When I was training for a triathlon, I was spending about 2 hours a day running, biking, or swimming. I didn’t have time to mess around in the gym strength training, and I bet you don’t either. There isn’t a one size-fits-all program when it comes to strength training for sports.

Every sport is different in some aspect in regards to what is required physically. It doesn’t make sense to do shoulder presses when your sport requires you to move quickly on your feet. You should be optimizing your time in the gym and doing exercises that will benefit your sport. Triathletes are special in that they are essentially doing three different sports at once.

Their workouts need to be more tailored than for those of the average athlete. I’m going to give you a few tips to help you plan your workouts and maximize your training in the gym, so you can go out and perform your best in competition. I’m also going to give you an example training plan that you can use to help you plan your workouts.


Tip 1 – Squat!

Squats are a great exercise for triathletes to do. Whether you are running, biking, or swimming, you can use stronger legs. Some athletes might shy away from doing squats, because they don’t want their legs to get bigger, but as long as you keep your reps down, your legs won’t increase in size. The goal is to train the central nervous system to use what muscle you already have more efficiently.  The stronger your legs are, the less effort that is required to propel your body forward.

Also check out How to prepare to run half a marathon

Tip 2 –  Do eccentric exercises

All three parts of a triathlon require you to move your body almost entirely concentrically. The eccentric motion is something that is missing from the training and is something your muscles can greatly benefit from. The eccentric part of a lift is also referred to as the negative portion of the lift. A good example of an eccentric exercise would be to take 6 seconds to squat all the way to the bottom. It’s essentially focusing on lowering the weight. Studies have been shown that you can increase concentric power by training eccentrically. (1) You need to be very careful when putting these exercises into your strength training, because they really break down the muscle and will make you incredibly sore. The most important part of any sport is actually practicing the sport and you can’t accomplish that if you make yourself too sore from the gym to practice.

Tip 3 – Workout antagonist muscle groups

Triathlons require you to move in an extremely repetitive fashion. Your body will only stand for so many imbalances before you will stop improving. One of the quickest ways to drive improvement in your sport is to train those muscles that move in the opposite direction. Running and biking for example are extremely quad dominant. You can drive improvement by focusing on the hamstrings. Romanian deadlifts would be an excellent lift to work the antagonist muscle groups. Another excellent exercise would be to do good mornings. You are constantly using your abs to lift your legs. You can benefit by improving the strength of your lower back.

Strength training for triathletes: 5 brilliant tips for ANY level

Tip 4 – Watch your training volume

Training volume is how much exercise each muscle group is sustaining accumulatively. You need to be very careful not to do too much too fast or too often. It’s probably a bad idea to do too many shoulder exercises if you are swimming a lot. Shoulders are notorious for sustaining overuse injuries because of how little volume they can handle. A good rule to live by when it comes to strength training is that the smaller the muscle group, the less volume it can handle.

Tip 5 – Listen to your body

Tip 5 is the most important one in my book. What’s the point of strength training if you overdo it and hurt yourself, making it so that you lose valuable training time? You need to look at strength training the way you would look at an ironman triathlon. You aren’t going to improve drastically overnight. You need to be in it for the long haul. Listen to your body! It’s ok to miss the occasional gym sessions if you aren’t feeling it as long as you can continue training for the actual triathlon.

Strength training is something that every athlete can benefit from regardless of your sport. The exercises that you are performing in the gym should be based off of what is required in your actual sport. Remember that the best way to improve in your sport is actually performing your sport. Strength training is just an extra tool that you can utilize to push yourself to the next level. That is why you want to optimize the time you spend in the gym. You want to maximize your results in the shortest amount of time.


Monday:                        Wednesday:                              Friday:

Squats                           Romanian Deadlift                  Bench Press

Lunges                          Good Mornings                         DB Bench

Bent Barbell Rows    Weighted Dips

Hammer Curls



Sheppard, J., Young, K. Using Additional Eccentric Loads to Increase            Concentric Performance in the Bench Throw. Journal of Strength and                    Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(10), 2853-2856.

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