Multisport Training Secrets: A Complete & Balanced Approach to Strength Training Always Wins!

by Fernando Paredes, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FMS2

Triathlete Heather Leiggi

Successful multisport athletes don’t just hit the weights. They include all the components of physical fitness, in a balanced way, to make consistent progress and prevent injury. All the muscles of the body are important: stabilizers, tiny structural muscles, and synergists. They all matter. And successful trainees see to it that everything gets adequate training. In fact, they commonly view a stretch or core session with the same importance as a swim, bike or run session!

How about you? Are you diligently training all these areas or do you view them as bothersome afterthoughts that you randomly perform every so often, or just neglect all together? If you find yourself in the latter group, this article may help change your view.

Human Movement Basics
The human body is a very intricate web of muscle tissue, fascia, bone, and nerves that together create movement and establish and support our posture. Any deficits or issues with one or more of these elements create negative reactions or compensations within the system.

The muscular system can be divided into two main categories: large “moving” muscles and the small structural “support” muscles. The large moving muscles are the typical ones most are familiar with: chest, lats, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, etc. and are relatively few in number. The small structural support muscles are the ones not commonly seen like: rotator cuff muscles, rhomboids, intercostals, psoas, transverse abdominus, internal obliques, paraspinals, etc. which number in the hundreds.

The good news is that it’s very simple to train these complex body systems, once you know how.

Out-Of-Balance Body = Limited Results & More Risk
Since most traditional strength training works ONLY the large muscles in isolation, not integrated movement, it leaves hundreds of structural muscles and fascial networks left untrained. Why is this so important? When this supportive musculature becomes “out-of-shape” the larger muscles will eventually overpower them. This creates an out-of-balance body and can lead to host of problems for multisport athletes like:

  • slower times
  • longer recovery
  • chronic aches & pains: IT band, knees, hip, plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff, lower back, etc.
  • recurring injuries

All these will limit your training results and increase your risk of injury.(1) The real problem is that many times these imbalances can “hide” within your body for months or even years. Most times you won’t know until it’s too late and you get hurt!

Is there a way to check for these body imbalances? Yes. While there are many types of these functional total body assessments, I’ll address one – the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The FMS analyzes movement and exposes any structural body weakness. You can then develop a specific exercise plan to target and correct any individual structural weaknesses and restore balance to your body.(2)

If there’s no one in your area who is certified to administer the FMS there is a simple self-guided option you can perform on yourself. While the self-movement screen is not as in-depth of an analysis as the FMS with a trained professional, it will get you started on the right track.(3)

Complete & Balanced Training 101
Yes. World-class trainers, coaches, and athletes know that a complete and balanced training plan must cover all components of physical fitness so goals can be achieved without creating any muscular or skill imbalances that can lead to injury.(4) Components include but are not limited to:

  • Strength
  • Stamina/Endurance
  • Fascial Fitness
  • Mobility/Flexibility
  • Core Strength/Stability
  • Balance/Coordination
  • Speed/Power

Each of these is relative to your goal. For example, a multisport athlete’s muscular endurance needs will be higher than that of a bodybuilder. So muscular endurance would have a higher priority and given more time than it would for a bodybuilder.

The main point is you must include total-body movement-based exercises in a variety of patterns: forward, backward, lateral, up, down, twisting to ensure a more complete working of all muscles and maintain balance throughout your entire body.

These movements can be as simple as a Squat-with/Dumbbell Curl or as complex as a Kettlebell Turkish-Get-Up. While using variations of the yoga triangle or lunge/forearm-to-instep stretches take care of mobility, flexibility, core, and fascia.

Spiral Line

Complete & Balanced Training = Maximum Results & Less Risk

Working with an experienced professional who can properly evaluate your specific needs, goals, strengths, and weaknesses from the beginning will help you get to your goals more rapidly with less wasted time and energy.

You can see why I focus on more than just traditional strength training with my multisport clients. We work all components of physical training. For example, depending on their needs and goals working these key structural components can be as simple as a 5 to 10 minute daily routine, while my elite athletes may require a 30 minute routine 3-5 times a week.

And in some cases a full-hour once a week is needed. Regardless of level, my clients gladly do it because they feel better and see all-around results in less time and reduce their risk of injury.

What YOU Need to Do to Win
So please do not get caught in the trap of thinking you only need to hit the weights to get the results you want. Examine how balanced your body is. Find out where any structural weakness may be “hiding” in your body. Turn those weaknesses into strengths. Use total-body movement-based exercises and stretches to train multiple fitness components simultaneously. Training in this more complete and balanced way will quickly lead you to new levels of health, fitness and race performance!

(1)  Thomas W. Myers, “Anatomy Trains”, Third Edition, Chapter 10, p.211, Anatomy Trains in Training
(2) Gray Cook, “Movement”, Chapter 4, p.65, Movement Screening
(3) Gray Cook, “Athletic Body in Balance”, Chapter 5, p.26, Mobility and Stability Testing, p.31, self-movement screen
(4) Mel C. Siff, PhD, and Yuri V. Verkhoshansky, Phd, “Supertraining”, Fourth Edition, Chapter 8, p.411, Designing Sport Specific Strength Programmes

Fernando ParedesFernando Paredes NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FMS2, is a sought after fitness and performance expert in the greater Bucks/Phila region. He has successfully trained Triathletes of various levels from beginners to elite-level IRONMAN competitors and been featured on Comcast Network’s Your Morningshow, It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle, WFMZ Channel 69 News, CBS/CW Philly and The Philadelphia Inquirer because of his innovative Core-to-Strength exercise approach. For more info visit Fusion Fitness Studio on Facebook.