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.