Strength Training for Triathletes

The Silly Season

With triathlon season in full swing and with 70.3 IM less than two months away, many of the die heart athletes are working at full capacity to cover all the skills and sessions they need to be prepped for the big outing.

The Hard Grind

Training for a triathlon is one of the toughest sporting events to train for. It takes a special breed of athlete to commit to three separate disciplines that require equal amount of attention when preparing to compete. Most endurance athletes specialise in one format and dabble in another to break the monotony or to cross train to improve their specialty. Taking on three sports and combining them into one event is no easy task, hence the need for structured training regimes which use terminology like BRICK training and ROTB (run off the bike) to ensure that they get accustomed to exercising various body parts and movements within one workout. It’s no simple feat getting off your bike after 1-2 hours and then having to go run for an hour – the body simply doesn’t favour this.

Strength made Simple

In addition, a triathlete needs to incorporate strength training into their training regime. However, with all the running, swimming and cycling squeezed into one week, how does one fit in another training session if not two, when the body is telling you that rest is a better option? The need to simplify strength training so that it’s effective in making you stronger (and not heavier) without the dreaded stiffness the next day is paramount. No-one enjoys running hill repeats or doing a speed session when the hamstrings or shoulders are sore from yesterday’s workout.

Enter the Dragon!

So the question begs – What is the best bang for your buck workout for a triathlete?

Kettlebell training is your answer. Kettlebell training has become more popular in recent years within the public gyms but many private facilities have been using them in their arsenal of strength training toys for decades. They provide great strength training benefits as well as teach an individual about pushing through a mental barrier in order to develop oneself. Performing 10 sets of 10 reps (100 reps) of kettlebell swings challenges the body and mind to a new level. A format of training which is catered towards athletes that can be exercising anywhere from 2 hours (sprint triathlon) to 14 hours (Ironman) where your mind is repeatedly encouraging you to quit.

How to train with kettlebells:

The major benefit of training with kettelbells is that it requires very little equipment, space and time. A 30 minute workout is all that is needed in order for you to target the necessary muscles specific to triathlon performance. Its what the industry calls bang for your buck training and here is how it goes:

1) 4 x 15 Kettelbells swings (pic 1)

2) 4 x 10 Goblet squats (pic 2)

3) 4 x 8 (per arm) Overhead press (pic 3)

4) 4 x 8 (per arm) Standing row. (pic 4)

Kettelbell swing (pic 1)

Goblet Squat (pic 2)

Kettlebell overhead press (pic 3)

Standing row

Perform each exercise one after another 1 – 4 and then take a one minute break. The only rest you have between exercises is the time it takes you to get into position.

Use an appropriate weight so that all the repetitions are performed with quality execution.

For the swings and squats, men should use 24 -28kg and 16-18kg for shoulder press and standing row. For the women, 16-20kg for the swings and squats and 8-12kg for the shoulder press and standing row.

Kettlebell training is guaranteed to improve your strength base without the added mass gain which is what every endurance athlete needs. In addition, the demand of doing repeated swings and squats places a great stress on the cardio-vascular system improving your body’s ability to deal efficiently with similar type exercise (running and cycling). All in all kettlebell training should be performed at least once a week to see the strength and cardio benefits in your triathlon performance.

For further information, contact for more strength training tips for triathlons. Please like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to stay up to do date with events, programming and nutrition for endurance performance.

Happy swinging!


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  • By David Harris - on Reply

    Great article Chris. I will be doing this in the morning, thanks. You are spot on with your comments – all the triathlon coaches I speak to say the same, especially for triathletes over 40 – strength training is a must (so is stretching and massage).

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➡️Challenge Tuesday⬅️

After being inspired by last nights class, I decided to take on a rowing challenge and build on my failed workout from Friday.

Workout format:

12 sets of 1min repeats with 1:30min recovery.

3 sets @ 1:50/500m
3 sets @ 1:45/500m
3 sets @ 1:40/500m

Then: 1 x 1:50; 1:45 and 1:40/500m at the end.

I did a further 1 set @ 1:55/500m as a recovery minute and to clock in 4000m in total of rowing!

Really enjoyed this workout and managed to hit every target which makes me 😎

Happy rowing folks!

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☀️ Motivation Monday ☀️

Amazing effort by local Saffa Kyle Buckingham on his IRONMAN South Africa win yesterday! Just look at those splits across the 🏊‍♂️; 🚴🏻 and 🏃🏻

Superb effort by him and all the finishers yesterday!


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Today’s lesson was about FAILURE!!

Been about 3 weeks since I’d last tackled some intervals on the Ergo so I thought I’d give it some horns 🤟🏻 but alas I properly failed in completing my workout 🤕.

The workout format was 3 sets of 3 x 500m attempts. Here is the breakdown:

A - 1:50/500m
B - 1:45/500m
C - 1:40/500m

Repeat 3 times - rest was 2min between attempts.

As you can see from the image, I managed the first set fine but then proceeded to crumble at the 1:45/500m split and the imploded at the 1:40/500m attempt. 🤮☠️🤬👎🏻

To retain some pride I started the 3rd set but knew that I wouldn’t be able to complete it.

A few things to take away from this morning’s workout.
1 - this was WAY more challenging then I expected!
2 - know your limits!
3 - define your limits by at least trying!
4 - maybe I needed more rest - amazing what an extra 60s might have allowed.
5 - even tho I choked ROYALLY, I still rowed another 500m and managed to stick to the split, showing that your body can still work even when you think you have exceeded your limit.
6 - Lastly, it’s okay to fail - we learn lessons from failing.

I’m not going to blame Friday the 13th MOJO or that I haven’t rowed in about 3 weeks but I do realize that in order to be better at something, you need to try it at least once a week to show some incremental improvements.

Anyway, those that are feeling strong 💪🏻, give the workout a bash and reap those leg, back and lung rewards!

Happy Friday!!

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🌀 Watt Bike Wednesday 🌀

Here is a great workout to help strengthen you for the hills, flats and sprint finishes.

Workout format: 2min work, 1min recovery x 4sets ( 12min set )

➡️ Warm-up: 10 min with cadence 75-85rpm and level 2-4.

↗️ Set one is Hills: Level 10 with 75-80rpm

🔂 Set two is Flats: Level 5 with 85-90rpm

↘️ Set three is Sprint: Level 1/2 with 95+rpm

🔴 Take a two minute break between the sets.

In the image you can see where I have highlighted the 3 sets in conjunction with the relevant rpm.

Total time of workout is 48min!

Happy Spinning!

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✂️ Technique Tuesday ✂️

Many cyclists and runners focus on training the quads and neglect the hamstring muscles. The function of these muscles is to bend the knee and extend the hip and due to their function are often exposed to high tension resulting in injury or cramping. Make sure you include training the hammies once a week to make them bulletproof to injury or fatigue. Here is how:

Lying hamstring curls on Swiss ball:

🔍 lie on your back with legs straight.
🔍 feet up on the ball with ankles close to center of the ball.
🔍 arms to the side for support.
🔍 push down on the ball with the heels.
🔍once the body is fully extended, lift hips up and curl the heels towards the bum/glutes.
🔍make sure you finish with shoulders, hips and knees aligned (no saggy hips)
🔍squeeze the glutes at the top of the movement.
🔍 return SLOWLY to the starting position with the hips OFF the floor.

❗️warning ❗️- if you suffer from lower back pain, rather don’t extend the hips too high.

⚜️ Perform 10-12 reps of 3-4 sets to get the most of the hamstrings.

Happy training!

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