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Triathlon Strength Training

If you have been doing some basic triathlon strength training, including core strength work and exercises for hip control and lower limb conditioning, then you might feel ready to take things a step further.

This page is in 3 parts:

  1. General Strength Training – how to improve your general strength to enable you to move safely on to part 2.
  2. Specific Triathlon Strength Training – how to build discipline-specific strength.
  3. Strength And Power Training - how to develop your ability to generate force that will transfer to improved performance.

If you are keen to do incorporate this type of training in your triathlon training program, we advise you to take advice from an accredited strength and conditioning coach.

This page is just to give you an idea of the type of exercises you can do. In order to lift weights safely you will need to be taught the appropriate techniques. An accredited strength and conditioning coach will also be able to write you an appropriate strength training program.

To find an accredited strength and conditioning coach in the UK, America or Australia visit these websites:

1) General Strength Training

The aim of this type of training is to:

  1. Improve general strength of muscles
  2. Develop tissue loading tolerance
  3. Build work capacity and a solid, strong base on which to build
  4. specific force and power generation training
  5. Address muscle imbalances or weaknesses to reduce injury risk.

This sort of training can be included through:

  1. Resistance training using bodyweight or weights
  2. Circuit training
  3. Co-ordination training focusing on stability and prevention of injury.

Examples of Exercises:

Posterior Chain:

The posterior chain is the group of muscles that runs from your lower back down behind your legs. These muscles include the lower back, the glutes, the hamstrings, and also the calves. They are important for forward propulsion.

Double leg standing

Squat (see picture below), stiff leg deadlift (See video below).

back squat

Single leg standing

Single leg good mornings (see video below), stiff leg deadlift.

Double and single leg supine

Glute and ham bridges, swiss ball hamstring:

Glute bridge
swiss ball hamstring curl

Double and single leg prone

Nordic/Russian hamstring:

  • Kneel with your feet secured (someone holding them or tucked into wall bars).
  • Slowly lean forwards, controlling the movement with your hamstrings.
  • Keep the hips and back still - don't arch your back or bend forwards from the hips.
  • When you get to the point that you can't hold this position let yourself fall forwards onto your hands, push back and bring yourself back to the start position using your hamstrings.

Step-ups (see video below)

Hip Flexors:

Moderate load through full range – band or cable standing hip flexion.

theraband hip flexor exercise
theraband hip flexor exercise

Calf-Ankle Stiffness:

Reactive focused drills Ankle hopping or low drop jumps with quick contacts (see lower limb conditioning page).

Pulling Strength:

Vertical and horizontal pulling:

Chins/pull ups, inverted rows (on bench), bent over rows, pullovers

Swim catch or position specific pulling movements: Swim cord, cable pulls, pulling in streamline hold position.


2) Specific Triathlon Strength Training

This training is designed to improve the strength of your main muscle groups for swimming, cycling and running through exercises that mimic the movements and body positions in each discipline.

Objectives of this training are:

  1. Condition quads, glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors for cycling and running
  2. Condition back, shoulders and upper arm for swim performance
  3. Enhanced running economy through better reactivity of lower leg.

Examples of Exercises:

Lower Limb:

  • Leg press
  • Leg curl

Upper Limb:

  • Lat pull downs
  • Lat raises

Calf/ankle/foot:

  • Calf raises
  • Sand pit drills
(see lower limb conditioning page)

Single joint hip exercises for abduction/adduction, lateral rotation, extension and flexion:

  • Standing cable/band movements
  • Floor based exercises

Shoulder specific for rotator cuff and scapular control:

  • Prone flies
  • External rotations –bands, dumbbells
(see shoulder strength page).


3) Strength And Power Training

Build your ability to generate force that will transfer to improved performance in areas such as swim starts and swim speed, bike power, run speed, reactivity and economy.

These exercises require high force or power to execute and you need to maintain postural strength and control.

You should ensure that you have built up a good base of strength and postural control through the exercises in parts 1 and 2 before attempting these exercises.

So the aims of these exercises are to provide:

  1. Leg strength and power
  2. Upper limb strength and power
  3. Improved endurance performance

Examples of Exercises:

Lower limb high force generation (both legs involved so greater stability):

  • Squats and variations – front, back
  • Deadlift pull and variations (see video below).

Lower limb force generation and pelvic control (single leg, low stability):

Split squat

  • Single leg squat
  • Lunges
  • Step ups (as above).

Upper limb high force generation:

  • Rapid chin-up, row or pullovers
  • Swim stack sprints.

Lower limb high power generation:

  • Olympic lifts
  • Loaded and unloaded countermovement and squat jumps
  • Split squat/unilateral squat jumps
  • Vertical/horizontal jumping and bounding – box jumps, CMJ, hurdle jumps, single leg vertical/horizontal jumps and bounds.

Upper limb power generation:

  • Explosive press and pull variations
  • Clapping press ups
  • Med ball throws and tosses (see videos below).


Summary Of Triathlon Strength Training

Triathlon strength training is divided into 3 parts:

  1. General Strength Training – how to improve your general strength to enable you to move safely on to part 2.
  2. Specific Triathlon Strength Training – how to build discipline-specific strength.
  3. Strength And Power Training - how to develop your ability to generate force that will transfer to improved performance.

If you want to include weight training in your triathlon training program then take advice from an accredited strength and conditioning to ensure your training is safe and effective.

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