Strength Training: Three Reasons to Hit the Gym
Endurance athletes already deal with a full training schedule in addition to their professional, personal, and home lives. When it comes to adding strength training sessions to the mix, many athletes feel their time is better spent with swim/bike/run than in the gym. Let’s look at why strength training is important and how to add it into your program as a benefit, rather than an inconvenience.
Benefits of building strength for endurance athletes:
- Minimizes chances for injury
- Improves resistance to fatigue
- Improves muscular endurance
While the benefits sound great, the key to reaping those benefits is in selecting the appropriate exercises for your sport, your current weaknesses, and any injuries you’ve suffered.
One of the most important aspects to consider when selecting the correct strength exercises is the concept of specificity – the exercise is specific to the work the muscles will perform in sport. For example, the leg extension machine will work the quadriceps muscle group, but only in isolation without any other contribution muscle groups. In cycling, however, the quadriceps muscle must work in conjunction with the glutes and hamstrings to extend the hip and knee, so a step-up exercise would be a more appropriate choice for a cyclist wishing to increase the strength of the quadriceps.
If the athlete has suffered from injuries in the past, it is recommended that the athlete undergo an assessment to determine where there may be a weakness in the muscular chain. Many runners endure IT band injuries for years without determining the cause. Often, there is a link between weak glutes and tight/irritated IT bands. A conditioning program that focuses on strengthening the gluteus medius can relieve IT band issues. A physical therapist, strength and conditioning specialist, or personal trainer can help with the design of an appropriate program.
Check out the Video Gallery to see demonstrations of three great strength training exercises for triathletes, and three exercises for swimmers.