Photos by Scott Draper.
You can correct strength imbalances year-round; use the winter to get stronger and more powerful by lifting heavy. Incorporate these five exercises targeting major muscle groups into your strength training program.
These exercises were taken from the “A Better Off-Season” article, which appeared in the November/December issue of Inside Triathlon. See the complete article in the links below:
This movement is fantastic for training core stability, and specifically the ability to resist rotation. Stand with your arms hanging at your sides and a kettlebell or dumbbell in one hand. Push your hips back, bend the knees and reach the kettlebell down as close to the floor as you can without rounding your lower back. Now stand up again. Don’t allow your torso to tilt to either side while performing this movement. Complete 10 repetitions with a weight you could lift 12 times if you had to, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise while holding the kettlebell in the opposite hand.
This exercise strengthens the chest in a more functional way than most chest exercises because the back is unsupported. It also strengthens the triceps and, to a lesser degree, the shoulders. Grip the handles of a chest dip station (or rings, as shown) and support yourself with straight arms (elbows not quite locked). Keep your torso erect and knees sharply bent. Lower yourself slowly until you feel a comfortable stretch in the chest. Push smoothly back upward to the start position. Do as many repetitions as you can, minus two.
The push press is a modified version of the classic shoulder press that involves the legs, making it more of a power movement. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and your elbows fully flexed so the weights are at your shoulders. Your palms are facing each other and your feet are shoulder-width apart. Before you begin, draw a deep breath and hold it, and at the same time draw your bellybutton toward your spine. This will tighten the muscles around your spine and aid the transfer of forces from your legs to your arms in the explosive movement that follows. To perform the actual push press, first bend your knees and lower yourself into a half squat. Immediately reverse this movement, powerfully straightening your legs and hips. As soon as you’re once again fully upright, press the dumbbells straight overhead. The idea is to use the upward momentum created by straightening your legs to assist your shoulders and arms in pushing the dumbbells toward the ceiling. This allows you to lift more weight than you could with a standard shoulder press. (But keep the weight light until you’ve mastered the movement.) To complete the movement, lower the dumbbells back down to your shoulders. Do 10 repetitions using a weight you could lift 12 times if you had to.
This exercise targets the large muscles of the mid-back and, to a lesser degree, the low back. Stand with your left foot one big step ahead of the right. Bend both knees moderately and lean forward about 30 degrees from the hips. Brace your left hand on your lower left thigh. Grasp a dumbbell in your right hand and begin with your right arm fully extended toward the floor. Pull the dumbbell toward a spot just outside your lower ribcage, keeping your elbow in. Now slowly lower the dumbbell. Complete 10 repetitions with a weight you could lift 12 times if you had to, then reverse your stance and switch arms.
This exercise strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and various core stabilizers. Position a box behind you in a squat rack. Begin in a standing position with the bar resting on your upper back and an overhand grip on the bar with your hands at a comfortable distance from your shoulders. With a slightly wider stance than you’d normally use, and your weight on the heels and outsides of your feet, sit by moving your hips backward and not straight down to the box behind you, forcing the knees out to the sides as if you were squatting between your legs instead of over them. The box height should put you at a point where the crease of your hips is just below the kneecap in the bottom position. Do not bounce off the box. Sit lightly down on it and pause without rocking backward. There will be a little forward lean in your torso in the bottom position. To stand up, continue to push through the heels and explode off the box, thinking about thrusting your hips forward instead of just extending your knees. Complete 10 repetitions with a weight you could lift 12 times if you had to.