Weight Training for Triathletes

How to Build Power and Endurance for Triathlon in the Gym

with LESLEY PATERSON, Liv Off-Road Triathlete

Strength is the cornerstone to speed.

That’s my mantra as a coach and as an athlete. Muscle durability is the key to economy which is the key to being able to go fast and sustain power throughout an entire race. To that end, getting in the gym is a KEY piece of winter off-season training. Not only is it a welcome change from the usual mile bashing swim/bike/run that we do, but it’s a chance to find a kinesthetic balance in the body again. Weight training will build good lean muscle mass so we stoke the engine and increase our metabolism.

I do two different types of gym work in the off-season – one which I call the “PRIME MUSCLE MOVER’S SESSION”. This includes:

  • Classic dead lifts
  • Squats
  • Step ups
  • Bulgarian split stance squat
  • Leg press
  • Shoulder press
  • Bench press
  • Lat pull down

The focus here is on the larger muscle groups and lifting heavier weights that will support my sport specific strength work I do in each discipline. For me, I build up to lifting 3 x 5 reps of a pretty tough weight, making sure I have confidence that my form is good and strong enough to handle each bump in weight.

The other type of gym session I do is more of a “FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH WORKOUT”. This includes:

  • Multi-plane movements
  • Twists
  • Turns
  • Plyometric and balance work on the TRX

This tends to be using lighter weights and higher reps where I’m looking to engage dynamic core and build strength and durability in supporting tendons and ligaments for efficiency of movement and injury prevention.

What’s great is these sessions can be done with friends or in groups so that you can get a real social dynamic going to encourage and motivate you. Furthermore, these sessions can be done as bricks to elicit a different stimulus on the body. For example, lifting heavy weights THEN riding hill repeats in a tough gear right after. OR, doing the functional strength/ Bootcamp type class AFTER an on-the-bike workout as a brick session where you’re focusing on form with tired legs.  

As triathlon season starts getting closer, the weight lifted and exercises adhered to can change to supplement the phase of training you’re in. For example, moving toward more power based exercises as the phase of training is moving toward more speed work. Also, maintaining some light weights while in season to ensure muscles continue to get recruited.

All in all, gyms are not just meant for meat heads and who knows, you might find you actually enjoy it!

Need help getting to the gym and becoming your best self this off-season? Check out some of my other blogs on the mental side of training: