By Melanie McQuaid
Glute strength is paramount for power and stability in running and cycling. The glute muscles are comprised of the glute maximus, glute miniumus and glute medius, and these three muscles are responsible for moving your upper leg in all directions. Weakness in any of these muscles can result in smaller muscles compensating for the weakness and may lead to dysfunction or injury.
Lunges are an excellent exercise to strengthen not only the glute muscles but also the core, quads and hamstrings. Incorporating lunges along all planes of movement challenges the core to engage from different directions. This is a better representation of the true demands on glute muscles when biking or running in triathlon.
You can easily incorporate lunges into your strength program and reap the benefits. However, if you are healthy and injury free, you may want to try a game of squash. Squash challenges not only your hand-eye coordination but also your anaerobic capacity, something we may overlook as long distance triathletes. Keeping a bit of that anaerobic energy system in the training will retain the neurological impulse to generate greater power and will translate to cycling and running despite the non-specific sport training.
To play squash your arms, legs and core will have to be very strong. The arm and shoulder strength is very non-specific to triathlon so some lessons on holding and hitting with the racquet may be required. Hand- eye coordination is good for bike handling skills so even the action of looking for the ball will help improve cycling skills. The speed of the game requires stamina and you will be surprised how challenging 45 minutes of vigorous squash can be. That said, most of the movements are sprints, so along with the aerobic benefit, there are a lot of anaerobic benefits which will complement your triathlon training. It’s also a great off-season fitness regime.
The lunges and quarter squats or “split stance” that you will perform while you play will challenge you in new ways. After your first game you will come to understand what the term “squash butt” means.