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Q: If I’m training for triathlons, what strength training would be beneficial for me?
A: Thanks for the question Evan!
First let me say how important it is to train for strength in ANY sport, so well done for wanting to get a little strength training in! Getting stronger for endurance sports is often overlooked, perhaps because it seems a little irrelevant (lifting heavy weights won’t help you run a marathon….or will it?!), but those endurance guys and triathletes who do lift weights get awesome results….and win races!
Stronger muscles means better efficiency of movement during your races (it takes less effort to move your body because you’re stronger!), you’ll have more power and ultimately this means more ENDURANCE.
Basic strength training will improve all of your disciplines – squats, deadlifts, chins and bench press should be the main focus of your training program. If you just did these exercises that would EASILY give you enough strength gains to carryover to race day.
The main thing is that your strength work doesn’t affect your sports training. So you shouldn’t feel so sore or exhausted from heavy squats that you can’t jump on the bike/in the pool/on the road. So here’s what I’d recommend:
Perform 2-3 whole body workouts each week using 2-3 exercises for 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps around 70-85% of your max. Super simple. Throw in some mobility/injury prevention work in the warm-up or in your rest periods and you’ll cover all your bases.
So your training week could look like this:
1A. Squat: 3 x 3 reps (70% x 3 reps, 75% x 3 reps, 80% x 3 reps)
1B. Hip flexor stretch: 3 x 30 secs
2A: Bench Press: 2 x 5 reps (75% x 5 reps, 80% x 5 reps)
2B. Pull-ups: 2 x 5 reps (bodyweight x 5 reps, bodyweight +5 - 10kg x 5 reps)
1A. Pull-ups: 3 x 3 reps (all sets with 5 – 10kg added)
1B. Bench Press: 3 x 3 reps (75% x 3 reps. 80% x 3 reps, 85% x 3 reps)
2A. Squat: 2 x 5 reps (75% x 5 reps, 80% x 5 reps)
2B. Hip flexor stretch: 3 x 30 secs
That’s plenty of work for one week, notice how I stick to a limited amount of exercises, this allows you to get good at doing them (READ: Stronger!). There’s nothing worse than doing 8-10 strength exercises and exhausting yourself, focus on a few things and do them well.
You could add a third day if you wanted, just stick to the above principles.
Every 3-4 weeks test your 5 rep max (the most weight you can lift for 5 reps) on each exercise then work out a new estimated max for each exercise. Take your 5 rep max to be 85% of your new estimated max. Or if you don’t want the added stress of testing a 5 rep max, simply add 5kg to your lower body exercise’s training maxes and add 2.5kg to your upper body exercise’s training maxes. This keeps everything ticking over month by month and is a built in method of making you stronger!
So to summarise; pick a few BIG exercises, train 2-3 times a week, train smart and leave most of your energy for your endurance training.
Hope that helps Evan!