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 .

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Top Ten Triathlon Books for Athletes

I am often asked by athlete and coaches for recommendations of good Reading material. I have compiled a list of favorite swim, bike , run and triathlon related books. They are in no particular order.

By clicking on the link, you can easily order the book (s) or your choice.

In the coming weeks, I will begin doing book reviews on each of the titles below.

Happy summer reading!

1. Swimming Coaching Bible II

2.Serious Training For Endurance Athletes

3. Better Training For Distance Runners

4. Daniel"s Running Formula

5. Scientific Training For Triathletes

6. Call The Suit

7. Going Long

8. Lactate Liftoff

9. Training and Racing with a Power meter

10. Training Tips For Cyclists and Triathletes

Friday, May 4, 2012

Inseason 3x3

It is now spring, and athletes are getting out of the roads to increase their mileage as the days get longer and the weather warmer. This often leads to athletes either skipping or minimizing their strength plan. Unfortunately all the hard work that was done during the winter will be lost in the next two months unless a maintenance plan is put in place.

Maintaining strength gains can be accomplished by utilizing two short high-intensity strength sessions per week. What I have outlined here is a triathlon specific program which involves three simple strength exercises. Complete 3 sets of each exercise in rotating fashion( cable push both, expired to lift, in ab wheel roller) will allow you to get the biggest bang for your training minutes.

Each exercise was elected for its overall benefit, and its ability to help create muscle balance, stabilization strength and improve movement economy in all 3 disciplines.

1. Cable push / pull- this exercise can be done on any dual cable machine, or could possibly be done using stretch bands or tubing. While standing with feet shoulder width apart one arm is doing a cable row while the other is doing a press. Using cables in this way requires a high degree of shoulder and core stabilization . This is a full body exercise.

2. Hex bar deadlifts in my opinion are single best exercise for cyclists and runners. By using the hex bar the center of gravity is moved further underneath the hips thereby decreasing the stress on the back and knees. In addition to developing strength and power in the hamstrings, glutes and quads, the back muscles are stabilizing the hips much like they do in cycling, creating a strong powerful cycling base.

3. Ab wheel rollout-anterior core strength is critical in swimming and running to maintain proper posture and movement economy. If an ab wheel is not available, this exercise can also be adapted using a stability ball TRX or mini slide toward.

It is highly recommended that before you attempt any the exercises that you consult with a qualified trainer or strength coach to ensure that you are doing them correctly.

You should do 5-10 min. of foam roll and dynamic warm-up drills before you begin the exercises

Perform three sets of each exercise keeping the reps any 6-8 range. Take about 30-40 seconds rest between each set to keep the quality high.

From start to finish this should take no more than 15 to 20 min.
Stay Powerful!

For individualized strength plans, defined your specific needs, contact Tim@ or visit

Monday, April 9, 2012

Coaching post- Enter the Dragon

Coaching Post
Enter the Dragon

I came up with the title of this blog post because the phrase "enter the Dragon" has double meaning when it comes to this blog post. First and foremost the Dragon in part one refers to the Dragon naturally speaking software from which I will now use when I write my blogs and articles. This is great tool because anyone who knows me knows that my typing is less than great. With voice recognition software I can think the way I talk and, therefore hopefully not make as many typos.
Having never taken a typing course before, I can finally type as fast as I speak. Back in high school if I knew then what I know now, I probably would've taken a typing course but instead I took art courses. The good news about art and science is that it's perfect when it comes to coaching so hopefully this will allow me to write more frequently.
The second part of the Dragon refers to a book I recently just finished called The Warrior Within the philosophies of Bruce Lee. I recently saw a TV show which is a documentary on the life of Bruce Lee. I realized that make for a very good coaching resource book. Upon reading I came across a pretty good pieces of information which I thought be very useful to share one of them refers to the essence of Jeet kun do which is Bruce Lee's martial arts.
Here are some of the principles and how they refer to coaching
1. Researcher ones experience- what do you bring to your coaching or sport based on your own background, knowledge and experience.
2. To absorb what is useful- you do not need to take everything hook line and sinker.
3. Reject what is useless- throw the rest away
4. Add what is specifically your own- put your own interpretation/ stamp on things
These four principles will work well for most coaches. Too often we take what we learn about coaching based upon other people without questioning or looking deeper. It is important that we filter through all the stuff that we read and learn to create our own philosophies and methodologies.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Swimming with Ankle Bands

If you are not sure what ankle band swimming is, then I can assure you you have not done a set of freestyle with the nast little band around you ankles.

What makes this drill so effective, is the fact that the athlete must exhibit proper body position, a high stroke rate and effective propulsion all at the same time. This is exactly what needs to happen if you plan to swim fast in a triathlon.

Many athletes work on these three aspects of freestyle swimming independently, and then expect them to all come together when it counts.

So what is an ankle band? you can but premade rubber bands or ankle cuffs that velcro from many popular swim vendor. An inexpensive verion can be made from an 18 inch length of old bike tube tied in a knot. The band is placed around the ankle so that it is snug and prevents you from kicking.

Begin with 4-6x 25 with the ankle band with 20-30 sec rest interval. You will quickly learn if if some aspect is lacking.
1. Over glide and you will lose momentun and sink.
2. swim with a low stroke rate and you will sink.
3. Maintain poor body position, and you will sink.
4. Do not obtain a good hold on the water or VF ( vertical forearm)and you will sink.

The great thing about ankle band swimming, is that if you are able to make it across the pool, you are doing something right. Its self correcting execise/ drill.

Think if it as the swim equivolent of hill running.

Another critical benefit of ABS ( ankle band swimming)is fatigue resistance. This is the ability to maintain body position, stroke rate and pulling power as fatigue sets in.

Here is a sample set progression
1. Begin with 4-6x 25 y/m with a 1:1 work to rest ratio twice a week
2. Add 2 reps per week.
3. I like to build to 10x 50 on 1 min send off or 5x 100 on 2 min. send off.

It is important to work at ABS. At first, you will not like it, but with persistance, it can really make you a better more powerful swimmer.

If you are like my athletes, you may have some choice words following your first set of ABS. but it will work!

Coach Tim