When you think about participating in a triathlon, you immediately imagine that you need almost unlimited stamina and endurance to win or be competitive. While working on your endurance to become a successful triathlete is absolutely crucial, but not enough. You also need to strengthen your muscles to be able to endure the extreme training for triathlons.

In this post, we will talk about the importance of strength training for triathletes and how does it help in taking your performance to the next level. 

If your goal is to one day participate in IRONMAN or Triathlon Australia, or you already have and want to further improve your performance for the next time, then the information in this post will surely come in handy.

Strength Training for Triathletes

Benefits and Importance of Strength Training for Triathletes

Strength training is a crucial component of any successful triathletes’ routine. Below are some of its major benefits:

1. Better Overall Performance

Old school gurus used to think that strength training is not important for triathletes. In fact they thought that it might negatively impact an athlete’s performance during the competition. 

Thankfully, this perception has changed and majority of the triathlon coaches urge their athletes to incorporate strength work into their training regimes because it helps with almost every aspect of performance in a triathlon. Some studies have shown that strength training can improve your run times and improve efficiency throughout the competition.  

2. Injury Prevention

It is a no-brainer that strength training strengthens your muscles and bones. Since triathletes generally train and compete for long hours, it is important to have strong bones and muscles in order to perform well. 

A well designed strength training routine can significantly minimize the chances of injury. Focusing on strength training especially in the off season will helpful you strengthen your weaker muscles and previously injured body parts so you don’t get injured again.  

3. Better Energy Reserves

A recent study has shown that strength training improves overall exercise economy which means that you will have better energy reserves throughout the race. 

This is also due to the fact that strength training improves your body mechanics so you don’t spend any extra energy on any of your movement. 

Strength Training Tips for Triathletes

There are two main goals of strength training for triathletes: improved performance and prevention from injuries. Both of these goals can be achieved by following the below tips: 

1. Lift Heavier Weights With Low Reps

Although there has been some debate on the reps range and whether you should go heavy or light but majority of the experts agree that lifting heavier weights with low reps yields the best results for triathletes. 

It is recommended to keep your rep range between 3 to 6 for each set with 3 sets each exercise and 5 to 7 exercises per workout. 

2. Focus on Compound Movements

During a triathlon, an athlete uses pretty much every muscles in their body. It is therefore recommended that you focus on compound movements during your strength training workouts in order to train multiple muscles at the same time. 

The key is to focus on developing overall strength during pre-season so that you can reap the rewards when the race time comes. 

3. Learn Proper Form

As mentioned earlier, one of the main objectives of strength training is to prevent you from injuries. This objective can only be achieved when you perform strength training exercises with proper form. 

Not doing the exercises with proper form will actually make you more prone to injuries rather than preventing you from them. It is recommended that you perform the exercises either in front of a mirror so you can keep your form in check or hire a coach especially if you are just starting out.  

Sample Strength Training Workouts for Triathletes:

One of the main challenges that almost all triathletes face is lack of time. Even if you are a full time triathlete, your days are probably already filled with swimming, running and cycling training so adding strength training into your training program might sound like a big hassle.

The good news is that you don’t have to do it for hours or even every day. Even just 2 to 3, 30 minutes sessions a week are more than enough to see reasonable improvement in your overall performance. 

Below we have outlined 3 strength training workouts that you can do alternatively. You don’t require a lot of equipment for these workouts and don’t even need to go to a gym if you don’t want to or can’t due to the pandemic. 

Remember to properly warm up before your strength training workouts. 

Workout #1
ExerciseRepsHow to Perform
Squats6 repsStand straight with you feet shoulders width apart. While toes pointed slightly outwards, bend at your knees until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. Stand back up while keeping your back straight and chest out.Start with body weight, but you can do it with a barbell as well to increase resistance.  
Bench Press6 repsLie flat on a bench and grab the bar while your arms are shoulders width apart. Lift the barbell off the rack and lock your arms while holding the bar straight over your chest.  No bring the bar down slowly towards the middle of your chest until it almost touches your chest. Push the bar back to its original starting position. 
Wide Grip Lat Pull Downs6 repsGrab the bar on the pull down machine with your grip slightly wider than your shoulders.Your palms should be facing the machine. Sit down on the machine’s seat while keeping your back straight. Bring the bar down to the front of your body until it almost touches your upper chest.Slowly bring the bar up to the starting position where your arms are completely extended.
Shoulder Press6 repsGrab a pair of dumbbells with which you can performance between 6 to 10 reps without compromising proper form. Sit down on a bench preferably with back support.Slowly and carefully lift both dumbbells to your shoulders height while your palms are facing forward.From this position, extend your arms all the way up and then bring the dumbbells down until your elbows are parallel to the ground. 
Planks30 secondsGet into a prone position while keeping your back straight and your body weight balancing on your toes and forearms. Hold this positions for at least 30 seconds while breathing deeply and focusing on your core muscles. 
Workout#2
ExerciseRepsHow to Perform
Lunges6 repsStand up straight with your lower back slightly arched and your chest out. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Step forward with your lead leg while squatting at the same time. Once your front thigh is parallel to the ground, then bring your body back to the original standing position. Now perform the same movement with your other leg. To increase resistance, you can do this exercises with dumbbells or a barbell. 
Push Ups6 repsGet into a prone position while your back is straight and your body weight is balanced on the palm of your hands and your toes.Lock your arms straight while your hands are slightly wider than your shoulders.Lower your body until your chest is only 2 to 3 inches from the floor.Now push yourself back to the original position. 
Pull Ups6 repsGrab a pull up bar with your arms slightly wider than should width. Your palms should be facing forward. Now bring your weight up with your arms until your chin almost touches the bar.Slowly bring your body down to its original position. You can also perform this exercise on an assisted pull up position if you struggle to lift your body weight. 
Triceps Dips6 repsGrab the handles of a dip machine and balance your weight on your hands while your arms are locked by your sides and your back is straight. Slowly lower your body while keeping your back straight until your elbows are parallel to the ground.Now push your body back up to its original position. 
Stability Ball Crunches10 to 15 repsLie down straight on a stability ball while your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Grab the back of your head with both hands and from this position, bring your head up and towards your mid section.Bring your head back to its original position. 
Workout#3
ExerciseRepsHow to Perform
Jump Squats6 repsStand straight with you feet shoulders width apart. While toes pointed slightly outwards, bend at your knees until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. Jump back up while straightening your legs and land back in your original position. 
Reverse Lunges6 repsStand up straight with your lower back slightly arched and your chest out. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Step backward with your right leg while squatting at the same time. Once your front thigh is parallel to the ground, then bring your body back to the original standing position. Now perform the same movement with your other leg. To increase resistance, you can do this exercises with dumbbells or a barbell. 
Push Ups6 repsGet into a prone position while your back is straight and your body weight is balanced on the palm of your hands and your toes.Lock your arms straight while your hands are slightly wider than your shoulders.Lower your body until your chest is only 2 to 3 inches from the floor.Now push yourself back to the original position. 
Upright rows6 repsGrab a barbell with a shoulder width grip. Your palms should be facing your body. Lift the barbell and stand up straight with your chest out. From this position, raise your elbows up and to the sides until the bar almost touches your chin. Bring the bar down to your hips while keeping your back straight. 
Planks30 secondsGet into a prone position while keeping your back straight and your body weight balancing on your toes and forearms. Hold this positions for at least 30 seconds while breathing deeply and focusing on your core muscles. 

Things to Avoid

Below are some of the mistakes you should avoid to get the most out of strength training for Triathlons. 

1. Don’t Lift Too Heavy Closer to a Competition

Most of your heavy lifting should be done in the off season and come the race time, you should focus on training for maintenance. It is recommended that you work on weak muscles and any injuries before the season starts to reap the best rewards. 

2. Don’t Do Strength Training Before Your Main Triathlon Training

A good strength training workout is intense and requires some recovery time for best results. Therefore, you should avoid doing a strength training workout early in the day even before triathlon training (running, swimming and cycling).

Experts suggest that you either plan your strength training few hours after triathlon training or on a completely separate day so that you give your muscles enough time to recover between workouts. 

3. Don’t Overdo It

Triathletes are probably most prone to over training as compared to athletes from any other sport. For optimum performance and results, it is suggested that there should be a gap of at least 2 days between your strength training workouts. 

Over training makes you more susceptible to injuries and that’s the last thing you want as an athlete. Remember to be patient and gradually incorporate strength training into your routine especially if you are new to it.

Final Words

Whether you are a new comer or a veteran of the sport, strength training can surely improve your performance as triathlete. Rather than doing extra miles of running, biking or cycling to improve performance, focus on including strength training into your program. 

Contrary to the popular belief, strength training specifically designed for triathletes won’t make you bulky but will surely strengthen your muscles, ligaments and bones and will give an extra push to your overall performance. 

Below is what we have discussed in this post:

Summary:

  • Strength training improves your overall performance as a triathlete by making you stronger and preventing you from injuries.
  • Focus on compound movements and ensure proper form for every exercise. 
  • Incorporate 2 to 3 strength training sessions into your training regime per week. 
  • Train heavier during the off season and train for maintenance closer to the race. 
  • Avoid over training. 

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