Triathletes, Are You Making These Strength Training Mistakes?

Strength & Conditioning

Too many triathletes sacrifice strength training in favor of more swimming, biking or running. This is very unwise. A well implemented training program can improve your performance and shave those minutes from your time.

In this article Menachem discusses the common mistakes he sees triathletes make when it comes to strength training. 

Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie is a leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes and has presented around the world. His book, The Vortex Method: The New Rules for Ultimate Strength & Performance in Cycling is “The most thorough, comprehensive, well explained guide” on the topic. His Strength Training for Cyclists Certification has graduated coaches from around the world, helping them build better strength programs for their cyclists & triathletes. When he’s not coaching Menachem can be found with a good cup of coffee, reading, or hanging out with his family.

Find Coach Brodie’s training in TrainHeroic’s Marketplace here.

// Common Strength Training Mistakes For Triathletes

Triathlon is one of the hardest sports to train for, as there is not one, but 3 very unique sports that require care, attention, and performance. 

While triathletes of all ages and abilities have begun to look to strength training to help them improve their abilities and keep injuries at bay, many are not getting what they need, or deserve, out of their strength training programs. 

Here are the 3 most common mistakes triathletes make when it comes to their strength training that you could be making too.

Not Being Consistent With Strength Training

While many triathletes have begun strength training, most are usually strength training only during the winter or “base” dropping off their strength training in favor of more swim/bike/run. Yes, there is a definite time crunch for triathletes, as needing to train 3 sports, plus meal preparation, plus time for the family, well, you get the idea.

However, removing strength training is one of the WORST things to do, as their body is already at its limits of what it can handle in their sport.

Strength training, when done for performance, allows the individual keep building the necessary tissue adaptations that can help prevent common injuries found in triathlete, including, but not limited to: IT band syndrome (weak glutes and midsection), Shoulder issues (weak mid and lower traps, tight chest), plantar fasciitis (while this is somewhat debatable, one of the major causes of plantar fasciitis is overuse of the tissues for running, which in part is caused by weak running muscles and poor running technique), just to name a few.

If you want to see performance gains and to stay healthy (i.e. training), strength training year round is a must.

A Lack Of Variety In Their Strength Programs

This one at least, is not the fault of triathletes, as many just do not know better….

The vast majority of strength training for triathlon programs available are hypertrophy programs, you know, the ones the bodybuilders use to grow their muscles: 3 sets of 10-15, increasing resistance every week or two, with many single-muscle exercises included (ahem, tricep pushdowns “for swimming”, and bicep curls “for running”).

Hypertrophy IS one of the necessary stages of a properly laid out strength training yearly program, but it is FAR from the only one you want, or need! Just as with a triathlon annual training plan, your strength training annual program has stages as well:

1. Anatomical Adaptations- 2-6 weeks spent doing lower weight in multi-joint movements to allow for recovery from the previous season, as well as to learn how to move/building tissue qualities

2. Hypertrophy- 4-10 weeks building the myofibrils (these are the parts of the muscle that make us stronger when we work) abilities to do work, as well as build connective tissue strength.

3. Max Strength- 8-12 weeks of building up your ability to put out some serious strength. While one repetition maxes are what most people think of, for triathletes, we actually want to MAX effort your power and explosiveness, which is a very different kind of training!

Conversion to sport specific strength- 4-8 weeks where we take all the strength and abilities you’ve been working on, and focus on getting the new strength to show in your sport. This is where you should be doing a lot of technique and speed work in your focal sport (EITHER run, bike, or swim).

Maintenance- 4-12 weeks where we do just enough strength training to maintain your strength.

In order for you to see performance gains from your strength training, you’ll need to follow some kind of layout similar to this for your strength training year.

Using Bodyweight and Core Exercises As Maintenance

Maintenance with just “core” and bodyweight will not in fact maintain your strength gains.

That would be like me telling you that in order to maintain your swimming fitness during the last few weeks leading up to your race, that you shouldn’t get into the pool and swim in the water because the resistance is too much on the body, and that instead you should practice your swim only on your bed, where you don’t have to work to get through the water.

Yes, this is possibly one of the silliest things you’ve read about tapering for your race, but it REALLY is the equivalent to not using weights during your taper.

Maintenance means to MAINTAIN your current abilities, NO let them fall off!
This will mean shorter, more focused workouts either with moderate to heavy weights, or with some speed and explosiveness. The key here is HOW you do them, and HOW you program them into your training week.

Programs By Human Vortex Training

Triathletes have long been pushing the edge of human performance, testing what is possible both physically and mentally. The Strength Training for Triathlon Performance program offers Triathletes a strength training program that they can complete in just 60 minutes a workout, 2 days a week.


These mistakes are very easy to make, especially if you are new to the world of strength training for performance.

The FOR PERFORMANCE part is what gets most, as they think that just hitting the weights for a few weeks will help them see some performance increase.



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