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Strength Training

By: Mat Steinmetz

Last week I touched on strength training and wanted to elaborate on what I have my athletes doing in the gym.

You can get as fancy with strenght training as you want. There are no shortages in styles, philosophies, machines, and exercises that you can do. If you need help with technique or just need to spice things up...attend a class or pay for a few personal traning sessions.

If you're familiar with strength training, start with two sessions per week with 48-72 hrs between sessions. After 2-3 weeks, you can add a 3rd session. I typically prefer to make this 3rd session more core/stability focused (I will write about this in a future post) - this core/stability routine can be used throughout the year.

I've found that you need to commit to at least 8-12 weeks to reap the benefits of a consistent routine. You'll see strength gains pretty quickly, but you'll also feel it during your triathlon specific sessions. If you can get through this period, you'll be able to reduce your frequency, while maintaining most of the gains.

How much weight? The goal here is to increase strength and add lean muscle mass, not win a strong man competition. Make sure you're challenged but I wouldn't recommend going to max. I will go heavy every 7 to 10 days. I classify heavy as increasing the amount of weight I've previously used for an exercise. Be careful with going too heavy...the risk is not worth the reward.


Here is a simple program that I use with myself and my clients. You can get this program done in 30-45 minutes if you're efficient and don't waste time.

Warm Up

Start with 10 minutes of light jogging or spinning to warmup. Then you will go through a series of warmup exercises. These are done continuously with the bar (45lb) 3x through with 60-90 seconds rest between cycles.

  • front squat

  • stiff leg dead lift

  • overhead press

Main Set

Athletes can either head over to the leg press machine or stay at the squat rack and perform traditional squats. Be sure to have someone help you with technique if you're new to squatting and be careful with how much weight you choose to use. You may find that you're only comfortable with a certain amount of weight and will need to use the leg press machine to finish yourself off.

My back doesn't agree with squatting, so I use the leg press machine. If you're just starting, before you test yourself, you'll need to first spend about 2 weeks lifting a little less than you're capable of. If you don't ease into strength training, you'll struggle to establish consistency due to the repeating multi-day soreness.

Leg Press or Squat (60-90 sec recovery between sets)

  • 1x10 reps w/ little to no weight added

  • 1x8 reps w/ moderate weight

  • 3x8 reps w/ goal weight

Stiff Leg Dead Lifts

  • 3x12 reps stiff leg dead lift (I keep this light and focus on technique)

or ( order depends on equipment availability)

Leg Press: Single Leg

  • 3x 8 reps alternating 8 right/8 left (continuous)

Upper Body: Choose one of the following...

option 1

  • dumbbell press 3x 8 reps

  • seated row 3x 8 reps

  • straight arm lat pull down 3x10-12 reps

option 2

  • TRX press 3x 10-12 reps

  • TRX pull 3x 10-12 reps

  • Lat pull down 3x 8-10 reps

Lower Body: Choose one of the following...

option 1

  • leg extension (single leg: 3x 8 right/8 left)

  • leg curls 3x 8-12 reps controlled

  • lunges 3x 12 reps alternating right and left

option 2

  • step ups 3x 12 reps alternating right and left

  • clam shells 2x 15-25 reps

  • leg curls on the swiss ball 3x 8-15 reps

If time permits, you can add some core work or 5-10 min of light jogging on the treadmill.


There are a lot of exercise variations you can substitute for the above. This program is about keeping things simple. If you have a goal to implement strength training into your program...you need to start now if you expect to stick with it. If you wait too long, you'll give up because it's difficult to start while you're also ramping up your training volume.


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