11 strength training tips for triathletes

Strength and conditioning workouts for age-group triathletes should be all about improving your range of motion, says top tri coach Darren Smith


Close your eyes, stand on one foot and see how long you can avoid touching the ground. About 5secs? If you reach 60secs, you have good proprioception; your body understands it’s going off alignment and corrects itself. The best runners run with feet, knee and hips aligned – so practise this drill on each foot every day.


Does Chris Froome look muscle bound? No. But he can ride up a massive hill pushing a massive chainring without wiggling. He has functional strength rather than brute force. Don’t focus on leg presses; instead, do big-gear work uphill. 


A further advancement is to reach 60secs with eyes closed after a hard run. That makes you bulletproof and shows your technique will hold up off the bike.


To engage your core further, place one hand in the back pocket of your jersey, the other holding onto the bars and push a big gear. Do it to the point that you feel you’re going to fall off. It’s not good enough to get up the hill; you need to get up the hill looking neat.


The best runners aren’t soft on the ground, not fleet-footed like some portray them. Hit the ground with a fair whack, which you’ll manage with quick-feet drills.


When you finish running hill reps or big-gear work, your butt should be on fire. They’re the muscles we want working; they’re bigger muscles.


Swimming isn’t a pulling action so it’s not about lat pull-downs in the gym. Lats are involved but it’s more about holding while the body goes past. That’s key because 95% of age-groupers will pull. A stretch-cord helps here. They turn on the right muscles for swimming, which are the core for twisting and isometric contraction of the shoulder.


We have a stretch-cord session before every swim and our athletes never injure their shoulders. The shoulder doesn’t move but the arm does, and they hold that for 10secs to begin with in each position of the stroke. And then step back further and hold in each position for another 10secs. There’ll be a point where you start shaking and that tells you that you’re not strong enough for that level.


The plank and bridge are good core exercises. As is a movement called the downward dog. Basically, it’s hands down, butt up and you slide through those positions using control of the shoulders. 


Many of my athletes do yoga or pilates but it’ll be triathlon-specific. In San Diego last year I had a yoga teacher come in every Thursday for my group, so aim to find a weekly tri-specific yoga or pilates session. 


Set up a circuit at home. Grab a ball, a stretch cord, brush your teeth and go through a routine where you’re focusing on tension and strength. A 15min session twice weekly will strengthen your performance. 


Three key benefits of strength training for triathletes

3 strength and conditioning exercises to help you stay injury-free

Dave Scott’s strength and conditioning training plan for triathletes

Strengthening calfs help runners maintain performance as they age


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What on earth does "A further advancement is to reach 60secs with eyes closed after a hard run. That makes you bulletproof and shows your technique will hold up off the bike." mean, and is it as terrible an idea as it sounds?


I like no. 11. However, hope its OK cleaning my teeth more than twice a week but don't expect to take 15min each time.

Me thinks the article is a bit of a 'cut and shunt' job. Not ideal for a car repair either

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