Strength training away from the pool, the bike or the run is often overlooked by triathletes. However, it is an area that lends itself perfectly to the Winter months and can compliment a well-structured training plan leading into the new year. Of course, most of us will still spend plenty of time swimming, cycling or running during this period, but some quality time in the gym working on discipline-specific strength training can be hugely beneficial when it comes to nailing your new year goals. In this first of a two-part series on gym workouts, we look at strength training. Core exercises can be found here.
Written by Paul Moore & Richard Hoad
Discipline-specific strength training is focused on increasing power and power endurance in those muscles that are used directly in swimming, cycling or running. This includes specific leg-strength exercises (such as squats or leg presses) or upper body exercises (such as lat pull downs or running arms).
To evolve a good strength training program takes a number of weeks. It will involve putting in place a range of exercise and a steady progression in the number of repetitions and amount of weight completed. With this progression in mind, a strength plan could be phased as follows:
Preparation – 5 Weeks
This phase looks to develop a base strength and correct technique for the exercises. The number of repetitions start low and gradually increase and the weight is also kept low. Aim to do two sessions per week , with two sets of 20 x repetitions (with 30 seconds rest) with a light weight for weight bearing exercises and two sets of 10-20 repetitions (with 30 seconds rest) for non-weight bearing exercises.
Strength – 10 Weeks
This is the period to build your strength, increasing the weight while reducing repetitions for any weight lifting, and increasing the number of repetitions for non-weight bearing exercises.
Continue with two sessions a week building to three sessions. For weight bearing exercises build to three sets of 8-10 repetitions (with one minutes recovery) using the heaviest weight you can while completing the sets. For non weight bearing exercises, completed three sets of 30 repetitions with 30 seconds recovery.
Maintenance – 9 Weeks
The goal in this period is to maintain the strength you have developed in the preceding weeks. Aim to do two sessions a week, decreasing the number of sets from the strength period. For weight bearing exercises complete one to two sets of 10 repetitions with 45 seconds rest between sets. For non weight bearing exercises complete two sets of 30 repetitions with 30 seconds of rest.
A selection of weight resistance exercises are listed below, focus on the exercises to improve your weaknesses and do not overreach in early sessions (which may impact your ability to train both in the gym and away from it).
Weight Resistance Exercises
Squats – Develops the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks and are of particular benefit in improving your cycling strength
Leg Extension – Works on the quadriceps and is again good for cycling strength
Lat Pull down (In front of head) or Pull Ups – Benefits particularly the pull phase of your front crawl stroke
Seated Row – Increases your back strength which benefits you swimming
Tricep Extension – The triceps are active during swimming, aiding in extending your arm out in front of you when you begin a stroke and pulling your arm underneath you in the pull phase.
Hamstring Curls – Stronger hamstrings will improve your running stride and strength
Calf raise – Strong calf muscles will benefit both your running and cycling
Flat Bench / Hanging Leg Raises (no weights used) – using the weight of your body as the resistance leg raises will work your hip flexors and abdominals, providing benefits to all 3 disciplines
Tomorrow we’ll look at core exercises that compliment the discipline-specific strength training.