Gym workouts for triathletes

How gym work affects your performance

Triathletes traditionally neglect the gym. It’s obvious to see where our efforts in the pool, on the bike and out running are going, and as most of us are quite time poor the gym usually comes in last when allocating out training hours. However big gains in performance can still come from the gym, and in terms of energy it has little impact on our week as a whole.

Will Clarke

Written by Will Clarke

Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion.  He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.

A well structured gym programme will go a long way to helping us keep injury free, will give us extra power in all three sports, and actually help us improve our endurance as we have extra resistance to breaking down once the body starts to get tired. Better technique for longer will show up in a faster finishing time.

Workout at home

Gym work doesn’t always have to be complicated. You can do the bare minimum in front of your TV at home like a basic core set, body weight exercises, planking & stability exercises. You can also buy cheap pieces of equipment like a swiss ball that you can use to balance on to improve your core strength.

Use a TRX

The TRX is a piece of equipment that I really rate. You can get a handful of different brands that essentially do the same thing. It’s basically a suspended foot/hand harness that you can hang off a door frame or even a tree branch for example and you can do exercises individually or in a sequence like knee tucks, runners, hip raises and combinations like press ups with knee tucks. As your feet are suspended you’ll feel the burn very quickly. It’s also good for pulls and squats etc.

Gym work doesn’t have to involve muscle bulk

One thing that puts people off about using the gym is that they think they might put on muscle bulk but honestly that would be hard to do even if you tried, especially if you’re completing a fairly high volume triathlon programme. I hear that Mo Farah attributes a lot of his recent success to lifting heavy weights in the gym to develop power and strength and he’s not exactly looking like a gym junkie! Exercises like squats, leg press, single leg squats, deadlifts and barbell step ups are all great for developing power and worthwhile considering when looking to improve in triathlon.

Train smarter

Finally I’d say that if you can train smarter and more specifically for triathlon it’s likely that you may not even have to do as much as you may have been doing before to reach the same level. When going hard in the gym you are increasing your strength capacity and that will rub off in your performance, as ultimately you won’t be working at as higher percentage of your maximum. However this is drifting away from most people’s comfort zone and away from the safest and most common thinking. 

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