Nicole’s Strength Training – Guest Post by Gina DeMarco
I asked my strength coach, Gina DeMarco, to write a follow-up post to my cadence revelation (Or should I say revolution?) What you will read below is a brief summary of what we have done and why during these 6 months I have been working with her. (Please note, when she talks about breaking me down, she doesn’t mean to tears, although I might swear on occasion.) The main focus had been for mountain bike racing in 2012, and I will transition back to triathlon in 2013, most likely starting with a half marathon in February.
As a strength coach, I look at an individual’s body as a vehicle of movement and performance. I’m not looking if you have a 6-pack or if your butt is too big or small. I train you for functionality and performance – your appearance is a by-product, albeit a nice by-product. As a coach, it is fantastic to work with an athlete like Nicole who knows her performance markers (speeds, force, times, etc.) because it allows her to hold me accountable and it also gives her the motivation and the assurance that her devotion to our twice weekly sessions is paying off outside of the studio. Seeing improved performance markers gets me just as excited as it does the athlete.
In my first meeting with Nicole, we sat down and discussed her goals. At the time, she was working on her mountain biking and really wanted to improve her force production to be more explosive out-of-the gate and also be able to hold her own on the hills. Next, I put Nicole through a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). An FMS allows me to see her basic movement patterns unloaded to assess how her core activates, her mobility, and any imbalances or asymmetry that may lead to injury.
Next, before developing her program, I assessed the biomechanics used in her sport. In mountain biking, the biggest movement is the repeated push of the pedal and the return pull – a ton of leg power, leg endurance, and the ability to have that explosiveness when she needs. Secondly, she needs a strong core to be efficient as well as strong forearms and shoulders. From her FMS, she showed some instability in her hip strength, super tight shoulders and lats, and a little bit of weakness activating her core to stabilize her movement.
In her program, her first cycle included a lot of legs, I mean a lot! I wanted her legs strong. And I wanted her to begin activating and involving her glutes more to aid in the power generation. Her program involved deadlifts, RDL’s & front squats as well as corrective core and shoulder exercises. We also worked on her single leg balance and proprioception by doing exercises on the airex and the Smartboard. We kept her rep count around 8-10, and her volume relative low so she could simply push and pull a lot of weight and gain strength. Her next phase, we began working much more on her explosiveness. We began adding in more plyometric movements and more dynamic exercises like kettlebells and the Olympic Clean. We really worked on that reaction force from the floor into her movements. Because we were only lifting twice a week, and she gave me permission to completely break her down – her workouts were intense, but she had the added benefit of a long recovery time. The fast-twitch muscle fibers were what we were after, and each session consisted of short bouts of high-intensity activity. Her sets and reps were both low in this stage.
Her next phase was a natural progression into a strength-endurance focus. We increased her rep and sets but kept the weights the same, or even increased her until she fatigued…and then we went again, and again. This was definitely the most challenging phase of Nicole’s training and she proved tough. Performance training is also about learning how to push mentally and be resilient. Nicole’s tenacity is one of her strongest attributes and is the hardest things to cultivate in an individual…you either have it, or you don’t.
Currently, we are focusing her program on hypertrophy and repeating several of the off-season phases until she is ready for competition again. It’s great to train Nicole because she wants to get better and has the drive to back it up. It’s going to be an exciting competitive season as we see her squash her times from last season!
MotionX Studio is a privately owned fitness studio specializing in sport training & conditioning located in Colorado Springs, CO. The 3800 sq. foot facility offers a variety of movement classes including yoga as well as group sport classes, personal performance training, and Gyrotonic. www.MotionXstudio.com