Since starting in the sport of triathlon, I have used the winter months as a time to really focus on developing my core strength and I can guarantee you that I have noticed the results.
Core strength, relates to the strength in the muscles that attach to your pelvic girdle and lower spine, including the abdominals and lower back muscles. To really appreciate the importance of core strength, remember that your "core" is what ties your trunk together with your legs.The following explanation probably best explains how it ties together for triathlon:
As you bike and run you're transferring energy and power from one leg to the other and one side of your body to the other. The only possible path for that energy and power to travel is through your core. If that area is weak, the "transfer" of power will be much less efficient and less effective. Likewise, in swimming, maintaining excellent "posture" (i.e. a nice long rigid streamlined body) during your stroke cycle is extremely important for overall efficiency.
Apart from controlling unnecessary movement and improved efficiency, one of the biggest advantages of core strength training is the reduction of the risk of injury. I have previously worked with physios doing Pilates on machines, and over the last two seasons I have worked specifically with a strength and conditioning coach from The Body Coach and I’ve really noticed the benefits.
From my own personal experience, below are some target areas that I focus on for each of the three disciplines:Core training for Swimmers
- A lot of triathletes are dominant in their upper traps, and it’s important to have balance and stability, particularly for the catch and pull phase of your swim stroke.
- Focus for me is on the scapular muscles.Core training for Cyclists
- Focus should be on Abdominals, lateral trunk and back muscles.
- When cycling it’s important to keep your pelvis still on the saddle to allow efficient, economical power transfer through your legs for pedalling.
- Core strength also helps with the endurance needed to maintain your lumbar spine in neutral over long rides, which is particularly important for 70.3 and Ironman racing.Core training for Runners
- Focus should primarily be on your Gluteals (particularly lateral muscles) to help maintain a horizontal pelvis, and minimise rotation of the lower limbs.
- You should also work on your abdominals to avoid excess lumbar movement which assists with the endurance required for bike/run bricks and racing.
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The great thing about core work is that you can do it all year round and can do a session in the comfort of your own home, with affordable equipment such as fitness balls, medicine balls, resistance bands and light hand weights. You don’t need to do weights and for a triathlete with time constraints, the best resistance training is sport specific training.
In the off season, for some training variation however, it can be a great time to visit the gym. To keep training fun why not get together and train with a group like I am doing this winter.
Remember, if you are going to do weights, then use free weights where possible as these help with balance as well as with improving strength. You should always start a weights program by having someone qualified show you the correct method to perform the exercises that you wish to do.
Stay safe and happy training!
Cheers, NicNicole Ward, Professional Triathlete, Bachelor of Sports Science & Level 1 Triathlon Coach
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