Align the Body and Balance Muscle Groups
Triathletes are targets for overuse injuries. We swim, bike, run, and repeat. This repetitive stress to bone and soft tissue can produce damage at a greater rate than the body can repair.
Many of us often also have misalignment issues beginning from the pelvic or other anatomical region, which are normally due to muscular imbalances. This can come from something as simple as standing over time with weight balanced primarily on one foot. I know—I am doing it as I type!
Fortunately these issues can respond to a proper, periodized strength and conditioning program, which can help keep injuries away, improve function, and get you faster and last longer during training and racing.
THE IDEAL PROGRAM will improve muscle balance around all joints and create a more stable power center (core/pillar/trunk) to better transfer energy from limb to limb. Strength training provides neural changes affecting the muscle recruitment and frequency modulation of motor units. This is a fancy way of saying that joint stability improves when all motor units are firing to produce the optimal contractions in the muscles surrounding the joint.
For example, the ever-prominent Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS—that thing running down the side of your legs) of runners and cyclists might be alleviated, or staved off in the first place, by increasing hip abduction strength with a routine that targets the glutes.
Five Ways to Develop the Ideal S&C Program
- Have An Expert Watch Your Form
Regardless of the sport, have someone watch and suggest corrections to your form. This analysis can be the basis of developing a developing a program to enhance biomechanics.
- Choose closed-chain exercises: movement vs. muscles
Think of the various joints of your body that are activated during a movement as a chain. If the movement were running, then the chain would start with the joints in the foot, followed by the ankle, knee, and hip, and then up through the opposite shoulder. SWIMMING. Your hand enters the water, flexion at the elbow creates the “catch”, then push that arm parallel to your body to your thigh. This movement can be reproduced with your hand pulling down on a cable pulley attachment, a closed chain exercise with the hand providing the contact force. Make sure you are performing the same body rotation you would in the water.
A closed chain exercise promoting strength for running may be a one-legged squat (aka lunge) with the foot producing force directly to the floor. In contrast, the open chain exercise may be a seated leg extension where the foot is not producing any force therefore leaving an “opening” in the chain.
Closed-chain exercises help strengthen muscle groups rather than single muscles and helps the muscles to work together.
- Muscle Balance—Think Push/Pull
If you perform a chest press (push), follow it with a one-armed row (pull). This will enhance your stability and improve muscle alignment. The ‘big’ exercises (coined compound/complex) often combine push and pull in one movement so you get more bang for the buck.
- Get a Bit Jumpy
Plyometrics, which are literally defined as measurable increases, are jump training exercises that improve sacral and spine stability while improving hip, knee and ankle mobility as you squat. Landing on your feet from a jump strengthens and stabilizes your sacrum, spine, hip and other joints as they all work together to absorb shock and reduce your risk of injury.
Stand on top of a stack of aerobic steps or a similar sturdy platform with your legs hip-width apart. Bend your legs and jump down from the step about two feet away from your origin. Land gently on the balls of your feet, keeping your feet hip-width apart. Do not round your back or move your knees together when you land. Turn around to face the step and repeat the exercise for two sets of six to 10 reps.
- Focus on body alignment
Another thing to look for while performing your exercises is body alignment. Make sure you are not shifting your weight so that you are leaning to one side. Pretend you have a line bisecting your body and try to keep both sides “balanced”. Again, this will enhance your body’s ability to stabilize itself.
Even the strongest athlete can benefit from continued stability training since studies have shown strength gains can be lost quickly, usually within weeks. It does not have to consume too much time, as my clients usually finish their strength workouts in 30 minutes, twice a week.
Stay strong, stay aligned!
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. I am happy to chat with you about your current program and if it may need some changes or updates.