8 strength building gym exercises for triathletes

Here are eight effective gym exercises that will help increase your overall strength for all three triathlon disciplines.

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Stronger muscles fatigue less easily, improve economy of movement and help increase your speed. The day after your gym work do a short, moderate-effort skill day, and move your long sessions to the back end of your weekly schedule. Here are eight effective exercises to increase your overall strength for all three disciplines. 


Lat pull-down 

Facing the machine, reach up to adopt a wide grip (standard) position or reverse close-grip. Pull against the machine’s resistance, keeping the body firmly rooted and the work coming from the arms alone. Look straight ahead; don’t jerk the head down and forward. Slowly return the weight until almost touching the stack and repeat.

Benefits: swim – uses lats, shoulders, triceps and biceps. 

Leg press

Adjust the moving sled so you can extend the leg to near straight but can’t go too deep. The movement shouldn’t see you touch your buttocks with your heels. Keep the knees tracking over the foot, ensuring slow movements with tension on the muscle, not locking out the knee joint.

Benefits: bike strength and run – uses quads, glutes and hamstrings. 

Calf raise 

Adjust the machine so that you can drop the heels at the bottom of the action and fully extend the legs at the top. Keep the knees straight to isolate the calf, moving from a dropped heel to lift the machine until the calf is maximally contracted. Slowly lower and repeat.

Benefits: run and some bike – uses gastrocnemius, soleus, feet/ankle, which are key to running strong off the bike and reducing run injuries.

Tricep press 

Using the lat pull-down bar, stand facing the machine with a shoulder-width grip or narrower. Press the bar downwards, bending only at the elbow, with fingers in a relaxed ‘swim catch’ position.

Benefits: swim – uses triceps, forearms and hands.

Dumbbell step-ups 

With a step height suitable to your leg length – so that you can step up without leaping off the back foot – stand up using the front leg, holding a dumbbell to increase your effective body mass. Stand up, then lower back down, ensuring you swap legs on the lifting and lowering phases.

Benefits: bike and run – uses quads, hamstrings and hip flexors. Improves leg power and, therefore, off-the-bike run ability.

Hip flexion 

Using dip/leg raise machine, position arms horizontally on supports with legs hanging down. Slowly raise both legs while maintaining a strong core position, using the hip flexors to raise the knees as the lower leg hangs relaxed. Hold for 5secs then lower slowly. Don’t swing the legs; just lower and raise to a count of 3-5secs.

Benefits: run and bike – uses hip flexors and core muscles. 

Dumbbell raise 

This can be one arm or two arms at a time, front, 45° or lateral raise to target various parts of the shoulder. Ensure the upper body doesn’t lean back or swing to get the weight up and above shoulder height.

Benefits: swim – uses deltoids, traps, pecs. Keeps the shoulder area strong.

Bench crunches 

Place your calves on a bench, lying on the floor with your backside near to the bench side. Slowly raise your head, shoulders and upper torso upwards by engaging the stomach muscles and breathing out. Hold briefly then lower slowly. Look to tire the muscles by holding the contraction rather than reps.  


Benefits: swim, bike, run – uses the abdominals, to build core strength.