Do you strength train on a regular basis? Athlete, exercise enthusiast or person who doesn't like to exercise but knows it is important....is strength training part of your routine?
In addition to swim, bike and/or run, do you make the time to physically strengthen your muscles? Sure, sticking to an aerobic or aerobic training plan will make you stronger, more powerful and leaner but if you have muscle imbalances, weakness's or flexibility issues, how do you expect yourself to get stronger through swimming, biking and/or running?
My good friend Cass (who has a great book that you should check out) posted this video (see bottom of this blog) on her blog. Credit goes to her client Kayla who created this video. I can't stop watching. I'm sure everyone knows someone like this and it is time that the truth comes out. It is so funny yet so true.
I don't know why women are afraid of lifting. More so, I don't understand why triathletes and runners don't make strength training a priority? Perhaps the thought of strength training means bulky muscles to a woman? Or maybe athletes feel that an hour run after work is much more performance-enhancing than a 30-minute strength training workout. Perhaps the truth is that many people feel that a cardio workout is much more effective in terms of "calories-burned" than a 20 minute strength training routine.
I think there is a slight fear of lifting weights for many people. It hurts. Or, maybe it is the idea that strength training isn't effective for weight loss and/or performance. If you aren't a regular, consistent lifter, think about the last time you lifted weights? You walked weird the next day, your muscles felt huge and sore, you hated every minute and wished you were doing cardio instead or you were super hungry all day.
Perhaps these "stereotypical" strength training thoughts (I hear them all the time) are due to an inconsistency of strength training. You watched Biggest Loser on a Tues night last season and for the first time since who knows when, you went to the gym the next morning, lifted way too hard and haven't been back since.
Strength training requires the same periodized training plan as your swim-bike-run routine. Although the whole purpose of strength training is to tear down muscle fibers (catabolic) in order to make them grow (anabolic), you can't expect yourself to gain strength in a week (or a day). While there is a certain protocol to follow with strength training, in order to challenge the muscles (feel the burn) in an effort to gain strength/power, you don't have to think like a bodybuilder in order to see performance gains in the weight room.
To all my blog readers (specifically women), strength training is not bodybuilding. While I totally respect the sport of clean bodybuilding, your strength training routine does not have to be as intensive as a bodybuilding routine. Personally, I don't think many triathletes have the discipline and self-control to push themselves in the gym, while sticking to a controlled diet, in order to receive the muscle hypertrophy that is seen in the typical bodybuilder.
In order to start strength training on a weekly basis, I think many people need to change their thinking of what strength training can do for the human body.
Don't you just love looking at the different physiques of female athletes?
Taken from Ironmaven blog
I think we would all agree it takes a lot more than "training in your sport of choice" to become a professional athlete. In addition to the right team of people, it certainly takes time in the weight room. It takes good nutrition, a healthy outlook on life, lots of restful sleep and mental focus.
Most importantly, a serious athlete or fitness enthusiast (defining serious as wanting some type of physical gain) has a body that responds to the demands placed on it. By now, I hope you agree with me in that cutting out calories and exercising a lot more isn't the healthiest way to seeing performance gains and/or sticking to a lifelong health, nutrition and fitness routine.
While many athletes find themselves wanting to train-more due to a natural obsession with their personal physique (more often than not, comparing your own body to the body of another athlete), it is important to recognize that your enjoyment of swim-bike-run (or only one sport) is not just a sport. It is a lifestyle. Perhaps you are exercising because you are committed to being healthier and/or losing/maintaining weight.
Starting today, I'd like for you to find 20-30 minutes in your day (or 2-3 x 10 min sessions), 2-3 times per week, to strength train. I enjoy circuit training because I like keeping my HR up while changing up the exercises that I am doing. I also enjoy free weights. I find that engaging my core, through standing on the floor or on a bosu, while performing exercises, requires balance and coordination. Two very important components of an individual who desires performance and/or physiological gains. Lastly, I find that machines are perfect for my Fri strength training workout. While free weights require that your muscles are working both in the eccentric and concentric phases of lifting, the assistance in machines is a great way for me to still get in that 3rd (or 2nd) lifting session into my routine, without feeling too tired for weekend training.
In addition to attenuating the aging process, increasing muscle size (or tone), decreasing risk for injury and boosting metabolism, here are the 3 major advantages for the athlete who strength trains:
*Increase muscle strength
As for the other benefits of strength training:
*Weight loss (increase in metabolism)
*More self-esteem, increase self-perception
*Better balance and coordination
*Possible disease prevention
*Natural release of endorphins
*Decrease in body fat
*Increase in lean muscle mass
*Increase in flexibility and range of motion (so long as you avoid lifting with overly-tight muscles)
*Increase mental and physical stamina
Important weight training principles:
1) Start slow- 1-2 sets, light weight, 10-12 repetitions)
2) Gradually build up - increase weight by 5 lbs every 2 weeks or when your desired number of reps becomes too easy on 2 or more consecutive training sessions), add more reps (12 or 15, feel the burn with 3-4 reps to go) or add more sets (2-3 sets)
3) Work with a trained and experienced professional - check the credentials of your personal trainer, youtube.com trainer (if you watch videos) or gym fitness consultant.
4) Learn proper form - ask a trained professional to take you through the machines and free weights to learn how to properly lift weights. Women, never be intimated to lift free weights.
5) Rest - Considering how time-consuming our schedules may be, I recommend full-body lifting, 2-3 times per week with a day of strength training rest (you can still continue with your normal cardio routine) in between. I recommend some type of core exercise routine, every day (or at least 5 days per week).
6) Proper nutrition - You know I am all about recovery nutrition. What's the point of a workout if you don't properly recover?
7) Change up your routine - emphasize 3-4 lower body and 3-4 upper body exercises. If you have a light day of running, lift before you run and focus on your upper body. If you have a light day of swimming, lift before you swim and focus on your lower body. Find what works for your routine (lifting before or after cardio) so that you can make the most out of every workout. Learn to love free weights, plyometrics, abdominal exercises that don't involve the standard crunch, the Bosu and other types of exercises which engage your core and require focus and concentration.
*Always check with your physician if you are starting a weight training/training routine for the first time or getting back into exercise. It is important that you and your doctor discuss any potential risks of starting a new fitness routine, especially on your own.
*Just because you call yourself an athlete/triathlete, does not mean that you are cleared to lift heavy weights and/or jump right into a weight training routine. Even if you can run 26.2 miles or finish an Ironman, it is important that you start slow when adding in strength training to your current lifting routine.
Here's an article that I recently wrote for the Jacksonville Dietetic Association Newsleter. This would be a great start for the individuals who need a jump-start with a weight lifting routine.
10 At-home exercises
1. Jumping jacks – 30-40 repetitions
2. Squats –15-20 repetitions
3. Alternating lunges – 12-20 repetitions
4. Standing lateral leg lift –20-25 repetitions on each leg
5. Calf raises (optional on a step) –15-20 repetitions
6. Push-up (modified or full) – 8-12 repetitions
7. Tricep dips on table/chair – 10-15 repetitions
8. Abdominal double leg raise (lying on floor, raise and lift legs starting and finishing a few inches off of the floor) – 10-15 repetitions
9. Abdominal bicycles – 20-30 repetitions
10. Planks (optional leg lift and hold) – 30-60 seconds
Perform recommended repetitions of each exercise, starting at #1 and finishing at #10, until entire circuit is complete. Repeat circuit 2-3 times for a full-body, at-home circuit workout, 2-3 times per week. Strength training has been shown to help increase lean muscle mass, boost metabolism, improve muscular strength, power and endurance, reduce risk from injury and increase bone density. If you are new to strength training, it is recommended to meet with a trained personal trainer in order to address correct form and machine set-up, as well as discussing the proper sequence of performing strength training exercises. If you are strength training for specific performance gains, it is recommended that you increase work load by 2-10% as the workload becomes easier (1-2 additional repetitions over your desired repetitions). Furthermore, it is encouraged to incorporate concentric, eccentric and isometric muscle actions, as well as single and multiple-joint exercises into your workout routine, in order to reach your desired physiological goal (1).
1) American College of Sports Medicine (2009). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 41(3): 687-708.
Let me know if you have any questions regarding weight training.