In 1999 I went home to Fayetteville for the summer to work and make some money while I was off from university. While I was there, I got a membership at the new local World Gym location in town. Our schedule was 3 days on, 1 day off, and usually we were doing something active on that one day off. During that summer, I had lost some of the weight I had gained from the "Freshman 15" (for me the freshman 45-50, I was skinny in high school). I also had great muscle definition and I was somewhere around 9-10 percent body fat. Needless to say that I felt much more powerful and faster in the sports I was playing at that time. I actually got my bench press up to 245lbs, and weight that months before was way out of my reach.
Fast forward to today, my second official season as a triathlete. Yeah, weight training has not exactly been a part of my life. I am fighting with my weight (not that I am unhappy with it, I just know it could be lower and I would feel better and be faster), and my body fat is hovering closer to 15-17%. I have seem to hit some plateaus in my training/races, especially on the bike. I have also lost some of the muscle definition that I had in my upper body (my lower body is looking good due to all the running and riding that I am completing).
There are many benefits to weight training in your general life, as well as your triathlon training. If you are a triathlete like myself now, you need not borrow my 1999 training schedule, unless you are a semi-pro/pro and you have the extra hour or two a day to workout on top of your other training.
Some suggestions for those of you who want to implement this in your training and/or have not brought the intensity and frequency of weight training to your workouts that you would like.
1. 3-4 days a week (I would suggest 3) consisting of chest and back, then legs and shoulders next, and then finally bi's and tri's. If you are to bring a 4th day into the mix I would probably suggest legs and shoulders again, since you use them the most during your race. Completing it in this order will give you different muscle groups time to heal before they are worked out again. Some muscle groups are not only their own primary muscle group, but some are secondary to other groups you will workout (i.e. biceps support back workout, triceps support chest workout).
2. Calves and abs can be done at every workout. They tend to repair themselves the fastest after a workout, so you can afford to do them every workout if you wish.
3. There are two different schools of thought when you are doing race specific training. One is lighter weights with more reps for endurance, and then heavy weights with less reps for strength. I tend to try and find a happy medium, but I personally stray to the side of a bit heavier and a few less reps. My line of thinking is that I have the endurance to do the distance, I just want to get stronger and faster. (i.e. trying to ride bigger gears.)
4. Make sure that you implement your workout to "compliment" your triathlon training. I see people in sport specific training ruin themselves on their event day or hard training days by putting a workout too close to that day. Example, do not put legs on Friday before your 100mile group ride Saturday morning. I would suggest; Sunday chest and back, Tuesday legs and shoulders, and Thursday bi's and tri's. You could even get away with Mon, Wed, Fri if you want, as long as you are keeping a few days for legs to recover for your brick/long ride on the weekend.
5. Make sure you find someone who knows what they are doing. If not, then stick to the machines at the gym (Bi's and Tri's would be the only exception). People who do not know what they are doing have more problems with free weights despite their benefits, and will end up not progressing or even injuring themselves if they are not watched.
6. Work on form first, then add weight later. If you are not doing the exercise properly, then not matter how much weight you add, it is not going to help. Acutally in most cases it will be to your detriment, usually via injury. Last night I was at the gym and someone was next to me on the lat pull down machine, and he had WAAAY TOOO MUCH weight and had to pull the thing down like he was on the rowing team. I am sure that he woke up this morning with a really sore/injured lower back.
7. Mix it up! Do not use the same weight machines every workout! Try to implement and rotate at least one different workout into your routine! It will help out a lot!
8. When you start your routine (or starting over again), make sure you are starting out with less sets in the first few workouts and then build up sets. Your muscles can fatigue just like when you first started your triathlon expierence and could not run/bike/or swim a mile. Arm/Chest and back days should have no more than 12-14 sets total. Leg days should have no more than 15-17 sets (more workouts to do on legs) for the first few workouts. You can go up from there.
9. Cardio warmup. I suggest 15-20 minutes, but you can do whatever you want, as long as it is at least 10 minutes.
10. Cooldown/Stretch. I personally do not do cooldowns to often except after leg workouts, but make sure you stretch!!!!! Stretch!!! Should be at a minimum of 10 minutes of your total workout time.
I am not a professional body builder or strength trainer, but I have worked out with two different certified personal trainers (both of whom owned supplement stores), as well as Harold Houge(is that how you spell his last name?), who was a WWC wrestler in the 1980's. Man Harold would tear you up and make you cry during your workout! Learning from these guys, I have never sustained a strength training injury and was very satisfied with my results.
I hope you are able to use some of these suggestions to your advantage as I have over my life, and I am going to start taking my own advice and using the suggestions above once again.
Do you want to read more by MURTHA'S TRIATHLON BLOG? You can find his blog and podcasts HERE