength training program? Coach Marilyn has designed a high level strength and conditioning program for triathletes and endurance athletes.

The goals and intent of this program are very different from other strengthening and conditioning programs that are commonly performed by triathletes during the off and race seasons. Once one exhausts gains from traditional means, different methods are needed to see further progress. While novice, female, and older athletes can still benefit from standard triathlon strength sessions without adding time and effort of additional gym sessions, this plan is intended for experienced athletes who no longer respond to sport specific strength training, such as big gear bike work, paddle swim work and hill run sessions.

By the end of this program, you will achieve:

  • A true elevation in your top end
  • Improved durability and the ability to prevent injuries
  • Strength that maintains propulsion and speed during the last half of the run
  • Improved cycling power

What is different about this program than other strengthening and conditioning programs? Programs are typically not long enough nor periodized to gain new strength and instead reinforce strengthening that most triathletes already possess. The traditional strengthening sessions are just enough to make you tired in muscles commonly used, but don’t go far enough to create strength that can further your overall ability to excel at the top end of your competitive group.

How will we specifically achieve these four goals?

1) Truly raise your top end
We don’t want to just bring someone into prior achieved top end or race condition early in the season. This commonly occurs when experienced triathletes begin reverse periodization training using swim/bike/run sessions. In this scenario, the athletes perform top end work they already own in their sport. They couple these sessions with traditional low weight-medium volume gym work. This combination results in creating fatigue and soreness while achieving early race condition. These attributes prevent developing a true, new top end.

2) Improve durability and prevent injuries
Many triathlon-related overuse injuries occur in the posterior chain. The posterior chain is an anatomic term defining the structures occurring in the posterior half of the body. This includes the plantar foot structures, calves, hamstrings, gluteals, lower and upper back. These muscles are integral in stabilizing the skeleton during movement. When these muscles are under-developed, injury easily occurs as they are not strong or mobile enough to counterbalance the propulsive, anterior chain muscles. By increasing their strength and mobility, balance is achieved across the joints and levers that create movement. This balance is necessary to avoid overuse injuries and allow absorption of training.

3) Create strength that maintains propulsion/speed during the last half of the run
Anterior chain muscles used in triathlon movement are the pectoralis, anterior cuff/deltoid, iliopsoas, and quadriceps. These structures are over-developed because the propulsive activities performed in swimming, biking and running result from repeatedly stressing these muscle groups. Varying degrees of imbalance commonly occur in triathletes and manifest in many ways. The most pronounced scenario is revealed in the latter part of the run. Commonly, the propulsive muscles are stronger than the stabilizing muscles. Without adequate stabilization, the propulsive forces produced in the anterior chain are now required to compensate for the lack of stability. This results in a diminishment of propulsion or, simply put, a slowing down.

By increasing mobility, power and strength, the propulsive forces are allowed to focus only on propulsion, allowing maintenance of speed.

4) Improve cycling power
Cycling success is a complex equation that involves optimization of nutrition, neuromuscular skills, conditioning and force application. Initial gains in power can be achieved through increased volume combined with specific VO2 and threshold work. Further gains are achieved through sports specific strength work (the well known “big gear” work).

Ultimately, however, the ability to create greater sports specific strength and power is limited by the individual’s ability to apply force. Propulsive force application achieved on the bike by the anterior chain muscles eventually overcomes the necessary posterior chain stabilizing forces. Therefore, greater gains in bike specific strength are impossible. In order to achieve higher levels of power and strength, techniques conducive to associated anterior and posterior chain strengthening must be used.

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, contact Marilyn.

A special thanks to Dr Jeff Shilt, M.D, a leader in endurance sports orthopedics and a multiple-time Kona competitor, for his contributions and medical oversight while creating this program.


Marilyn Chychota has been in elite sport since the age of 9, from show jumping to cycling and triathlon. Competing on an international stage in all three sports with an Ironman title, several podiums and state championships in cycling, Marilyn works with all distance and level of triathletes and cyclists. From beginners to elites; short course, bike racing, stage racing and long course triathlon, she has guided several athletes to the podium and to Hawaii qualifications.
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