triathlon, core, workout, fitness

The Triathlete's Core Workout

These six exercises give you the strength and stability for a faster swim-bike-run.

When it comes to training for a triathlon, underestimate the necessity of core work at your peril. A strong core in each of the triathlon’s disciplines is required for you to swim straight, bike efficiently and run without injury. “Without it, athletes will see reduced power, decreased stability and reduced respiratory efficiency,” says Simon Gowen, Equinox fitness manager in Los Angeles.

Specifically, runners risk patella femoral syndrome ("runners knee”) or illiotibial band (ITB) issues due mainly to strength imbalances between hip flexors, abductors, and external rotators. Cyclists can look forward to a sore lower back if they can’t keep proper posture and form, as well as misalignment as they pedal. In everyday practice, swimmers place pressure on relatively unstable shoulder joints, and without supportive muscles to work correctly, they risk swimmer’s shoulder and a loss of power. Not to mention that without a strong core, legs will sink as you swim.

Below, Gowen offers two core exercises per sport to strengthen supporting muscles and make sure your triathlon training stays on track.

FOR A STRONGER SWIM:
(1) TRX Power Pull 
Stand with feet hip-width apart, facing TRX, holding one handle in right hand, keeping right elbow at shoulder height. With feet flat, lean torso back, bending knees so body forms a tabletop position and strap is completely taut with right arm extended; reach left hand toward floor directly behind you as low as you can, looking behind you as you lean back. Using right arm, pull body up to start position, keeping right arm close to ribs; reach left hand toward anchor to briefly grip strap. Do 15 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 2 sets.

(2) TRX Plank 
Adjust straps so handles hang about 1 foot from floor. Stand facing away from TRX and get into full plank position on floor with feet suspended in loops below foam handles (aka cradles). Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times. Make it harder: Tuck knees into chest 10 times. Do two sets.

FOR A STRONGER BIKE LEG:
(1) Hip Bridge 
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on floor, hands on floor beside hips. Lift your hips toward the ceiling, pressing into your heels (but don't squeeze your glutes) until shoulders, knees and hips form a straight line. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then slowly lower your hips to the floor. Repeat 5 times.

(2) Side Plank 
Lie on your left side with your knees straight. Prop your upper body up on your left elbow and forearm. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Lower then turn around so that you’re lying on your right side and repeat.

FOR A STRONGER RUN:
(1) Clamshell 
Lie on your left side on the floor, with your hips and knees bent 45 degrees. Your right leg should be on top of your left leg, your heels together. Keeping your feet in contact with each other, raise your right knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis. Pause, then return to the starting position. Don’t allow your left leg to move off the floor. Repeat 10 times; switch sides.

(2) Crossing Balance Lunge 
Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent, hands clasped in front of chest. Cross right leg behind left, stepping right foot out to left, and then bend both knees about 90 degrees to lower into a curtsy. Return to start; switch legs and repeat. Do 20 reps, alternating sides. Do 4 sets.

Sign up for Equinox's annual indoor triathlon to qualify for a spot in September's Nautica Malibu triathlon.