Weight sessions are used by many athletes, across different sports, because of the great benefits that they offer for injury prevention (‘prehab’), recovery from an injury (‘rehab’), and increasing your speed and strength. For triathletes and athletes of other endurance sports, weight sessions, or strength and conditioning as it’s known, are often forgotten or skipped in a training week; however, they are of vital importance to make you race faster, and help your body handle the demanding impact of the three elements of a triathlon. A stigma of weight training sessions, which is found in endurance athletes, is that it will make your body ‘huge’ or ‘bulky’, although this isn’t the case, nor something you should be afraid of.
I have done ‘weights’ since I was 17, alongside running six days a week, and got injured due to the stress I was putting on my body, as my glute muscles were not strong enough around my hips to support them. So, I had a strength and conditioning coach to build me back up, to ensure I was strong not only in my glutes, but everywhere, which gave me confidence in my body, and also made me faster and more resistant against future injury.
As triathletes use their whole body to move, weight sessions focus on the different areas of the body, which is great, as a lot of the movements used in weights are compound, meaning they use the whole body. Weights strengthen any weak muscles, build speed and power, and ensure symmetry in strength with both your right and left side, to prevent injury. Weights also allow focus when working on correct movement techniques. It is best if you can use a variety of the equipment at your disposal, such as dumbbells and squat racks.
Getting a coach to help when you start using weights is important, as you learn the correct technique, they can support the weight for you if you get tired, and can teach you about the many different exercises which help you improve on the areas you want. I use a coach as I find it really motivating and reassuring knowing that the exercises I’m doing are correct. I am constantly improving and learning, and I know that I’m safe if I can’t lift a weight up off of me mid-rep, such as in a chest press.
Weight training sessions are typically done between two and three times a week. These can be split between arms and legs on different days, or together, with the sessions having different exercises or focuses, such as power or strength endurance. For the different focuses the amount of weight, number of repetitions, and sets change.
Activation (or bodyweight) exercises (which don’t require any equipment, apart from a mat) are used to warm up the body before a weight session. These are a great starting point for first timers, and can also be used before a training session to get the muscles prepared and ‘firing’.