Monday, July 11, 2022

Functional Isometrics for Triatletes

Build Triathlon Specific Strength with Functional Isometrics
Functional Isometrics can be a great way to add some variety to your strength training plan while increasing strength and power within the swim/ bike/ motor patterns. Isometric is defined as the muscle attachment closest and furthest away from the center of gravity maintains a constant length while forces being applied. Functional Isometrics (FI) are used by strength and conditioning coaches in all major sports. By integrating Tri -specific Functional isometrics, triathletes and can achieve higher levels of strength and power exactly where they need it.

There are key positions within the swim/bike/ run patterns that require increases strength or leverage. By incorporating FI into your strength plan, you will develop high levels of isometric strength which will lead to an increase in power and speed.

There are three points during the swim stroke in which isometric would be effective. They are :
1.      High elbow catch position at the beginning of the pull phase

2.      Mid pull phase when hand is at hip level
3.      Extension at back end of stroke.
These isometric exercisers can be done using either a vasa trainer or TRX/ suspension system so that there is no movement when force is applied. Apply 85% effort for 3 to 5 seconds per repetition in each of the three positions. Completing 3 reps per set with a 5 second rest between each repetition. Each set will take 24-50 seconds to complete.
 In cycling the point of highest power application is between the 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock point in the pedal stroke. There are two ways FI can be done in this high power zone.
1.      Rack Pulls-The First method uses a barbell pulled up against the pins in a power rack at knee and hip angles identical to the powerful position on the bike. Again, hold for 3 to 5 seconds per repetition.
2.      Squat or Deadlift with Iso Hold- The second method is to do an isometric hold for 3 seconds at the same joint angle as the rack pull when executing a squat or deadlift. Athletes can use a barbell or hex bar. Hex bars are preferred since it places less stress on the back and knees. Use a controlled eccentric (lowering phase), isometric hold for 3 seconds, then lift weight with a fast acceleration.
In running, there is a point in the stance phase that requires high levels of isometric strength at the point of contact with the ground just before take-off. As with cycling there are two ways this can be accomplished.
1.      Single leg Toes taps- Using a barbell in the back-squat position and standing on one leg in a running posture (knees and hips slightly flexed as if initiating the push off phase of the run stride.) This position is maintained while the athlete does lateral toe touches 4 – 10 repetitions before switching legs.
2.      Rack Single leg Iso Holds- Hold the barbell in the back-squat position and just like the rack pull exercise above. Pushing up against the pins from a single leg running posture. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds per repetition per leg for 3-5 reps per set.
There are several ways you can integrate Functional Isometrics into your strength training plans. Include FI several times through the training year to increase triathlon specific power. Below is one example of how FI can fit into any strength plan.
Tri set A (alternate between the 3 exercises below until all 3 sets are completed)
hex bar deadlift      3 sets of 5 (3 sec isometric holds just off floor on each rep)
Dumbbell chest press 3 sets of 6
Swim isometric (3 positions) 3sets of 3 sec each at 85% effort
Tri set B
Pull up    3 sets of 6
Slide board leg curl  3 sets of 6
Single leg toe taps    3 sets of 5 taps each leg

Tim Crowley is USAT Level III Coach, owner of TC2 Coaching LLC and the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Montverde Academy. If you have questions Tim can be contacted at or Tim’s Training Peaks Coaching Profile can be found at

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Hot Tubs, Slushies and Heat Acclimation

 My history with training and competing in the heat had not been a good one. I love to train and race in the heat but I had problems with heat exhaustion and cramping once the temperature got over 80°. In 1989 my 2nd Ironman I ended up requiring 11 L of IV and overnight trip to the emergency room before attending the awards ceremony the next morning. The following year I qualified for the wine Ironman and suffered heat exhaustion and went unconscious at mile 18 of the run .The problem living in a northern climate is that it is never hot long enough to fully acclimate.

In 2012 when we relocated to the hot and humid environment of Central Florida I wondered if my triathlon career might be coming to a close. I either had to figure this out or suffer and struggle for 8 months of the year. After many hours of research and implementing different strategies, I started to figure it out and came up with a few ideas. This venture into heat acclimation even got me a chance to write about it in the upcoming MMA book to be released in August. 

This summer I decided it was time to take it to another level. After researching ways to keep the core temperature in check, I came across the use of slushies that can both keep core temperature down, provide fluid and electrolytes by using Gatorade and electrolyte salts and with the crushed ice feature on the fridge. I started using this during run workouts with good success but needed to figure out how to keep the insulated bottle cold enough to make it to the run  of a triathlon. I figured out that you can make a slushy solution in an insulated bottle, put it in an insulated lunch bag with ice packs and it would last about 2 hours which would allow me to get to the run of the Sprint triathlon. I could leave the bag in transition and after jumping off the bike grab my bottle and off I would go.

The 2nd part of my heat experiment this year was to installing a hot tub (honestly, I did this for science).  I researched hot water immersion and sauna protocols for heat acclamation. I began using the hot tub each night and using it immediately after hard runs were my core temperature was elevated 3 times a week. This wasn't exactly pleasant but I'm pleased to announce that it seems to be working. After using these techniques for the last few months I have found my training and racing in the hot humid heat of Cleremont to be improving. 

Yesterday I put it to the test and in very hot and humid conditions had a good race with no overheating issues on the run. Upon finishing the race I still had some slush left in my bottle. The next step is to get this to work for Olympic distance race. Stay tuned.

Also more to come on the use of the hot tub not only for heat acclamation but for recovery and improved sleep.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Unique Ways to Heat Acclimate

As the weather heats up, its important to acclimate to heat form optimal performance in both training and racing. Here are a few ways you can optimize heat acclimation into your busy life. When the weather is sporadically hot, its hard to get enough constant exposure to heat to fully acclimate.

1. Do easy training sessions at the hottest times of the day. Keep the intensity and volume low.

2. Do trainer sessions on a hot garage to maximize heat stress. Use a fan to keep the air moving.

3. Mow the lawn or do yard work in the afternoon when its hot and humid.

4. Adopt a road way, and plan to clean it on hot humid days in the Florida sun :)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Process outcome and the Masters Athlete-

This is a topic I have been wrestling with for the past 10 years. How can we stay motivated and enjoying a sport we put so much of ourselves into when we know we may not see another PR, or win another race?

If you are new to the sport, ot have been racing for several decades, there will come a time when you will no longer go as fast as you once did. We know we can keep this decline minimal for quite a while, but how we handle it can make all the difference in out outlook toward the sport and lifestyle we love.

Training and racing triathlon is not a zero sum game. The irony is that the sport attracted driven type A personalities, but to be successful, one needs to take a long term view, and as Joshua Medcalf says in his book  Chop Wood/ Carry Water, you need fall in love with the process. As we age as athletes, we can begin to appreciate good health and the ability to push ourselves. Over time there will be a decline in performance, which we cannot control. What we can control is the rate.

I have come to enjoy racing and training more then ever before. I no longer take health and the ability to train for granted.

what i have learned is that when I focus on the process and enjoy it for its own merits, the outcome are almost always favorable. The medals and trophies will collect dust, but the lessones learned out on the road last forever.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

150 Pull sets

TC2 coached athletes will see this workout throughout the year. This is a great aerobic set with many additional benefits. start with 6 reps and build to 12, taking a 15-20 sec rest interval. The 150 is broken into 50 cruise./ 50 tempo/ 50 fast. By swimming a varied pace, you don't get stuck swimming at a constant speed.
cruise- this 50 is nice and easy with a focus on a good streamline position and smooth relaxed catch. By slowing things down a bit, it allows for good efficient swim mechanics.s s
Temp o- now keeping things smooth, pick up the tempo to race effort. this should be 80-85 % effort.
Fast- this is not a sprint, but focus on increasing power and finishing off the beck end of the stroke.
This swim set makes you negative split, and after each rep, you are forced to go back and swim smooth and relaxed at the start of the next rep. The average pace is steady endurance, but there is the added benefit of working on body position, tempo and power.
There are variations of this set;
A. 12-21 x100 alternating cruise/ tempo/ fast with 10-15 sec rest.
B. 4-6x 300 with 20-30 sec rest as 100 cruise/ 100 tempo/ 100 fast
c-. 5-8x 200 as 50 cruise/ 100 tempo/ 50 fast rest interval 20 sec
i like doing this as a pull set. but it can be done swimming or with paddles added.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

bike rollers

IF live in a warm climate or cold climate, using rollers  has many benefits.
I try to fit rollers in at least once a week throughout the year. I find it helps smooth out my pedal stroke and improves my efficiency on the bike.

Before moving to Florida, I would spend a lot of time during the winter using rollers and a stationary trainer. After relocating to warmer climate, a began using them, not because I needed to be inside, I chose to be inside. With thunderstorms often in the summer afternoon forecast, rollers became a great option when getting on the road was possible.

Here are some useful ways to get the most out of your rollers.

  • Recovery rides- using rollers for recovery rides allows you to control the intensity, and work on a smooth efficient pedal stroke. It's easy to pedal with the light resistance and high rpm's on rollers. Too often when athletes try to ride outside for the recovery rides intensity gets too high,  hills or headwind. Using a stationary trainer for recovery rides is often boring and doesn't allow you to work on efficiency or balance at the rollers do.
  • Develop handling skills- in the beginning just staying upright on the rollers is often a challenge for many athletes. Once you get used to them, you'll notice a smooth and efficient pedal stroke. You can then work on developing advanced skill such as riding no hands, or one leg and pedal drills.
  • Making the most of daylight hours- when you're rides are often asked shortened due to less daylight in the early morning hours or early sunset in the evening. You can extend your workout  by coming inside tossing the bike in the rollers and doing you warm-up or cool down.since there is no set up time, it makes for an easy transition.
There many different types of rollers, I prefer emotion rollers due to the fact that they have resistance levels and guide wheels that help you not ride  off cylinders.since many cyclists and triathletes. Now he's power meters. You'll have all your data on board on any type of rollers.

As we head into the darker in colder months. Consider adding rollers to your indoor training arsenal this winter.

Tim Crowley is the owner of TC two coaching, is also the head strength and conditioning coach at Montverde Academy. For more information, visit www.Tim

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Strength training for endurance athletes

It's that time year when the the racing season is complete, daylight starts to shrink, and training volume is at its lowest of the year. Is also a time year when the great debate about strength training for endurance athletes begins anew. As a proponent of strength and conditioning for endurance athletes, I have lectured and written numerous times on the subject, and the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of this concept. Yet many coaches still advocate that strength training has little or no value for endurance athletes.

I can only assume this is either due to lack of information, or lazy coaching .You see to create a well-designed 6 week plan for an athlete, takes the same amount of time as it does to create a 6 week training plan and I can only guess that coaches and athletes do not want to create the extra work required to increase performance.

There are many reasons why athletes need to create a year-round strength training plan that will help reduce injuries and increase performance.It is often cited that this takes too much time during the training week and takes away from swim, bike, and run training .  But a well-designed program should only take about 40 minutes to complete and be done twice a week . this type of plan should include movement skills, core training, mobility work , as well as strength and power-based exercises.

 There are many reasons other than increasing strength and power in the prime movers that one should perform regular strength training workouts .

1. Create muscle balance- swimming cycling and running are all cyclical activities which use specific muscles  that are often over worked and shortened.  A properly designed strength training plan will help create muscle balance,  improve posture, and decrease the incidence and severity of over use injuries .

2. Improve athleticism- through basic athletic lifts such as squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, you become a better athlete. the added benefit here is when these are done with barbells, dumbbells, or kettle bells you also improve the stabilizers of the core hips and shoulders which are critical in preventing injuries .

3. Improve movement economy- this has been proven in the laboratory and research time and again in all endurance sports that an increase in strength and stability can improve movement economy from about 5 to 8% . this is free speed with no additional training required.

4.  Masters- after the age of 35 endurance athletes lose muscle mass at the same rate as sedentary people even know they are training aerobically. this is a proven fact in this alone is enough reason for athletes to strength training around. the loss of muscle mass and Masters athletes correlates very closely to decrease in speed often seen. one of the best ways to maintain speed as we get older is to a quality well-designed strength training plan.

 These are just a few the reasons to incorporate  a quality well designed strength plan into your off-season as well as in season training plan.

Below are a few links to some additional articles on strength and conditioning for endurance athletes .