Strength Training For Triathletes

It was rather serendipitous that just as I was about to remind everyone about the 4th Discipline Triathlon workshop in January that one of the triathletes I work with sent me a link to an interesting article in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance (2012 Dec; 7(4): 313-21.

I've been banging on for years about the importance of strength training for triathletes (and I'm not talking circuits or working in the big gears - I'm talking low reps - big loads). Researchers from Denmark have added another research article to the growing amount of evidence that supports the use of heavy resistance training to improve cycling performance.

Here's the abstract, I've highlighted the key message to take home.

The authors tested whether heavy strength training, including hip-flexion exercise, would reduce the extent of the phase in the crank revolution where negative or retarding crank torque occurs. Negative torque normally occurs in the upstroke phase when the leg is lifted by flexing the hip. Eighteen well-trained cyclists either performed 12 wk of heavy strength training in addition to their usual endurance training (E+S; n = 10) or merely continued their usual endurance training during the intervention period (E; n = 8). The strength training consisted of 4 lower body exercises (3 x 4-10 repetition maximum) performed twice a week. E+S enhanced cycling performance by 7%, which was more than in E (P = .02). Performance was determined as average power output in a 5-min all-out trial performed subsequent to 185 min of submaximal cycling. The performance enhancement, which has been reported previously, was here shown to be accompanied by improved pedaling efficacy during the all-out cycling. Thus, E+S shortened the phase where negative crank torque occurs by ~16°, corresponding to ~14%, which was more than in E (P = .002). In conclusion, adding heavy strength training to usual endurance training in well-trained cyclists improves pedaling efficacy during 5-min all-out cycling performed after 185 min of cycling.

So if you are out putting the big licks down during a race and it's pretty tight at the end, guess what, if the guy on your shoulder has been lifting heavy, you're going to get smoked!