If you've read any triathlon magazines lately, or visited triathlon websites like http://www.rockstartriathlete.com , you're most likely familiar with triathlete core training and the concepts behind triathlete core training, which basically involves functional multi-sport training for the abdominal, low back, and pelvic muscles.
Since many functional movements, such as running, lifting, or twisting, originate in the torso, it is important to maintain strength and balance in this part of the body. Today we'll examine the best triathlete core training methods for an athlete to work the core, not only in terms of the best exercises, but also in terms of how often, how many sets and reps, length of rest periods, etc.
First of all, understand the importance of the torso complex in multi-sport training. Proper "downhill" swimming involves constantly pressing the chest or shoulders down towards the bottom of the pool, relying on a light, albeit constant, downward contraction in the ab muscles and a resistive contraction to upward movement in the low back muscles. Both the flutter kick and stroke actions in the legs and arms also rely on light, repetitive contractions in the oblique and pelvic floor muscles. In the bicycle portion, the low back must maintain a consistent extension force against the weight of the upper body and the shoulders, unless you are in the aero position during the entire ride, which is unlikely. Proper running cadence, with a slight forward lean and a proud posture, again involves repetitive, light contractions in the ab musculature.
Based on these stresses placed on the torso, it is unlikely that heavy sets of 8-10 reps for the abs and low back will result in much cross-over benefit to the torso. So the primary focus should be on balance, light weight, and higher rep sets lasting from 1-2 minutes or longer. Let's go over a sample routine that would be perfect for triathlete core training. Just go to http://www.pacificfit.net/exercises.php to see a description and photo/video example.
Bicycle crunches: 25 per side - focus on smooth contractions and full extension in legs with each kick
Superman:20 - focus on a brief hold when arms and legs are raised off floor...butt cheeks should be squeezed together
For a great 30 minute triathlete core routine, complete all these exercises as a circuit, moving from one exercise to the next with as little rest as possible. Perform the circuit 3x. A workout such as this should only be performed 3 times per week at the most, and for many active multi-sport athletes, once per week should be sufficient to induce both endurance, strength, and balance gains in the core musculature that will make you a better triathlete.
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