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Helen Jenkins reveals her top five exercises designed to help cyclists, runners and triathletes build strength, dodge injury and upgrade their performance.

Helen Jenkins knows that strength and conditioning (S&C) drills are a crucial component of any athlete’s training regime. The 2008 and 2011 ITU world triathlon champion, appreciates that S&C routines can also help athletes avoid injury and improve their efficiency. “If you get into the habit of doing strength exercises twice a week, you’ll suffer from fewer injuries, your body will become more robust and resilient, and you’ll improve your energy transfer, leading to faster finishing times,” explains Jenkins.

Helen Jenkins

PLANK REACHES

How to: “Lie down with your weight resting on your forearms and your toes and brace your abdominal muscles. Keeping your back straight and your feet hip-width apart, hold this position for 15 seconds then reach out to touch a bottle or bag with your hand. Return to the original plank position and then after a further 15 seconds reach out with the other hand.”

Why: “The plank is one of the most versatile core exercises and you can do it at home or in your garden,” says Jenkins. “The reach just adds an extra imbalance to work your core muscles even harder.” A steel core will maximise your power transfer when you swim, cycle and run. “It will also help you avoid injury by improving your balance and consistency of movement,” adds Jenkins.

Do: 3 x 60sec with 2 reaches per set

Helen Jenkins

KETTLEBELL STEP-UPS

How to: “Holding a kettlebell or weight near your chest, lift one foot up onto a park bench or raised platform. When your foot is stable on the platform, drive through with your trailing leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor, then lower it next to your standing foot. Try to recruit the power from the foot that is already on the raised platform, rather than from the one driving upwards.”

Why: “This is an excellent exercise for triathletes and runners because it develops good posture,” explains Jenkins. “If you look at the movements involved they are very similar to some of the running drills you might do when training on a track. With better posture, muscle balance and core strength you will be much more efficient when you run.”

Do: 3 x 10 reps per leg

Helen Jenkins

SIDE LEG LIFTS

How to: “Lie on your side with your knees tucked up and support your head with one hand. Lift your upper leg and kick it in an upwards and backwards direction. Keep your upper body still and don’t let your back arch. You can put your hand on your bottom/hip area to really feel your glutes working. Then roll over and repeat on the other side.”

Why: I do this all the time to fire up my glutes which are very important muscles for maintaining good running form,” says Jenkins. “If you do it regularly as part of your S&C it will build strength in the glutes to prevent injury; but you can also do 10-20 reps to activate (warm up) your glutes before a run.”

Do: 3 x 10 reps per leg

Helen Jenkins

WEIGHTED PRESS-UPS

How to: “Adopt a normal press-up position and then get a friend or training partner to place a light weight between your shoulders. Lower your body towards the floor, keeping your eyes focussed in front of you and without arching your back. At the bottom of the movement, press upwards and return to the start position.”

Why: “A lot of triathletes forget about the importance of upper-body strength, but it’s vital for controlling your bike and for performing well in the swim,” says Jenkins. “This is the kind of exercise you can do regularly at home or outdoors to help maintain that all-important upper-body and arm strength.”

Do: 3 x 10 reps

Helen Jenkins

GOBLET SQUATS

How to: “Stand holding a kettlebell or medicine ball against your chest, then lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and fix your gaze straight ahead during the movement so your chest and neck don’t slump forwards. When you drive back up, try to push through your heels, not your toes.”

Why: “Triathletes need to be really strong in the glutes and produce symmetrical movement to prevent energy leaks and avoid injury,” says Jenkins. “This kind of squat helps to develop that strength component but the introduction of the weight helps you train your balance as well, which is really important for cycling and swimming too.”

Do: 3 x 10 reps

Read more about Helen Jenkins here: helenjenkins.co.uk

WORDS: Mark Bailey

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