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Strength Training for Triathletes

Strength Training for Triathletes: Best Strength Exercises

“What’s the importance of strength training for triathletes? What are the best strength training exercises? Read this article to find out!”

Strength Training for Triathletes

Are you over 35 years of age? Do you have a limited amount of training time? Do you want to reverse—or at least slow down—as many aspects of the aging process as possible? Are you an endurance athlete looking for an extra edge? Do you want to boost power, reduce fatigue, guard against injury and increase your late-race energy reserves?

Well, who doesn’t? And strength training can be the tool to help you accomplish each of these universally sought-after benefits. In fact, strength, or resistance, training is one of the most commonly overlooked means to improve endurance athletic performance.

All too many triathletes sacrifice strength training in favor of additional swim, bike or run sessions. This is unwise. In fact, a well-executed strength-training program can allow you to carve up to 25 percent out of your swim, bike and run volume while improving performance and enjoying better race-day results.

I fought going to the gym for years until I reached my mid-30s. Suddenly, speed work started to look more like steady-state training, and I could no longer override a lack of power on climbs with desire. My race performances started to suffer. I could see that even with a huge volume of miles out on the roads, my fitness was not what it was in my 20s.

Adding resistance training was the next step, but I had a problem. I had no idea how to design and integrate a strength program into triathlon training. I was also intimidated by the gym because I felt like the scrawny weakling on the beach compared to the hulks pushing around weights that would crush me. So there I was, the Ironman champion, embarrassed to go into the gym.

But my desire to win was even stronger than my embarrassment. I was introduced to a top strength coach, a woman named Diane Buchta. She led me through an entire season of weights, focusing on building overall body strength and, eventually, muscular speed.

The results were dramatic. In the first full season I used the program described below, I won the Triple Crown of Triathlon: the Nice International Triathlon, the Zofingen duathlon and the Hawaii Ironman.

I have boiled the program down to what I consider the 12 key exercises to develop overall body fitness for a triathlete. The workout is done twice a week throughout the year, and each session takes about 45 minutes. Separate the two weekly strength sessions by at least one day. The exercises, their order, the muscle groups they work and their sport-specific benefits are as follows:

1. Lateral Pull-downs (upper back; improves pull phase of swim stroke)
Beginning position: Grasp bar with arms straight and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Push chest forward; arch lower back
Ending position: Pull bar in front of head down to shoulder level

2. Leg Extensions (upper legs/quads; supports weight-catching phase of running and builds additional muscle mass necessary for half-marathon distances and up)
Beginning position: Sit on machine. Rest shin pad just above ankle. Line knee with pivot point of machine
Ending position: Extend both legs fully to straight line More at Mark Allen’s 12 Best Strength Exercises

You can also watch this video for more Strength Training for Triathletes:

More Reading for Strength Training for Triathletes here:

Swimming Training: Swim Workouts for Triathletes

“Your swimming training must be done specifically  for the triathlete in you. Check out these swim workouts now!”


Some  Masters swim programs don’t include workouts geared specifically for triathletes, instead focusing training toward Masters swim meets. I’m sad for those triathletes because a good coach and Masters group can make swimming more enjoyable. In addition to the fun-factor, a good coach can help your swim efficiency and improve your pace.

If you use a coach and the workouts in the column look fun, take a copy to your next swim practice. If you don’t swim with a Masters group–no worries–you can still do a couple of my favorite workouts on your own or with your swim buddies.

First, read through the workout and notice that there is no designation for yards or meters. Use the measurement system associated with your pool.
For this entire workout, keep your perceived exertion at easy to moderate.

Looking at the first swim of the main set, the 900 is more fun if you swim it with three to six other people that swim roughly the same speed as you. You will rotate the lead position in a single lane. When the leader completes 75, they’ll stay on the right side of the lane wall to allow everyone else to swim past. They’ll then join the group as the new last person.

Rotating the lead position makes the time go by faster, helps you practice drafting and usually creates a higher average pace than if you swim 900 by yourself (given the same effort level).

After the 900 is complete, take a one to two-minute rest interval (RI) (but no more than two minutes) before beginning the 600. You can continue rotating the lead during the 600 or select one leader for it and each of the remaining sets. During the 600, do three repeats of: 100 closed-fist swimming then 100 regular swimming.

Don’t cheat on the fist swims. Folding your fingers down and keeping an open palm does not count as a fist. Closed-fist swimming done correctly forces you to use your entire arm to catch water and can help increase cadence. When you open your hands after swimming with closed fists, it feels like you’re wearing paddles.

After the 600 is a 400 pull with a buoy and paddles. The 400 is followed by a 200 pull with a buoy and no paddles.

For the main set grand finale I like to work a few different muscles by adding backstroke.tri

300 to 500 freestyle, 200 to 400 kick, 200 freestyle (alternating drill 25/swim 25)

Main set:
900 steady swim, change who leads the lane each 75
One but no more than two-minute rest interval (RI)
600 steady consisting of 3 x 100 fist/100 swim
One but no more than two-minute RI
400 pull (paddles and buoy)
One but no more than two-minute RI
200 pull (buoy, no paddles)
One but no more than two-minute RI
6 x 50 backstroke on 1:10
Goal of the main set: 2400 yards or meters of steady swimming at an aerobic pace.

Cool down:
Swim an easy 100 to 200 yards, choice of stroke

Total distance: 3200 to 3700

I just love negative-split workouts. These workouts help athletes learn to meter their energy and not go too fast at the beginning of the workout.

Before beginning this workout, first determine the highest average pace per 100 you can hold for a set of three repeats of 300, with only 30 seconds rest between each swim (3 x 300 w/ 30 second RI). Call this your T-Pace. More at 2 Top Swim Workouts for Triathletes

You can also watch this video for more tips for your Swimming Training:

Bike Workouts for Training for Triathlon

Training for Triathlon: Bike Workouts

“Training for triathlon? Then you must check these bike workouts. Read more now!”

Bike Workouts for Training for Triathlon

Early spring is when you should get more specific with your sessions. You will be getting a little stale with long steady miles and the turbo trainer, so now is the time to speed up your riding.

Introducing some faster pace work into your training now will make the transition to racing later on a whole lot easier. The lighter and hopefully warmer evenings are perfect for short, snappy training sessions that will boost your fitness levels and won’t leave you too fatigued. Using your time on the bike wisely makes sense, leaving you more time to swim and run.

Most of us don’t have much free time after work, maybe an hour at most, but that’s still plenty. British Cycling lead coach, Chris Furber, thinks an hour is a perfect window of time. “The human body is designed to walk and run, so is neurologically and physiologically set up for those movement patterns. You can condition your body to follow a cycling movement pattern just by getting out on your bike regularly. If you stop cycling for too many days your body will quickly return to its normal walking state.”

Aim: To build strength and power
Tip: Try to hold your pace for the duration of the efforts. If you fade too much, try starting a little slower
Warm up:
• 15 minutes in a small gear, gradually bringing your heart rate up
Main set:
• 3×2 minutes hard and controlled, in a big gear + 90 seconds rests
• 4 minutes easy spinning
• 3×1 minute hard and controlled, in a big gear + 60 seconds rests
• 4 minutes easy spinning
• 3x30secs at maximum effort + 30 seconds rests
Warm down:
• 15 minutes in a small gear, gradually bringing your heart rate down

Aim: A low load session designed to create pedaling efficiency
Tip: Pedal in circles, and don’t bounce in the saddle
Equipment A cycle computer that measures cadence
Warm up:
• 15 minutes in a small gear
Main set:
High/low cadence efforts
• 2 x (2mins spinning your legs at 110rpm, 2mins at 80rpm)
• 10 mins easy riding
• 2 x (2mins spinning your legs at 110rpm, 2mins at 80rpm)
Warm down:
•15 minutes in a small gear
More at Triathlon Cycling: One-Hour Workouts

Check out this video for more Triathlon Training – bike workouts:

More Reading for Training for Triathlon here: