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Make strength training an essential component of your training program

Feb. 4, 2013 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 3, 2013 at 8:04 p.m.

Strength training is important, and happens to be an essential component to any successful training program.

Whether you are trying to improve your athletic performance or just trying to tone up, strength training helps to develop the muscle energy consumption, and promotes the synthesis of ATP inside the mitochondria. The mitochondria are often referred to as the "power station of the cells".

Weight training helps to burn extra calories, and research has shown that regular resistance training can increase basal metabolic rate by as much as 15 percent. In training, with heavier weights, the increase in calorie burn can be as much as 25 percent.

Strength training can also help reverse the natural decline in metabolism which generally begins around the age of 30. Weight training can also help tone muscles, improve muscular endurance, and improve posture. An additional benefit of resistance training is that it helps to strengthen bones, which can help in the prevention of osteoporosis.

If you are a runner, or a triathlete, looking to improve your performance, the solution may lie in the weight room. A bi-weekly strength program can help increase muscle power and endurance, strengthen weak joints and muscles, and also assist in the prevention of injuries.

Studies have shown that a runner benefits greatly from a strength program comprised of more repetitions and less resistance, building up to three sets of 12-15 repetitions.

A strong and conditioned athlete will be able to maximize their efficiency in their respective sport, thus leading to improved performance.

Your legs help to carry you through many of your athletic endeavors, and strength training of the legs can help to develop your "powerhouse" muscles. Regular weight training, with specific focus on the legs, will help you develop power, increase your endurance, and may help prevent injuries, especially those caused by muscle imbalance issues.

Strength exercises that can help achieve strong, well-developed leg muscles are: hamstring curls, leg extensions, squats, calf raises, and lunges. Exercises that target the hip flexor area, which is specifically utilized when you run and bike, should also be a part of your strength training program.

In addition to further focusing on muscle imbalances and weaknesses, do strengthening on each leg separately. Exercises such as the one legged-squat, step ups off of a bench or leg extensions with one leg at a time can help to single out those weaknesses in each leg and work to strengthen them.

Attention to strengthening the upper body can help in developing "support" muscles and also help to prevent fatigue in the upper body. A strong upper body is a necessary component for not only biking and swimming, but also in running where a great amount of drive is generated by arm swing.

Strong arms are especially useful when you are running a hilly course, or in a longer race such as the marathon. Strong "supporting" muscles, such as those in the shoulders and latissimus dorsi, are strongly utilized when riding the bike, especially over long distances. If these muscles aren't strengthened, fatigue can set in, which can cause form to falter and achiness to begin.

A strong upper body is also essential in swimming, where the "pull" part of your stroke needs to be powerful and efficient.

Good strengthening exercises for the arms and upper body are: dumbbell curls, pull ups, military presses, chin ups, bench presses, push ups, shoulder press, and triceps extensions.

A strong abdominal and core region of the body is an essential part of maintaining stability of the trunk during running. These areas are also important when riding your bike where you may be riding in the aero position for long periods of time. Good exercises for abdominal strengthening are: crunches, leg raises, planks, side planks, and stability ball training.

It's not too late to get started in developing your strength, power, and sport-specific muscles. There are over 650 muscles in the body, many of which are engaged at some point when you are exercising and training.

To truly strive for your best performance this upcoming racing season (or maybe just for that extra toned look you are striving for), make sure to include strength training as a regular component of your established training program.

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