A Triathlon is one of the most challenging events to compete in.  It requires mastery of 3 very unique sports that all require training time to see increases in performance.  While strength training has become more common among triathletes, many are still not getting all they can from their strength training program.  This not only decreases their chances of improving their performance, but also opens them up for injury.

Here are 3 common mistakes triathletes make when it comes to strength training:

  • Not being consistent with strength training year round

Many triathletes only get serious about strength training during the winter months when training outside becomes more difficult to do.  Once the weather gets better many eliminate strength training in favor of more running, biking, and swimming.  Yes, there is a definite time crunch when it comes to fitting in training for 3 sports while also trying to balance the rest of a busy life.  However, abandoning strength training all together is one of the WORST things to do for you body and your performance.  Strength training allows for the development of the necessary physiological adaptations and tissue adaptations to drive performance and prevent the common injuries (IT Band Syndrome, shoulder pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.).  If you want to increase your performance and stay healthy, year-round strength training is a must.

  • Using the wrong type of workouts

Many triathletes are endurance junkies and feel that all training has to model building more and more endurance.  This leads them to exhaustive metabolic conditioning classes, circuit training classes, or bootcamp workouts that all focus on light weights and thousands of reps. When in reality, to increase their performance and decrease risk of injury they need the exact opposite.  They need to build strength, muscle, and power.

If we look at the qualities and athlete needs as buckets, we would have 4 buckets:

  • Strength/Muscle Bucket
  • Power Bucket
  • Endurance/Conditioning Bucket
  • Movement Quality / Mobility Bucket

Every athlete needs to fill each bucket to some extent, based on their sport.  Failing to address any bucket leaves performance increases on the table and increases the risk of injury.  The endurance/conditioning bucket for a triathlete is already overflowing from all the sport specific conditioning the do for all three sports.  When they are in the weightroom they need to fill the other buckets that do not get filled from all the sport practice they do.  This means they need to lift heavier weights to build strength and muscle, and do explosive activities like plyometrics, medicine ball throws and Kettlebell swings to improve their power (Pro tip:  You need an adequate strength base to build explosive power, it’s why strength is the base of all other physical qualities of sports).  Strength and Power training are very different than what occurs in MetCon classes or Bootcamps.  Anyone trying to pass off these classes as strength and power training are flat out wrong.  Strength training properly through a full range of motion exposes the body’s joints and muscles to loaded ranges of motion not used in swimming, biking, or running.  This in turn keeps the muscles, ligaments, and tendons strong throughout their full range of motion allowing the joints to maintain their full mobility.  Proper strength training helps build a more resilient body that is able to tolerate the large amount of training a triathlete has to go through while also helping reduce the chance of injury.

  • Using only bodyweight or core exercises as maintenance

When a triathlete is in-season their sport practice will increase and gym time will decrease.  Unfortunately, many triathletes think they will just use some bodyweight and core exercises to maintain the strength and power they developed in the off-season.  This is not an effective strategy.  The goal is to maintain your current abilities, not let them disappear.  Strength training workouts will have to be cut from 3x/week to 2x/week and the workout will have to be shorter and more focused.  But heavier weights and explosive movements will still need to be trained in order to maintain these qualities.  It’s the structure of these workouts and how they fit into your training week that are the keys to having a successful in-season training program.

Don’t fall victim to these 3 training mistakes that most triathletes make.  Without proper guidance it’s easy for this to happen if you are new to strength training for sport performance.  At Train 2 Xcel we can help you navigate through all the confusing information out there on how to strength train for a triathlon.  We can teach you the proper way to train so that you remain healthy and maximize your performance.

Mark Bubeck.