Off-season weight training

You may not like the idea but there’s a lot to be gained from resistance work come winter, says Joe Beer

Off-season weight training

You may not like the idea but there’s a lot to be gained from resistance work come winter, says Joe Beer.


The gym is a place with one distinct purpose: it’s a place to work out. And at this time of year it represents an off-season haven for many, but, as there’s nowhere to hide, yours will be a very public performance.

To go and do weights is to know that you’re in for some pretty hard work, because resistances must stress the body enough to cause an adaptation.

While this may be light in the first six to eight weeks to accustom inner structures like tendons, after that it has to be hard work or it’s simply a waste of time and effort.

You must also keep the regime up. A great single week of three sessions in October will have little use come next season. Consistency counts.

Rule one

Make it hard work and regular throughout the off-season or leave it alone There’s still no definitive evidence on whether you actually need resistance training in your regime at all. But what we do know is…

1. It helps maintain bone density which low-impact sports (swim and bike) don’t, especially in veteran athletes
2. It burns calories, raises metabolic rate and helps blood fat profiles in a season known for its higher calorie intake
3. It can be combined with short aerobic/skill sessions to bring some variety to indoor training
4. For those with a history of injury or those currently working on rehab exercises, the gym is a vital part of an athlete’s complete programme.

Rule two

Be realistic in your aims and goals The key to your sessions in the gym is to keep to two a week, keep them short and take with you a clear list of exercises that you want to complete.

As stated earlier, you either make them count or instead you save your energy for more specific swim, bike and run resistance workouts.

As every fitness centre, country club and home gym has a complete variety of exercises, it’s very hard to pick the best exercises for your programme.

So choose eight to 10 that hit the key swim, bike and run muscle groups. Ask the instructors at the gym or read the instructions with your free weights/home gym (see The Perfect Gym Workout box, below).

The biggest mistake that many people make when they want to get stronger is to train too hard, too often. You need to make resistance training systematically progressive and not something you do every day.

Rule three

Keep the sessions specific, documented in a training diary and nutritionally supported. Resistance training should be written up to include precise weights, reps and machines, or free-weight descriptions. To be progressive, you need to know from whence you progressed.

Lifting to just waste time in the gym means less time to cover the three key sports and slower recovery. Be sure to add extra calories, protein and snacks into your day if resistance training starts hiking up your appetite. To get stronger, you must force a muscle and feed it well.

The perfect gym workout for triathletes (1hr)

A resistance training session is like a storm – short, explosive and likely to wreak a bit of havoc. Be sure to sip on a carb-and-protein mixture during the session to ensure you work hard throughout…

Warm-up (10mins)

Easy cycle designed to get you into a working frame of mind and warm. Don’t go hard – that’ll come later in the session.

The lifting

15 reps of a resistance you could do five to 10 times more. Then the high-intensity training set: keep exercise resistance in first six weeks to a level where you can perform 12-15 reps, then add resistance so fatigue happens in six to 10 reps. Move to another muscle group.

The brick run (10mins)

After the weights, it’s useful to get on the treadmill and run steady (not race pace!). Your body will feel like it does coming out of the water and heading into T1 and off the bike and running out of T2 – all combined together. Get used to this and triathlon just got easier.

(Images: Jonny Gawler)


For lots more advice head to our Training section