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The Party Protocol for Triathletes

November 23, 2004 09:46 AM

The Western world is gradually listening, receiving and applying simple, primitive, and more effective training methods from the archives of the Eastern bloc. Kettlebells (KB's) have already become the tool of choice for 'in the know' strength and power athletes. Joint Mobility (JM) has also become one of the most effective warm-ups for any athlete. How can the re-birth of these two timeless protocols benefit triathletes?

Triathletes are a special population due to the fact they are training for three events simultaneously: swimming, biking, and running. Efficiency is of the utmost importance, especially for Ironman competitors -2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run ALL IN ONE DAY!! Thus, there are many problems these athletes run into throughout the course of their training programs. The most common issues are over-training, a weak core, tight hip flexors, a tight low back, and stress fractures, mainly in the lower leg and small bones of the feet.

This article will address some specific protocols that have been effectively used to correct some major strength and flexibility imbalances of a current client. She is 33 years old and has competed in two Ironman triathlons, as well as many shorter races. When we started working together, nine weeks prior to her second Ironman, she was rebounding from a stress fracture in the femoral head, major quad/ham imbalance, rotator cuff problems (past injuries from swimming on a college scholarship), and tight hip flexors.

Through a combination of JM drills and kettlebells, she was able to effectively overcome many of these weaknesses in nine short weeks. Every session began with a minimum of ten minutes of joint mobility head-to-toe plus some more for the problem areas. Refer to Super Joints (book or DVD) for these exercises: the Belly Dance, the Cossack, the extended Cossack, the Split Switch. Refer to Steve Maxwell's JM DVD ( for Bootstrappers, and. After a general mobility warm-up the emphasis was on the Wall Squat (not the skier's static squat but the Chinese face-the-wall squat from John Du Cane's Qigong Recharge), essential to recovery and progression of imbalances, weaknesses and mobility of the hip/low back region. Within two weeks, her squat depth had improved four inches due to increased flexibility and relaxation of the hip flexors. This almost immediate improvement led to relaxed bike pedal power, relaxed running, and overall increased power and efficiency.

The remainder of each training session revolved around kettlebell training. The foundational movements apply to triathletes as they do for any athlete. Five main kettlebell exercises were used. A healthy dose of swings, cleans, snatches, renegade rows, and windmills were the focal point.

The swings teach hip and hamstring firing. Most programs neglect to teach athletes how to neurologically program their hamstrings for efficiency in biking and running.

The cleans re-teach the hips to fire while simultaneously relaxing the shoulders?crucial during a grueling multi-sport race.

The snatches are an extension of the swing 're-wiring' the CNS to fire on demand and also adding to overall efficiency.

The renegade rows are a full body core workout teaching the abdominals stabilize in a 'relaxed tension' state instead of mindlessly rowing a weight. This movement transfers to more effective hip stabilization in triathletes while building a solid core.

The windmills work the core at the same time stretch the glute/hamstring complex while maintaining mental awareness of the upper body, once again engaging the ENTIRE body to work as a unit vs. a collection of body parts.

These five exercises revolve around everything that a triathlete is looking for: increasing core strength without increasing muscle mass, and increasing work capacity while maintaining aerobic efficiency (relaxed tension).
Treating the body as a 'unit' vs. a collection of body parts, which leads to increased efficiency, is crucial for triathletes. Kettlebells fill the void where traditional strength training lacks, effective strength workouts in minimal time. Ask any triathlete: his/her last priority is strength training. However, every triathlete is interested and understands the benefits of "core" training and the Party knows what the MOST EFFECTIVE core-training tool is: kettlebells. Help your fellow triathlete comrades by showing them these intricate Party Protocols. They will surely thank you!

About The Author
Brad Nelson is a strength coach and certified kettlebell instructor. Brad is available for personal training in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. If you would like more information about a strength/conditioning and nutrition program tailored to your individual needs, you may contact Brad via e-mail at or call 651.253.1189.