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How to "fit" strength into your training week

Strength training works wonders for triathletes. Coaches and pro athletes have incorporate strength training throughout their programs for many years. Every running, cycling and triathlete magazine recommends strength and conditioning regimes in every edition. Similarly Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is full of success in all sport based on a foundation of strength training.

In this blog we have previously discussed Triathlons Missing Link and Strength For Endurance Athletes as well as numerous mentions in many of our other discussions such as Can I Qualify For Hawaii and Why We Built SEAC Studio. If you scroll down on the right hand side of this blog you can click the tag word "Strength" to see a complete list of related stories.

In fact the only triathletes still refusing to incorporate strength training seem to be the ones that are injured all the time – “once my knee gets better I’ll get back to running and then I’ll try out the gym” or “the physio gave me some exercises, I’ll just do those at home”.

Of course there are the very rare athletes who remain strong and injury free without strength training. These athletes are usually smaller, lean and naturally muscular. For most of us however, we will need strength training for a host or reasons I have discussed previously.

The problem for most of us, and the main reason we don’t implement strength training is simply we can’t find the time and don’t know how to fit it all in. Triathlon training is already difficult to fit in with kids, partner, work and friends. To add another component is just not possible – I hear you say.

Here is the first misconception – that you need hours in the gym to do your strength training.

The following table sets out a guide as to how many hours of strength training should be scheduled based on the total training hours.

The second misconception – is that you need to work out in the gym.

One or two sessions only should be in the gym. These sessions should focus on heavy compound lifts. These should be complimented with mobility and stability work. Further discussion on exercise selection to come.

Two shorter sessions of about 15 – 25 minutes can be scheduled prior to a steady or long run and one of your bike or swim sessions. In fact, if you are short on time you would be far better served by dropping the duration of your long run and replacing it with mobility and activation work prior to the run.

Further sessions should be focused on core strength. Keep in mind the core includes all the muscles supporting the hips and spine. Exercises like the glute bridge and plank variations can be performed at home before breakfast or in commercial breaks of an evening.

Sport specific strength training should also be incorporated in your swim, bike and run sessions. Further detailed discussion on specific strength sessions for each discipline will be available soon.

The bottom line is that if you have time for a third bike or run they could and should be turned into a solid heavy lifting session. Before you jump in the pool for more laps try and fire up your glutes and core plans with banded leg raises and lateral toe taps. T-pushups are great before a swim as they engage the trunk.

The final misconception - is that strength training is only for the off season

Agreed, three weeks after your last A race is the best time to start your new strength program. However the strength component of your training should be year round. The focus and time available may shift during the year, but even in your final build for your goal A Ironman race it will be beneficial to maintain some of your strength work.

In our last article we discussed why strength was important.

This article shows us a few easy ways to implement strength into our training. In coming weeks we will look at types of exercises and when.

Post script

To help athletes we have come up with the Top 25 Strength Exercises Part A and Part B. There is also a crappy but very effective SEAC on YouTube here.

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