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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