Off Season Weight Lifting

I’m finally getting back into a routine. I’ve settled into doing short, high-intensity training sessions. Right now I’m swimming once a week, while biking and running twice a week. Most weeks I end up taking two days off completely…hope to cut this back down to one soon. In addition to my triathlon specific training, I’m doing something new this off season – power lifting.
After my 30-45 minute training session each morning, I hit the weights. I’m focusing on doing what are traditionally known as power lighting or Olympic style lifts. I use heavy weight and only do 3 sets of 6-8 reps of each. Here’s what I currently do in a typical week:

Swim (30-45 minutes of intervals)
Lifting (bench press – flat or incline, dumbbell flys, dips, abs)

Bike (Spin class or 45 minute of interval work)
Lifting (squats, leg press, stiff-leg dead lift, calf raises, hip abductors)

Run (30-45 minute tempo or fartlek run)
Lifting (military press, upright rows, bicep curls)

Bike (Spin class or 45 minute of interval work)
Lifting (Deadlift, clean & jerk, lat pull-downs, rows, abs) 

FRIDAY – off

Run (30-40 minute run at steady pace)
No lifting, stretching and hip strengthening exercises

So what benefit do I expect to get from doing this type of strength training (other than getting some muscle back that I’ve lost)? To build a stronger foundation for power and strength in the water, on the bike, and on the pavement.
I know that a lot of triathletes and runners shy away from this type of heavy lifting because they don’t want to pack on too much muscle. After all, added weight will only slow you down, right? While there’s definitely a fine line between being strong and being too heavy, 3 months of this type of lifting isn’t going to get me so big that my neck disappears. 
I’m constantly amazed at what the human body can do and how it can adapt. Triathlon and other endurance events use slow twitch muscles. As a result of spending 9+ months training my slow twitch muscles for Ironman, my fast twitch muscle fibers have shrunk. The days of me sprinting up and and down a basketball court or playing racquetball are years on the past…and it shows. While I was in the best shape of my life while training for Ironman, I doubt I would have been able to play a full court game of basketball or even jump high enough to grab the rim. I plan on doing (as of right now) lots of shorter races next season. I will be calling some fast twitch fibers into action for these races, so I’m trying to wake them up now!
Another benefit to this type of lifting is to rebuild the tendons, ligaments and joints that took a beating this past season. This will hopefully reduce the risk of injury in 2012. 
If you plan on implementing some or all of these lifts into your off season routine, please follow the links above and concentrate on your form by doing them in front of a mirror. I started using very light weights to get my form down before stepping up to the heavy stuff. Doing these lifts with incorrect form will always result in an injury.

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