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Five Strength Training Exercises Triathletes Should Be Doing

Whether you’re just getting started with triathlon or you’re a seasoned veteran, strength and resistance training are among some of the best things you can do to supplement your bike, swim and run training.

Far too many endurance athletes overlook the importance of resistance training, but it really can make a big difference in not only your progress, but also in terms of combating a risk for injury. I, too, have made this fatal mistake before of neglecting resistance training…

For busy triathletes, carefully selecting your exercises help strengthen specific muscle groups that are used during each leg of the triathlon - swim, bike and run - will not only improve your speed and performance, but provide for a great training and muscular foundation. Let’s have a brief look at some of the top five strength training exercises that any triathlete should be doing.

1. Squats

The very first exercise that any triathlete should consider is the squat.  The reason why squats are so beneficial is, because they will work almost every single muscle group in the lower body, giving you the most bang for your buck in terms of strength training.

Since actual triathlon training is so time consuming already, the more benefit you can get from each exercise, the better.

Any athlete doesn't want to waste valuable energy on exercises that don't provide for maximum delivery, so targeting one highly effective movement that focuses on a high number of movements all at once, you’ll be far better off because of it.

2. Barbell Rows

Barbell rows are another great exercise you’ll want to be sure you get into your training regimen. Barbell rows are excellent for working the back muscles, which will be used to a larger extent to help drive you through the water during the swim.

Barbell rows also target the biceps and are great for enhancing your overall metabolic rate, as well.

3. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are another excellent back exercise to add to the mix. It’s going to be very important that any triathlete have strong lat muscles for swimming as it’s these muscles that pull the body through the water during your stroke.  The stronger they are, the more speed and force you’re going to be able to generate through the water and therefore, the faster your swim times will be.

Pull-ups earn top marks for achieving strength for the back and lat muscle group, as well as hit the biceps and core.

4. The Plank

Speaking of your core, for any strength training workout, you can’t go wrong with the plank exercise.  The plank is going to be a perfect movement for firming up the abs and lower back muscles as well as boosting muscular endurance in those areas.

Since it's essential your core be able to withstand fatigue for long periods of time, whether it's a sprint, olympic or Ironman distance race, this exercise will allow you to quickly achieve strength gains in your core and lower back.

Try and work your way up to holding the plank for up to two minutes before resting and repeating again.  Start smaller with even 30 seconds, working your way up to two minutes gradually. Just make sure that you maintain proper form at all times, otherwise this could lead to extreme back pain! If you find your form suffering, drop your time and build up more gradually.  

5. Cable Knee Highs

Finally, the last exercise that you want to include into any strength training program are cable knee highs. This is a rather uncommon exercise to perform, but highly effective for the triathlete.

The reason why this movement is so critical to triathlon training is because it specifically targets the smaller hip flexor muscles and it are these muscles that will drive each step during the run.

Cable knee highs are done by attaching your foot to a cable pulley system and then performing the knee high motion while the cable is still attached to your ankle, thereby building strength in your hip flexor as you drive your knee upwards.

When your leg muscles are tired from cycling, this places even more reliance on this very small muscle group and the potential for fatigue and risk muscular strains will be higher. The stronger your hip flexors are, the more you reduce the chance for burnout during a race, training or injury.

There are some of the top five strength training moves that are important to integrate into your overall resistance training program. Make sure you aren’t leaving any necessary strength and resistance training out of your triathlon training program!