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Power Training: Outer Strength

Use this Winter to be the Strongest You've Ever Been.

Incorporating a strength training regimen to your training routine can provide many benefits. It will improve your body’s conditioning and increase your body’s basal metabolic rate so you’ll burn calories even while resting. Stronger muscles are less susceptible to injury and adding a resistance program also helps muscles absorb the impact from running, which increases the time to fatigue. With a full career, family and social schedule, though, it’s tough to add another type of workout without sacrificing another.

The winter does give us a chance to back off the time spent cycling due to shorter days and the colder weather outside. Using that extra time to add a resistance program can spice up the variety of workouts and can also reduce the chance of being super-fit in May and burned out by July. This article will outline a few ways to add strength without sacrificing time spent on the other sports.

If you are pressed for time to fit an extra workout into an already busy schedule, it is quite simple to incorporate sport specific workouts to your program. Swimming with paddles at a slower stroke rate increases the resistance to the catch phase and will build upper body strength. If you are new to paddles, start with smaller finger tip models to keep shoulder strain to a minimum. On the trainer, one workout per week at low cadence and heart rate strengthens all leg muscles. A great trainer set is 3 x 10 minutes at 55 to 60 rpm with 5 minutes recovery at 90 rpm between each set. The heart rate during the strength phase should be relatively low, 55 to 60 per cent of maximum – this is not a threshold workout, but you should feel the effort in the legs. Concentrate on pedaling in circles by pushing over the top of the stroke and bringing the knee up towards the handlebars. The indoor fluid trainers, along with an 11 tooth cog on the cassette, will provide the most resistance. Be sure to have a cycle computer with cadence to keep on track.

It has been well documented that athletes over the age of 60 should also include strength training regimens. This combats osteoporoses as it increases the production of bone tissue. The stress of the weights also increases the strength of joints and connecting muscles and tissues.

There are two types of weight lifting routines triathletes can add to their program:  muscular strength and muscular endurance. Many years of research in resistance training has shown: 1 to 6 repetitions create strength, 8 to 12 reps foster muscular growth, and 15+ reps build muscular endurance. A power workout utilizes higher resistance and lower reps to produce the kind of strength useful for short climbs or even shorter bursts of speed in swimming to stay in the draft. Muscular endurance sets employ more repetitions at a lower weight. In our experience, the former is more beneficial as muscular endurance can be gained through sport specific workouts, such as swimming with paddles, low cadence cycling or running hills.

When starting a free-weight or weight-machine based program, begin with four to six weeks of muscular adaptation using lower weights and gradually increasing resistance. Once the muscles and joints have adapted to the weight, reduce the repetitions and increase the weight. As mentioned before, the challenge of weight training on top of swim, bike and run workouts is the time. By reducing your cycling sessions to twice per week, with one being geared towards strength, it is possible to add resistance workouts after either a swim or treadmill session.

Below are sample strength routines, one focusing on legs, the other full body. If you have questions regarding technique or the amount of weight to lift, consult ask a gym trainer before you start.


Timing: 2″ up – 1″ down (“=seconds, ‘=minutes)

Resistance: moderate (60-80% max)

rowing machine 5′ steady aerobic.

lat pull downs to front 2 x 8

one arm cable curl (biceps) 1 x 8

rope press downs (triceps) 1x 8

triceps pushdown 1 x 8

walking lunges (no weight) 2 x 8

leg extensions 3 x 8

leg curls (lying or seated) 3 x 8

dumb bell squats   3 x 8

leg press 3 x 8

Core strength: 3-4 x 1-2 minutes

superman back extensions

crunches, V-ups, or side crunches


Resistance: moderate (60-80% max)

Timing: 2″up -1″ down

db = dumb bells

rowing machine             5′ steady aerobic.

one legged leg press    2 x 8 each leg

leg extensions            3 x 8

db squats             2 x 8

adduction / abduction            2 x 8 / 8

one legged seated leg curls (alternating)             1 x 8 each

triceps pushdown             2 x 8

one arm cable curl (biceps)            2 x 8

rope press downs (triceps)            2 x 8

incline db bench press (low incline)            2 x 8

flat bench press (db’s or SM)            1 x 8

seated machine flys or db flys            2 x 8

overhead press (machine or db’s)     2 x 8

Core strength:             3-4 x 1 to 2 minutes

superman back extensions

crunches, V-ups, or side crunches

Many triathletes complain that they bulk up if they lift heavier weights. This is not true – the higher resistance makes you stronger, an increase in muscle size only comes from consuming more calories than you expend. Adhere to smaller portions and avoid extra proteins and you will keep that lean body.

Every athlete can benefit from a core strength routine. A strong back and stomach are the foundation all exercise . It is also crucial for a proper swim stroke, allows one to hold and be powerful in the aero position and helps to keep proper form while running. Core workouts are not necessarily sport specific and, if you are pressed for time, you can include a simple routine on the pool deck after a swim or following a run when the body is fully warmed up.


Frequency: 2-3 times a week

Sets: 2

Reps: 20

Equipment: A stretching mat and/or a stability ball if available.

1) Basic Crunch (upper abdominals)

2) Leg Raises (lower abdominals)

3) Twisting Crunch (oblique crunch)

4) Back Extensions: Superman

Adding a strength training routine to your winter program will build lean muscle fibres, allow the body to burn fat and also assist in improving bone density. Examine your time available and work with your coach to determine the optimal winter training strategy.

LifeSport coach Dan Smith has been involved with multisport for over fifteen years. He has also coached and instructed cycling, sailing and sailboarding since 1981.

Beginner and experienced triathletes looking to start or improve their performances  are invited to join the LifeSport team. Visit us on the web at www.LifeSportCoaching.com or email LifeSport Coaching ( office@LifeSportCoaching.com).