Athletes Training Tips

Pre season and Base Season Strength Training

Hopefully all of you have enjoyed some down time from structured training and recovering from what is typically a very long triathlon racing season when you live in FL. While I am a huge fan of taking it easy for a few weeks after your last race, it is not a

Why strength training? Well besides the obvious of looking great in your tri outfit, strength training will give your body the best shot at staying injury free.  Triathlon, along with any other endurance sport, involves a lot of repetitive motion in the same plane. This typically results in weaknesses in certain muscles and over development in others. Strength training exercises allow us to correct some of those imbalances which will decrease the probability of an over use injury. Another perk of incorporating a strength program is that it will allow you to make gains in strength, power and endurance that more swim, bike and run miles will not give you.  Cardiovascular activity in large volumes is directly counterproductive to maintaining lean muscle mass.  This means that we have to be extra conscious of implementing a quality strength training program into our schedule. And for those of you who need added incentive, those who regularly strength train have increased enjoyment as well as improved performance in the bedroom ……….but we can save that for another article!good idea to completely abandon working out entirely. The pre season and base season periods are a great opportunity for you to incorporate some strength training into your schedule. I know, most triathletes would much rather swim, bike or run in their time challenged schedules. However, if you are over the age of 30, strength training should be a critical component to your training program.

What types of exercises and how often? All 3 of our disciplines require a strong “core” and yet doing these activities alone is not going to make your core strong. Your core is not just your abs; in fact it involves your glutes, hips, hamstrings, quads and torso. There are a lot of exercises that work these areas however I tend to prefer body weight and free weight exercises instead of machines.  Since we are typically crunched for time, it is more beneficial to do exercises that are multi joint and work more than one muscle at a time. For example, a leg extension machine works great at isolating our quads but does nothing for the lower leg muscles which are directly related to the impact in running. Exercises such as single leg squats and reaches as well as lunges are going to have a greater return on your investment simply due the greater number of muscles involved.  Both swimming freestyle and riding in aero position tend to create a rounded posture, therefore exercises such as pull ups, lat pull downs, rows and reverse flies are great exercises for developing strength in the mid/upper back regions.  Just as there are “phases” in our swim, bike and run workouts, there are phases with strength training as well. In the base season and pre season you can get away with a lot more strength training without compromising the other disciplines since most of that work is done at relatively low intensities. Believe it or not, higher repetitions create a greater level of fatigue due to the time the muscle is under load. So sets of 15-20 repetitions are acceptable in the early season but will negatively affect some of your intensity work in the other disciplines later in the season. Typically 2-3 days per week for strength training is sufficient and that will depend largely on your time availability. I personally tend to stick with twice a week simply because it makes for an easier schedule to manage as well as prevent boredom.  There are other phases to your program that you can incorporate such as a power phase and a speed phase but those are usually done later on in your training program.  These phases usually involve lower repetitions with higher resistance or explosive movements when dealing with plyometrics.

The bottom line is that you will make greater gains in your overall performance and fitness simply by adding a quality strength program to your training schedule. Fortunately the Florida region has many great resources in the form of coaches and personal trainers to assist you in adding a functional program to your schedule.

Heather Butcher

Heather is a USAT level 1 certified coach, Youth and Junior certified tri coach, USA Track and field coach, American council of Exercise certified Personal trainer and has been a competitive triathlete for 14 years.  You can contact Heather at or visit her website  for more information.

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