As a personal trainer and triathlete, I train a variety of people; from those wanting to lose weight, those that want to tone and reshape their bodies, to athletes wanting to improve performance by improving their strength. The thing that I find most astounding is how relatively weak the athletes are, and they are often the "fittest" for their particular sport. For example, cyclists that can cycle for days but struggle with a 60 second plank or 15 push ups. I think there are a number of reasons why endurance athletes neglect the strength component:
I believe strength training is essential for athletes and especially for women. The key is to train in a way that is specific and adds to athletic performance. For example, doing a seated bicep curl doesn't really have much benefit for a mountain biker unless you want to stop at the top of a hill, get off, sit down and do 10 reps with your mountain bike...or maybe to lift the muffins at the water point! The strength training should as far as possible emulate the movements that are required in your specific sport. What are the specific benefits of a well constructed strength programme for mountain bikers?
1. Injury prevention: Strength training helps to address muscle imbalances and increase the strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments which in turn helps to prevent injuries. Strengthening the core is vital to protecting the spine which also prevents back injuries. 2. Improved performance: Doing the correct exercises that are specific to mountain biking will translate into an improved performance. For example, upper body strength and core strength are vital on technical sections and single track. Lower body strength is great for climbing and long or windy jeep track sections. All round strength is vital for stage races as the body recovers better. 3. Strength training can add an element of variety and fun to a training week and keep you motivated. 4. The correct exercises will improve balance and assist in technical riding also decreasing the chances of falling. 5. Time saving: A well designed programme will allow you to get maximum benefit from minimum time. You can get great value from a focused half hour session as apposed to an hour of doing a bit of everything.
So, how do you go about finding the right programme? 1. Seek the help of a professional that can give you the right advice and prescribe the best exercises for you and your specific sport. 2. At the end of the day, some strength training is better than none. You want to be doing exercises that work the legs (quads. hamstrings, glutes, calves), upper body and core. So, start somewhere. Strong is the new sexy!! Set aside half an hour twice a week and follow the routine below and you'll experience the benefits for yourself! Check out these 10 great strength exercises that can be done anywhere and work the whole body.