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By Coach Yan Busset
Core Training Isn't Key in Triathlon? Here's What You Should Be Doing
Like the saying goes, "You can't fire a cannon from a canoe," having a strong core is key to performance in swimming, biking, and running. In swimming, poor core strength won't allow you to maintain a crucial inline "arrow" position, resulting in poor hydrodynamics and inefficient transfer of your stroke's power into speed. On the run, a lack of core strength will lead to poor running form. A common side effect in all three disciplines is that a lot of power will be lost within the system and won't generate speed. Not to mention, there's a higher risk of injuries that come with poor form/technique.
So, how do you build core strength to perform your best? As an age-group triathlete, it's hard to find the time to fit in all the training sessions. Once you do all the swim, bike, run, and your strength training, you may not have time to fit in dedicated core sessions. Fear not, there are ways to build a strong core even on a time-crunched schedule. You might even learn that you're already working on your core without being aware of it. Here are some helpful tips:
Good swimmers have great core strength. The simple act of maintaining a tight and streamlined hydrodynamic "arrow position" is a superb core training by itself. Kicking, side kicking, and practicing different swim styles other than freestyle will build bulletproof core strength. Try this simple drill: kick the full pool length with no kickboard, hands on top of each other, arms in front of you in streamline. You'll feel your core activated in no time! To breathe, just do a quick breaststroke move and return quickly to streamline. You can also do it on the side with one arm in front and one arm at the side of your body, "à la Superman". The great advantage of using swimming to work on your core is that instead of a purely dedicated core session, you also develop your swim skills, so if you consider adding a dedicated core session why not going for an extra swim instead?
Combine Weight Training and Core:
Weight training is a must for triathletes. The longer the distance you aim at, the more emphasis you should put on weight training. For instance, in a full Ironman, one of the main limiters at the end of the race is not endurance but a lack of strength, which can cause your running form to collapse. For middle-aged and older triathletes, weight training is not just a performance enhancer but also vital for overall health. It slows muscle decline and naturally boosts growth hormones and testosterone, providing a real "youth bath". Combine weight training with core strength exercises for efficiency: for that, limit the use of machines and prefer free weights/barbells, it will allow you also to work your own range of motion and not one limited by these machines. compound movements like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, when done correctly, work all stabilizing core muscles and offer a functional benefit. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups also double as plank exercises, strengthening your upper body and core.
Alternative Ways to Improve Core Strength:
On the bike, try intervals with a high gear compared to your pace, forcing a low frequency. Keep your upper body still as a greek statue, while on the aerobars; you'll immediately feel the burn in your stabilizing and core muscles. While running, perform hill reps with the side goal of maintaining a high and tall running form. Always keep in mind to run tall and proud, not leaning forward from the chest, keeping your head up, and looking ahead rather than down. Developing a strong core is one thing, but it's equally important to not sabotage your efforts by sitting for too long during the day. As discussed in the last post, extensive sitting can weaken core stabilizers and tighten hip flexors (Check "These 3 Things Are Keeping You Away from Running Faster" ).
As you can see, you might already be doing some core strength training without realizing it. If you have time for a dedicated core session without compromising your swim, bike, or run training, then go for it. Otherwise, use the multiple tips and tricks listed above to build bulletproof core strength.
Looking for More Tips?
Check out some of my past articles that are in connection with this article:
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