Monday, February 1, 2016

Stength Training

Strength Podcast

Coach Marilyn Chychota and John Shilt, PA-C, discuss a new approach to strength training for endurance athletes.

Garage Strength

by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

With winter soon upon us, many of us will be progressively moving more and more of our training indoors. For many this means getting back into the groove with strength training and re-activating that old gym membership and making the regular 5 p.m. migration with the masses from the office to the gym.

I’ve outlined in the past some of the reasons that I consider strength training important for the endurance athlete. These benefits include improvements in functional (that is, aerobic) hypertrophy plus improvements in general durability and injury resistance that carry across to the athlete’s in-season. I have personally attributed the ability of an athlete to put together a breakthrough season to one or both of these adaptations caused by early season strength work on more than one occasion.

However, this mass migration to the gym can also bring with it a few less desirable, but very familiar, scenarios:

  • Waiting for the hulk to finish his 18th set of squats because "working in" would mean unloading and reloading 500 pounds per set!
  • Trying to find the tiniest bit of floor space between the "abdominator" and the "bicep blast" machines so you can do an exercise that has the least bit of functionality
  • Limiting yourself to the exercises that attract the least attention so as not to fall prey to the obligatory sales pitch from the personal training staff.

Strength Training for Runners

Endurance Corner signed its first Ultrarunning client this week (Welcome Bill) so I thought that it would be an opportune time to share my ideas on strength training for runners.

The easiest way to become a better runner is to run more often, and we need to be healthy to run often. Dr. J's article on Biomechanical Fitness is a good starting point for considering how fast you can ramp up mileage. Of course, we often ignore good advice until we get our first running injury!

We each have biomechanical limits that place an upper end on the running load that we can place on our bodies. One of the things that makes many runners great is the their capacity to absorb training (frequency, duration and intensity).

You might be able to ignore your limits for a week, or two, but exceeding your capacity results in unplanned setbacks that reduce your long term consistent training load -- thereby making it very difficult for you to reach your potential as a runner.

So the purpose of your strength training is to reduce your risk for injury, and enhance your running-specific strength. While you may do these exercises at a gym, you'll see that most of them are not classical weightlifting.

The exercises that follow won't make you a faster runner... the exercises below will reduce your risk for injury and make you a more durable runner. As a more durable runner you will be able to do more training and... become a faster runner.

It took me over a decade of walking/hiking/running/marathoning to run my 2:46 marathon at Ironman Canada. You get a lot of benefit from simply being able to run weekly for a long time. Becoming faster than you ever thought possible requires a long apprenticeship.

It's a long term greedy thing!

This is a protocol that I have used successfully for a decade.

Keys to maximizing your return:

Swim-specific Strength Training

Moderate DryLand Program

This is not a limiter for most triathletes. However... if you want to spend a winter training-like-a-swimmer then this program works. For the gym junkies, it also makes a nice substitute from the same-old-routine.

Start really easy or you will damage yourself!

Straightforward Core Work

For those of you with strong cores, I thought that I would share an advanced core workout. If you have been doing 50+ crunches in a traditional manner, it is time to shake things up a little!

Here is what I recommend. This is advanced - please exercise caution!

Aside from Exercise A, no equipment is required. If you feel like your current routine is becoming easy, or if the number of reps required for your routine is high, then please try this out.

Core Set

A. Incline Twisting Sit-ups
1x30, moderate height (not extreme)
Think about this exercise in three phases - lift, twist and lower. All phases are done slowly. You go all the way back down on the lower and all the way up on the twist. Do not pull your neck, hands lightly on your ears. Touch right elbow to left knee.

B. Supermans
Body is in "push-up position" except your elbows are together directly under your shoulder. Your elbows and forearms are on the ground at a 90-degree angle with your shoulder, elbows about 6" apart like you are praying (and you will be!). Keep shoulder blades together (no curve in shoulders). Keep hips a little higher than a push up, back perfectly straight, on your toes with legs straight. Hold for 15s, move elbows forward 2" and hold for 15s, move elbows forward another 2" and hold 15s. Your hips may be falling now, keep them up - no bow in the back, keep extending until you really feel it. If you aren't shaking after 45 seconds then technique needs modifications (if body is straight then make sure hips aren't too low). Flip over, 20 slow crunches and repeat the superman. You will feel this one in your back and abs. Shoulder blades should be pulled together, no curve across the backs of your shoulders.

Strength Training for Triathlon

This is a protocol that I have used successfully for a decade.

Keys to maximizing your return:

  • Start slowly - the prep phase is fundamental
  • Use perfect technique and controlled speed of movement
  • Start embarrassingly light - the goal is improvement, not competing with the powerlifters!
  • You get the greatest return from your FIRST session of the week - one session per week offers a huge improvement over nothing.

EC Members, post your questions/background/limiters to the forum and I can guide you with how to modify this program to suit your individual strengths.

WEEKS 1-12 => PREPARATION (2x per week)

    * Warm up 10 minutes easy lifecycle or ride/run to gym
    * Squats and/or leg press (always include a set of very light or no weight to warm up)
    * Leg extension
    * Hamstring curl or single leg bridges
    * Calf raise
    * Core (see article)
    * Seated rowing
    * Lat pulldowns (to front)
    * Standing straight-arm pulldown
    * Tricep extension
    * 15 minutes stretching


    PREP 1 ==> Weeks 1-4 => 2x20-25 reps with 30 secs rest between sets
    PREP 2 ==> Weeks 5-8 => 2x15-20 reps with 30 secs rest between sets
    PREP 3 ==> Weeks 8-12 => 2x12-15 for everything, 60 secs rest between sets

Rep Note: Start each block at the top end of the rep range, gradually increase weight and reduce reps as the block progresses. End each block at the bottom end of the rep range. Remember to avoid rep failure.


    PREP 1 - never to failure comfortable speed
    PREP 2 - never to failure, rep speed slow (2-4 secs per cycle)
    PREP 3 - last two reps are strained but not to failure, rep speed slow