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The science of strength, speed and triathlon perfection (part 1)

Posted Aug 21 2010 7:00am
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Any endurance athlete, and especially an Ironman triathlete, should have one very specific physical objective during a triathlon: to maximize wattage (power) and speed (velocity) while simultaneously minimizing muscular fatigue and depletion of energy stores. This is the science of triathlon. Let¹s call this lofty objective in the science of triathlon the "Triathlete's Holy Grail" or THG.

All particulars aside, the athlete who achieves THG the most efficiently will be the first to cross the finish line. The athlete who only achieves the first part of this goal, maximizing wattage and speed, will accomplish a big ol' DNF (did not finish), while the athlete who only achieves the second part of this goal, minimizing fatigue and energy store depletion, will accomplish a FLFL (cross the finish line with a flashlight).

Applying a combination of the science of triathlon - basic biomechanics and exercise physiology - to the three legs of the triathlon (swim/bike/run), an athlete can accomplish the holy grail with optimum efficiency.

So in this article, I'll explain how to use the basic biomechanical relationship between mechanical levers and torque to positively affect three keys to efficiency in the three specific components of swimming, biking and running. Next week, I'll teach you more science of triathlon, and how to use the basic physiological relationship between the body's energy systems and muscle fibers to prepare for peak performance.

First, let's briefly discuss the relationship between a mechanical lever and torque.

The human body is a perfect example of a series of levers (bones) that are attached to different points of rotation (elbow, knee, hip, back, etc.). For example, imagine that you are holding your running shoe in your hand, with your arm outstretched completely away from your body and completely straight at the elbow. In this case, the shoulder is the center of rotation, the lever is the length of the arm between the shoulder and the hand, and the force is the weight of the shoe.

We can say that the weight, or the force, of the shoe that you are holding away from your body is producing a torque at the shoulder. The torque in the shoulder is found by multiplying the length of the lever (the arm) and the force (the shoe¹s weight). Therefore, we can decrease torque in the shoulder by either decreasing the weight of the shoe or decreasing the distance of the lever arm (amputation is never an option in physics problems). For example, if you shoe weights 1lb and your arm is 3ft long, the shoe is producing a torque at the shoulder of 3 foot lb's. But if you bend your arm, so that it is 2ft long, the shoe only produces 2 foot lb's of torque. Or if you lighten your shoe to 1/2 lb but keep the arm at 3 feet, the shoe produced 1.5 foot lb's of torque.

End of part one.

Please come back tomorrow for part two

If you want to take the science of triathlon concepts and learn how to apply
them directly to your program to become a faster swimmer, cyclist and
runner, then check out the Rock Star Triathlete Academy at - where we teach beginner to
advanced triathletes every day via articles, audio, video, forum's and audio
Q&A's how to be a better athlete, using the science of triathlon.

Whoisben Ben Greenfield is the Renaissance man of the sport of triathlon.

He's a fast triathlete, a coach, a personal trainer, and much more more.

We recommend that you surf on over to , for more great training advice.

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