Why is good mechanics so important when you train for sport?

Being a movement specialist, triathlete, and an active busy mum, I have thought about this question a lot. As most of you would know if you are training for a half or full Ironman, fitting in your swim, bike, and run training around your work and family commitments can be struggle enough and very overwhelming at times, let alone making time for any other sort of training.

We all know that the more you do something the better you get at it. Over the years I have asked my clients about training outside of our one session a week, and the most common remark I get is ‘I have no time to fit in another 1-2 sessions a week’. This is what got me playing with different ideas and ways to help my clients achieve this goal.

One of the things I have played within my own training is spending 3-4 short sessions a week doing strength, mobility, and balance exercises to enhance my mechanical efficiency, which keeps my joints moving well so my muscles can be loaded more effectively.

Because these sessions are not of a high intensity, they can be done before or after any walk, swim, bike or run session. I like to do an upper body session for mechanical efficiency before I swim and a lower body one before I ride or run. Doing these types of sessions before you do the bigger activities sets your body up for good movement and fires up your muscles before you go loading them. If you use swim paddles in the pool after a short strength and mobility session, you will be setting your shoulders up for good mechanics and protecting them from injury. The same goes for doing a lower body session before you ride or run. I know when I do my hard bike sets I spend some of the session grinding at a low cadence. This places a lot of load through the hip, so if the surrounding muscles, such as the glutes and hamstrings are not fired up and working well beforehand then the excess load can be placed in the hip and knees. I never have a lot of time during the week to do a full session before I jump on the bike because my sets are always so long. To give you an example of choosing specific exercises for your body. Here are three exercises I do beforehand to set my body up for my bike session.

1. Foam rolling TFL: I spend 90 seconds on each leg slowly moving across the muscle and holding on the tighter points
2. Pelvic tilt: This is slightly different to a hip bridge. This exercise required a tilt of the pelvis so the lower back releases as the glutes and hamstrings fire up. I like to place a pillow between my knees and hold the top position for 15 seconds to get the hamstrings working well
3. Four-point breathing: I feel breathing exercises are overlooked and underused in the fitness industry. If you can get your diaphragm fired up and working well before you start your ride you will feel the difference in your performance as soon as you jump on the bike.

If you are like most and juggle your active triathlon, running, or cycling life around your day-to-day office job then this type of mechanical efficiency training is even more essential. Unfortunately sitting for long periods tightens up all the opposite muscles that are needed for good swim, bike, and run mechanics.

So the moral of this story is, if you love participating in triathlons, running, or cycling events, you need to focus on improving and maintaining good mechanics. If you are struggling to find time in your week to fit in strength, mobility, and balance training, try choosing a short exercise routine that focuses on these things. Shorter and more frequent is better than one long session a week. It might just be 3 to 4 really effective exercises that focus on your body’s specific needs. This will help keep you injury free, and race ready!

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or you want to know more about what exercises are right for you.

Good luck!

Qualified Movement Specialist