Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strength Training: Compound Lifts for the Busy Triathlete

With limited time for strength workouts during race season, compound movements such as squats and deadlifts are a cornerstone of my re-tooled strength training program.  Kurt's suggested approach, which makes sense, is that I can hit a lot of muscle groups at once making these types of exercises efficient and effective.

I've just started adding squats back into my routine. Squats primarily hit quads, hams, glutes, back, and abs but lower legs, shoulders, and arms also factor in.  I am rusty and have some chronic bad habits to address. I've always had a tendency to fold a bit at the bottom of my squat, I think in part because of my individual biomechanics, but certainly there are things I can do with bar placement and stance to help.

I wanted to see how I was doing on form so I shot some video. (I also need to shoot from the back to look for L-R imbalances.) I was curious if I was hitting anywhere near a competition-legal depth, in which the "top surface of the leg at the hip joint must descend until it is below the top of the knees" (USA Powerlifting) Even though I'm not competing in powerlifting at the moment, I still want a legit squat, and won't settle for sloppy form on any exercise in the gym. (Neither will Kurt, so it's really not an option!) Video confirms that the upper body "fold" is there at the bottom and I'm stopping just short of parallel. Things to work on!

Deadlifts also hit a lot of the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. Trap bar deadlifts are one variation that I find significantly tougher than my favorite sumo-style ones (see Birthday Deadlifts) and I feel it in my quads more. Video shows that my butt pops up just at the start so I need to work to keep my back tighter and hips lower as I start the lift, driving with the legs, not pulling with the back.

My warmup for all this fun was 3 sets x 20 reps of 35 lb kettlebell swings and 12 lb medicine ball wall toss squats. I followed the squats and DLs with hill lunges (35 steps up, 40 lb bar x 3 sets), leg press, single-leg stiff legged deadlifts with dumbells, calves, and core work.

And today I rest. No workouts whatsoever!! Then some short tune-up workouts Thursday and Friday and RACE DAY on Sunday!

If you are looking for a good fire-ya-up read, check out one of Kurt's monthly articles from Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Magazine.  This one is about passion, dedication, and commitment to a sport that is truly a lifestyle. Endurance athletes can learn a lot from bodybuilders. I'm very fortunate to work with a world-class natural bodybuilder who serves as a continuous reminder of the rewards of hard work and smart training as well as the importance of sound nutrition, rest, balance, and humbleness.