FYI: This is Chapter 2 of my ebook and paperback book, “Rulon Rules: Strength Training & the Triathlete.”
Speeding Your Step: To Get Faster
In the triathlon world, we know that we have to swim, bike, and run. Recently, there has been a lot of talk about strength training for triathletes. A recent article in the Journal of Applied Physiology, reported a study on the most effective strength training for endurance athletes. The study tracked two groups: one group that lifted heavy weight at fewer repetitions and another group that lifted lower weight, but at higher repetitions. The study showed improvement in both sets of athletes. The main takeaway of this study was that the body will see an improvement in lean body mass, fat body mass, and muscle fibers when you lift weights
Strength training not only helps the heart, but helps with overall body composition. So where does strength training help with sports performance? One way strength training helps with sports performance is by helping the athlete to perform at a faster pace.
Most triathletes want to improve speed. Not only does strength training increase leg strength, it will also improve the body’s effectiveness in using energy and oxygen, which is called Running Economy (RE).
Running Economy (RE) is based on how the athlete will utilize their steady state oxygen consumption (VO2) at any given running speed. In the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the use of concurrent strength and endurance training in the periodization of endurance training shows improvement with cyclists and triathletes, and it has also been shown to increase the RE in distance runners.
The goal for the triathlete is to improve RE, but as these studies show, RE is not just based on the athlete’s oxygen efficiency. By adding strength training for the athlete, not only will it help their RE, but will improve their coordination and neural drive. As runners and triathletes, we talk about how we don’t want to gain muscle mass, but the study of Piacentini, et al, shows that a well-structured maximal strength training program for a limited amount of time can increase the athlete’s RE without stimulating hypertrophy.
When triathletes incorporate strength training, they will become faster through improved leg strength which is much different than “body building” leg strength. Additionally, they will improve the body’s ability to use energy and oxygen. This in turn, allows the triathlete to run faster.