Do Triathletes Need to Lift Weights & Strength Train?

May 12, 2022 | Achieve Better Form and Fitness

Like running and other distance events, triathlon involves a lot of repetitive motion. This can
result in muscle imbalances and weakness over time. This imbalance and weakness can lead to
injury, as the passive structures of the body. The Plantar Fascia, Achilles Tendon, knee, hip and
low back can take most of the load and can become over worked and breakdown.

To counteract this potentially negative effect it is important to “wake” the muscles back up. Not
only can this reduce chance of injury but may lead to better mechanics when running, increased
strength cycling and swimming. There are two main ways to help activate the muscular system.
The First is through Sports Pilates once per week. This will help rebalance the body and
focuses on the key muscles that are prone to weakness with running and triathlons. For more
information click here.

Strength training is another great way to get the muscles back working the way they should. A
good way to approach strength training is to start in your off-season to allow you to build up your
strength and then maintain strength training once per week in season.

A fourth discipline to achieving longevity and success in triathlon is strength training. When
properly executed for a targeted distance event, strength training can improve sport-specific
mechanics, race day performance, and injury resistance.

A general framework for triathletes is to plan 12-16 weeks of consistent strength training starting
in the off-season and later shifting to strength maintenance during the competitive season.

What is your Goal with Strength Training
The main goal of weight or strength training for runners or triathletes should be two-fold: First
and foremost it should be used as a tool to help prevent injury and second, it should help us
move better, have greater muscular endurance and power for the 3 disciplines.

As mentioned, training for triathlons and running generally requires very repetitive actions, in
particular when a programme lacks variety it is really important that a strength training
programme focus on under-active muscle groups early on. Also the exercises chosen should
also look improve the range of motion in the key joints like the ankle and hip, while improving
core stability. Once this is achieved, we can look at improving power and speed.

Here are some key fundamental principles to follow with your Sports Pilates or Gym Programme.

1. Start in the off season.
Strength training can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness initially as the muscles adapt to
the new stress placed on them. This might be a bit much for your body to handle when
preparing for triathlon or running races. The best approach is to start in your off season and that
way you can be adjusted and getting the benefits later in the season.

2. Start with good fundamentals.
As we mentioned it is important to develop good movements that target muscle
imbalances first. Sports Pilates is great for this. Later we will discuss good exercises to
include in your gym but in general strength training should be placed on a continuum.
First, the goal should be to be able to do all the key movements well. Single leg balance
exercises, core work, glute work, squats with good technique and exercises for the upper
back muscles to counteract the negative effects of sitting should all be included. Sports
Pilates works on these actions and really gets these muscles and joints working the way
they should to help prepare your body for more weighted actions later.

3. Start with exercises with 12-15 rep range before dropping down.
It is important when doing weights that you develop general strength before getting very
specific with heavier weights. For a lot of triathletes and runners they may always focus
on this phase called work capacity or anatomical adaptation. It is basically the ability to
handle load. Or adapting your body to be able to handle relatively heavy weights that we
can lift 15 times. The great thing here is that it gets the muscles strong but doesn’t have
the same risk of a very heavy weight lifted only 5 times. Doing a kettlebell swing with a
20kg for a male or 12kg for a female and swinging it 20 times would be an example of an
exercise that may be done here.

4. Initially replace some of your other training with strength training.
If you are already at full capacity with your training it may be a good idea to cut out an
easy run or cycle and replace it with a strength workout. This is the reason why the off
season or pre-season may be a good time to try strength training as your overall training
volume is lower. Once you have adapted you can build back up your training. Typically,
well trained athletes have good aerobic engines but under-trained musculature.
Therefore, adding strength training may add a big improvement.

Key Exercises to include

A great gym programme for a triathlete should include some core work, squats, Single
leg deadlift and kettlebell swings. Here is an explanation of how to do each of these

1. How to plank correctly. Blog here

2. Kettlebell Swing

3. Single Leg Deadlift

4. Squats

Contact us for more details.

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