As the weather turns cooler, more triathletes are starting to look to strength training to help them improve their body and their triathlon abilities for the upcoming season. Today, we’re going to look at a pro trick to help you get more out of your strength training sessions, by tweaking what you do for your first 10-14 minutes of each session.
Priming the Pump
If you’ve ever lived in a rural area, or have taken long rides through the countryside where you’ve stopped to get some fresh, cold, well water, you’re familiar with the need to “prime the pump.” Priming the pump is where you pump the well lever for a good 2-3 minutes without reward. It takes work to build up enough pressure in the pipe, but once you get the water to the top, it flows easily, and you can keep it coming with ease.
The same goes for the dynamic warm-up: we want to do some light work that helps you break a sweat, and allows us to prime the pump for our upcoming session.
For many, warming up for strength training means just doing 1-2 sets of the exercise with light-to-no-weight for a set of 10-15 reps. While this is certainly better than nothing and may work for the average gym-goer, as triathletes we need to get as much value as possible out of each session. This means we want to check all the boxes that a well-designed dynamic warmup can offer us, including:
- Increasing core body temperature
- Preparing the body for the movements we are going to do
- Changing the internal environment (hormonally AND mentally)
- Firing up supporting muscles
- Addressing imbalances or movement issues
This last one is commonly not known and is one of the “big secrets” of professional strength coaches. We can drastically improve your strength balance at each joint, as well as improve how your body is moving, through a consistent dynamic warm-up.
Defining “Consistent Dynamic Warm-Up”
When it comes to our strength training and in-sport conditioning programs, we tend to plan within a 4-5 week window. The dynamic warmup should change only every 8-12 weeks, depending on how your athlete is doing and what improvements you’re seeing. You may be wondering, won’t I start to lose training effectiveness if my athlete repeats the same thing for so long?
In some cases, yes. But training effectiveness drop-opp tends to happen in the case of major movements or in training sessions where your athlete is exerting themself to 80% or more of their physical capability. However, for dynamic warm-ups, we are not looking for high effort, but instead small sets, 3-5 days a week. This allows us to regularly train a movement pattern and improve how the body moves.
How to Build Dynamic Warm-Up Sets
The most important aspect to a successful dynamic warm-up is consistency! The dynamic warm-ups should be short, relatively simple and leave you feeling energized and moving fluidly, not feeling drained or tired.
Build your dynamic warm-up with 4-6 total exercises with 1-2 sets of each exercise. Strive to have your athlete moving from general movements to daily program specific movements. Encourage consistency and ask your athletes to notice how the way they feel changes over the next 2-5 weeks. They should be able to help you gather a sense of when it’s time to mix things up.
Here’s what a dynamic warm-up would look like, with a few sample exercises and explanations as to why we are performing each exercise and the reasoning behind given techniques.
If you’d like to learn more of the WHY and HOW behind building a dynamic warmup for you and your needs, pick up a copy of my book The Vortex Method: The New Rules for Ultimate Strength & Performance in Cycling.
Remember, it’s not about herculean efforts, it’s about doing the smaller things consistently so you can see long term results.