Functional Strength Training Basics for Endurance Athletes

By Kelly Wissolik | USA Triathlon

As an athlete, you know the importance of sport-specific training. You can’t run a marathon if you don’t run. You can’t race a triathlon if you don’t swim, bike and run. You certainly won’t do any of these things if you are injured. Unfortunately, you are likely underachieving if you don’t address your specific physical weaknesses. The best way to avoid injury and achieve better results is by identifying your limitations and turning them into strengths.

Functional training will help you avoid injury and turn physical limiters into a positive force. Sounds good, right? But what is functional training? Functional training, also known as FT, refers to a well-rounded training program that integrates activities that contribute to better, more efficient and safer performance of real world activities or sports movements. The goal of functional training is to create improved balance and muscular control because the human body should be able to achieve and maintain balance and control during movement in a range of conditions, different positions, various planes and a variety of angles, in order to be totally functional.

Focusing exclusively on swimming, cycling and running only works the body in one plane of motion. Exercising solely in the same plane of motion will cause the body to develop muscularly tight areas as well as muscular imbalances that lead to injury, biomechanical inefficiencies and wasted effort. In turn, athletes must include functional training to even out the imbalances and alleviate the tight areas.

As a triathlete, functional strength training should consist of three specific components:
1. Functional sport-specific strength
2. Development of underdeveloped muscle groups
3. Improvement of flexibility and mobility

Check out what else you should consider with functional strength training.



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