Periodized Strength Training Program

author : Michael Silva
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By Michael Silva,

If you are navigating this website, then I am confident that you are serious about becoming a better triathlete. Consequently, I am confident that you will do almost anything to shave some time off your swim, bike, and/or run. What's a scientifically proven way to improve your performance and make yourself a better triathlete?…STRENGTH TRAIN. That’s right, strengthening your body will give you many benefits to aid in enhancing your performance in any distance triathlon event.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to pack on extra pounds of muscle to gain benefit from strength training. Even if you do tend to put on muscle mass rather easy, with a properly designed program muscle gain can be minimal while strength gain can be dramatic.

Seeing as I am talking about this let me make one point clear because I know this is a touchy subject especially for those of you with an endurance running background. Even if you gain 1, 2, or 5 lbs by strength training, I guarantee that the benefits you gained from a properly designed program far surpass the fact that you are now a trace heavier.

Regardless, most of your improvements will be at the neuromuscular level. This means that your brain and skeletal muscles will produce movements that are a perfectly choreographed organization of strong and efficient muscle contractions. Don’t be overly concerned about the weight but instead get educated and start strength training.

The following are some of the benefits of strength training:

  • Build strength - a pretty obvious one, I know.
  • Improves strength endurance - feel stronger at the later stages of your event.
  • Minimize risk of injury - nothing hinders performance more than an injury.
  • Maintain proper form - good posture and technique throughout all 3 events.
  • Resist fatigue - work harder for longer, or work longer with less effort.
  • Improves efficiency - minimize your energy leaks.
  • Balance muscles - being strong in all planes for maximum gain.
  • Improves muscle recruitment and motor programming - use the muscles the way they are supposed to be used.
  • Improve performance - when it is all said and done…you perform better.

So are you intrigued yet? I hope so. Now that you know the reasons for strength training, you need to know how to do it. I used the term “properly designed program” earlier - this is where it can get confusing.

You need to design a program that magnifies the desirable benefits of strengthening while minimizing the undesirables. Example: maximize strength, endurance and speed while minimizing hypertrophy (muscle growth). If not done properly, a strength training program can hinder your performance by not only adding way too much extra body weight, but also by decreasing your mitochondrial density which may lead to loss of the oxygen carrying capacity of your muscles which leads to a lower lactate threshold. Therefore, you will hit the proverbial “wall” a lot sooner than you would like.

Depending on when your competitive season is or when your “big event” is, you need to alter your program so it augments your endurance and skill training, while getting you ready for competition. This is done through periodization. Periodization is a very complicated concept of altering your exercise and training to target certain benefits at a certain time of the year and to help you “peak” for big events.

Periodization can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. My theory and mantra to myself is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). The following periodization schedule is a general layout for a typical triathlete we may see here in New England. It assumes a 6-7 month off season and a 5-6 month competitive season (April – September). This is a general outline, look at it as a road map, meaning there is more than one way to get your destination, just make sure you are heading in the right direction.

In order to get an individual program just for you, you need to get evaluated by a professional first (ideally). Individual programs can take into account, your personal schedule, injury history, and goals. This following outline will give you some guidance in the meantime.

The schedule begins with Phase #0 which is immediately following your competitive season or big event. Each phase has a different set, repetition, and speed scheme to target various areas of training. In general all exercises are done with a resistance you can control and perform with impeccable form. If you can not maintain the form your set should end. “Squeezing out” that extra repetition with bad form can be detrimental… don’t risk it.

Phase #0REST
2-4 weeks

 


 

  • Rest and light activity


Phase #1

TECHNIQUE AND ADAPTATION


8-10 weeks

 


 

  • 15-20 reps / 2 sets / 2 sessions per week

  • Rest between sets < 30 seconds (circuit format)

  • Speed = moderate/fast


Phase #2

STRENGTH


4 weeks

 

  • 6-10 reps / 3-4 sets / 2 sessions per week

  • Rest between sets = 1-2 minutes

  • Speed = slow/moderate


Phase #3

POWER


4-6 weeks

 

  • 10-15 reps / 2-3 sets / 2 sessions per week

  • Rest between sets = 2-3 minutes

  • Speed = fast (controlled)


Phase #4

MUSCULAR ENDURANCE


6-8 weeks

 

  • 20-30 reps / 1-2 sets / 1-2 sessions per week

  • Rest between sets = 30-60 seconds

  • Speed = moderate/fast


Phase #5

MAINTAIN (competitive season)


12-24 weeks

 

  • 10-20 reps / 1 set / 1 session per week

  • Rest between set = < 30 seconds (circuit format)

  • Speed = moderate



Keeping in mind that you are still swimming, biking, and running on a weekly basis your program needs to fit into your schedule. You do not want to sacrifice endurance and skill training for strengthening. We have to prioritize here. Although I am a true believer in strength training, it cannot substitute for endurance and skill training. You want to fit it all in together.

Most of us have families, jobs, chores, social events...you know…a life. That means for most of us after we subtract our work, sleep, daily living needs and our swimming, biking, running, stretching we may have only 30-90 minutes left per week to strength train.

Don’t worry; you should not be spending hours in the gym. In fact you don’t need to go to the gym at all; you can strength train in your house with minimal equipment if needed.

Using the periodization schedule as a guide, you can use the following exercises to strengthen all the major muscles in your body. It is a very simple, efficient workout that will not take you much time to complete.

Crunch

 

Lat Pull-down

   

Chest press

  

  

Bicep curl 2 arm

   

Triceps push-down

  

Lunge

 

Cable Row

    

Military press 

 

Leg press

(We favor 'Squats' instead of 'Leg Presses' in our facility)

 


These following exercises target the muscles that are specifically used in all three events of a triathlon. They also have a more functional component then similar exercises for the same muscle groups that are listed above. They can be used as a substitute for the first group or add a more challenging component to your program.

Heel raises

 

   

Lunge

Lat Pull-down

  

Cable Row

      

Push-up

Triceps push-down

  

Front abdominal bridge

Squat


This information should give you an idea of how strength training can benefit all triathletes. It will also get you started on your own strengthening program. In an upcoming article I will discuss “functional training” ...What exactly is it and how can it help triathletes.


Michael Silva is the president of FOUNDATIONperformance, LLC, a sports medicine and fitness consultation company. Michael works a great deal with runners and triathletes from the RI and MA area. Michael is a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, and certified strength and conditioning specialist. You can contact him via his website www.foundationperformance.com or email at mike@foundationperformance.com .

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date: October 31, 2004

Author


Michael Silva

Michael Silva is the president of FOUNDATIONperformance, LLC, a sports medicine and fitness consultation company. Michael works a great deal with runners and triathletes from the RI and MA area. Michael is a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, and certified strength and conditioning specialist.

Author

avatarMichael Silva

Michael Silva is the president of FOUNDATIONperformance, LLC, a sports medicine and fitness consultation company. Michael works a great deal with runners and triathletes from the RI and MA area. Michael is a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, and certified strength and conditioning specialist.

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