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Strength Training for Triathletes: Q & A

Thanks to everyone for the feedback and questions following the first series of videos that went up on Facebook last week and on the blog this week. Here are some the questions that came in:

Q #1: How may reps should I be doing?
A: Don’t be too hung up on the number of reps. Instead, focus on your effort and level of fatigue. You should do each set until either 1) your form starts to fall apart, or 2) you are a couple reps from fatigue, yet not already at muscle failure. Science now tells us that working through the last couple reps to complete failure, or even beyond with the aid of a spotter, really doesn’t make us stronger. It just makes us hurt more then next day. That said, if you are doing less than 8 reps it may be better to decrease weight or find a different functional movement. Likewise, if you are grinding out more than 20 reps I’d suggest you move to the next progression or add weight.

Q #2: What about the upper body?
A: First, if we are truly focusing on stabilizing muscles in the body, very little attention needs to given to the upper body (assuming there are no issues with your shoulders). If you believe in evolution I assure you that 1 million years from now humans will be born without biceps and with a much much smaller chest. Besides, a bulky upper body is just more dead weight your legs will need to haul up the hills at Kona. Also, remember this is just the first series. The upper body will be addressed more in future sequences.

Q #3: How do I know whether to do the proposed exercise or the “Regression” or the “Progression”?
A: The answer to number one addresses that a bit. The bottom line is that you need to be honest with yourself. If the proposed exercise is so easy that you’re just going through the motions then you should progress. If, on the other hand, the only way you can get through an exercise is by cheating and/or using poor form (like with the model athlete’s shaky knee in the Single Leg Squats), then dialing back to the regression is your best option.

Q #4: Are supplements worth it?
A: For the sake of gaining mass there are certainly worthy options out there. However, I’m in the business of making people go further and faster, not to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger. In terms of general health it might not be a bad idea to talk to your general practitioner to have blood drawn and a macro-nutrient analysis performed. From those results your doctor may be able recommend some vitamin and mineral supplements or a simple change in your diet. An athlete I was working with in 2008 had her Austin Marathon training fall apart because of a fairly serious Vitamin D deficiency. Don’t read that last line and go running to the tanning beds or vitamin shop. Just know that there are very really issues out there that your doctor can help you identify before your go arbitrarily spending money on the latest fad supplement.

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