Competing in one sport is tough enough, but some athletes need three times the thrill just to lace up their shoes in the morning. To succeed in a triathlete event like the Ironman, you need to push past basic fitness and find a balance between strength and endurance that is hard to come by. While all three events of a triathlon demand full-body fitness, your legs will be asked to carry more than their fair share of the load. Four simple routines will whip your legs into triathlon shape.
The leg press hits most of the major muscles in the legs and lower back, including the inner and outer calves, the quads, the hamstrings and the glutes. The motion for a leg press is simple to remember; when under a full load, however, a tough lift is needed to build strength. For a triathlete, you want to increase endurance instead of bulk, so don't look to max out on leg presses. Instead, do multiple sets of a lot of reps with relatively low weight. For the running, cycling and swimming events, you need to go the distance. Do five sets of 20 reps at 60 to 70 percent of your max to build strength and endurance.
Squats are the lower-body workout that nobody likes. They're tough, they're monotonous and they're uncomfortable, but great for working the quads, hamstrings and lower back. Plus, unlike leg presses, squats use many of the stabilizer muscles in your lower body to push, pull and maintain your stance. These little stabilizers, when toughened up, will help you push past in-competition plateaus and get you to the finish line more quickly. For maximum endurance, do five sets of 20 reps at 80 percent of your max weight. Wear a neck pad to prevent the bar from rubbing too hard.
Unlike regular deadlifts, the stiff-legged deadlift works your glutes and lower back, which is where you'll get a lot of the pumping power you'll need for the cycling section. Bend over a weighted Olympic bar so that your upper and lower body forms an L-shape. Grip the bar overhand, inhale and straighten your back. Carry the bar with you as you lift, exhaling while you go. The bar will rest at your thighs. Hold for a beat, the slowly bend back to starting position. Both motions are one rep. Do four sets of 20 reps.
Lunges give you a workout like a squat, only the motion isn't uncomfortable. Take two dumbbells, holding one in each hand. Start at one end of an open area. Keep the ball of your left foot on the floor and stretch out with your right foot as far as you can, dipping down as you go. Once you're completely outstretched, lift yourself with your right leg, then bring your left leg to the new position. Repeat the motion, but lead with your left foot. Two of these are one rep. You don't need to move the dumbbells with your arms, just keep them at your sides. Do four sets of 15 reps.
- Blue Collar Ironman: An Introduction to Lifelong Triathlon Training; Michael O'Shaughnessy
- Getting Stronger: Weight Training for Sports; Bill Pearl, Richard Golueke
- Strength Training Anatomy; Frédéric Delavier
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.