Training plan: Winter gym sessions for triathletes

Resistance training builds strength, keeps you focussed on technique and provides an ideal indoor session for the off-season

Winter gym training plan

The season’s over and it’s time to switch training mode. Time to get back to the basics of skill and strength training while incorporating a modest dollop of stamina.


This new mode keeps your total volume and intensity of training at less than spring/summer levels, but provides the right conditions to build strength and stay healthy.

You should aim for around 50-60% of the volume you intend to peak at next spring/summer and prioritise training in the gym for two or possibly three days a week. Consistency and a slow build is the name of the strength-training game. Let’s talk specifics…

Swallow your pride

You need to have a long-term view when you join the gym and decide to do battle with the weight plates. It’s too easy to start on far too high a resistance, often because, let’s face it, we feel puny if we start too easy.

This over-exertion causes sudden muscle shock, resulting in excessive muscle soreness and a high likelihood of joint issues and injury.

It also means you eventually have to back off the resistance, thus causing a regressive not progressive set of early training sessions. If you start easy, the only way is up, which is just sensible and highly motivational.

But before you step foot in the gym with your multisport list of strength training exercises in hand, think about the areas in which you know you’re either weaker or have injured previously.

These areas must be extremely carefully loaded with resistance to help stimulate them, but not shocked into further muscle or tendon injury. Your starting point will be different to other people, so resistances must be personal: no ego battles. This is not gym-Strava.

Exercise breakdown

Though the precise list of exercises that strength trainers and tri coaches use will vary slightly, it’s always a good idea to have key, alternatives and body weight exercises in your repertoire.

Your ‘key’ exercises (see also ‘Tuesday’ of the training plan below) should hit the primary muscles involved in the swim, bike and run, and include some core work – lat pull-down, leg press, calf raise, tricep press down, squat, hip flexion.

The ‘alternatives’ offer variations on the above and should target your known problem areas – tricep kick back, hack squat, seated calf raise, close grip pull-down, single-leg press, seated calf raise. The ‘body weight’ versions are ideal for DIY at-home strength training when you can’t make/face the gym – dips, squats, step-ups, press-ups, single-leg squat, calf raise.

Ask a gym staff member if unsure of any of the exercises mentioned above and before using any unknown machinery.

… and don’t forget – you can find lots more free triathlon training plans on the 220 Triathlon website, including sprint distanceOlympic distanceIronman and more.


(Images: Jonny Gawler)