Core training is one of the most important aspects of a triathlete’s strength-based workouts, as a weak core is detrimental to athletic performance. The “core” refers to the muscle groups in the body’s mid-section, which are used to produce and transfer force, stabilize the spine, and assist in almost all major movements. A huge benefit of core strength training is that it takes up very little time while producing significant effects.
There are thousands of different core strength training exercises; the important thing for triathletes is to find those which best enhance performance in biking, running and swimming. Typical core strength training programs for triathletes consist of planks, side planks and supermans. While each of these exercises is beneficial, they are not sufficient for a comprehensive core workout.
The Unstoppable Triathlete recommends the following five exercises be incorporated into any triathlete core strength training plan.
1. Standing Wood Chop
Also known as the high to low wood chop, the standing wood chop trains the serape effect, important for swimming in a triathlon event. There are two options for this exercise: a split stance position that will work the hips, or a stagger stance exercise to directly target the core.
To do a wood chop, use a weight or medicine ball held a distance from the body, and then pull downward across the body in a diagonal direction in a sharp, chopping movement. The farther away the arms are from the body, the more challenging the exercise becomes, and the harder the core must work.
2. Overhead Posterior Reach
The overhead posterior reach trains the abdominal muscles in the same way as running. Unlike many other core training exercises that flex the spine, this movement causes the abs and hip flexors to develop strength in a lengthened position and to slow down the spinal extension. The movement also improves the coordination of other muscles involved in the exercise.
The posterior reach is best performed using a standard triceps rope over a high pulley. The triathlete stands in a wide split stance with the arms in line with the ears at all times. Moving from the hip, the triathlete comes forward by putting the spine into a flexed position like a crunch.
Standing on one leg to decrease the base of support can make this exercise even more challenging.
3. 10-2 Rotation
The 10-2 rotation is used to stabilize the spine and strengthen the abductors, adductors, glutes, shoulders, ankles, knees and hips. It is performed by attaching a band to a pole at stomach height. The triathlete grasps the handles in both hands and steps away from the pole until the band is taught. It’s important to have a wide base, bent knees and tight core.
The hands are held at a distance from the body: the farther away the hands, the more difficult the move. The triathlete rotates to one side and back in quick, explosive moves, ensuring that the hands never come back beyond the midline of the body.
4. Renegade Rows
Renegade rows work on building a better shoulder-hip relationship, shoulder stability and hip strength and stability. The exercise involves alternating rows while in the plank position with dumbbells of any weight. The move can be made even harder by adding pushups between moves.
5. Prone Walk-Outs
Prone walk-outs are ideal for training the core for better swimming technique by working on core stability and strength. The triathlete begins in a plank position and then walks the hands slowly forward while the legs stay stationary. The hands are then walked back into the starting position.
By incorporating these five workouts into a comprehensive strength training plan, triathletes can build up their force transfer and production capabilities, improving endurance performance.