Ten Strength Exercises for Triathlon

Gliding through the water, climbing on the bike and maintaining a strong and fast form throughout the run are all reasons triathletes need to strength train. Here are our top 10 exercises that will help you develop into an all round, balanced athlete, keeping you away from injury and helping you to consistently perform at your best. All of these exercises can be performed in the gym or at home.

1. Dumbbell Split Squat
This is my number one for a good reason. Targeting the glutes and quads, here we can load the single leg while also main-taining stability as both feet are in contact with a surface.

Tips: Start off performing without any added weights and perfect your control through the body weight variation. Ensure at least 70 per cent of your load is through your front leg, but avoid falling forward through the knee. Think about driving up through the heel of your front foot, and feel your glutes working.
Translates: Running and cycling are predominantly single leg movements that require equal amounts of force to be transmitted through the ground or pedal. There is arguably no better exercise to isolate and develop single leg strength and power but also load your joints safely than the split squat

2. Goblet Squat
This is effective regardless of your ability or experience. ‘Goblet’ meaning we are holding a weight, high up in front of our chest.
This is a beginner friendly squat variation but can also be highly effective for the experienced athlete as the weight increases.

Maintain a tall upright torso, eyes forward with shoulders back and weight in your heels.
Translates: With any squat we are trying to promote a strong, healthy range of motion through your ankle, knee and hip joints as they are so vital to our performance. A healthy squat will be priceless in the prevention of injury.

3. KB Deadlift
Have you ever picked up anything awkwardly and your back has gone ‘ping’? Even if you haven’t, chances are you know someone that has and it’s likely they weren’t lifting correctly. The old age saying, ‘knees bent, back straight’ is not wrong!

Tips: This doesn’t have to be a kettle bell; any object can be used at home. Effectively, we are just looking to pick a heavy object up off the floor, safely. Keep the weight close to your body and drive up through your heels. Lift through your legs and not your back
and arms.
Translates: Learning how to transfer force through your feet into the ground will transfer to power through the ground/pedals in your running and cycling. The deadlift also require a significant amount of core stability, which is essential to maintaining form in each of the triathlon disciplines.

4. DB Single Leg Deadlift/RDL
This is the gold standard in terms of single leg exercises. The single leg deadlift or RDL primarily focuses on developing the strength relationship between your hamstrings and glutes through use of the hip hinge. What’s more, they also require a great deal of balance, proprioception and stability of your ankle, knee and hip joint, which are all essential to athletic performance.

Tips: Bend the knee of the planted leg as you travel through the movement with this one. Be conscious that you aren’t rotating your hips as you lift the leg out behind, keep your hips level.
Translates: If we have poor structural strength throughout our ankles, knees and hips (especially glutes) running on uneven surfaces or when fatigued is going to pose a big risk to injury. Solidify your form and the ability to maintain it under any circumstance.

5. Supported Row
Regardless of whether you’re an athlete or not, a healthy human being needs to have a strong, “organised” upper body. Add hours of desk-bound work, driving and sitting poorly into the mix and it’s no wonder we get shoulder issues. The chin-up or pull-up would be obvious choice but for the majority of us it is still a little way off. However, the supported row gives us a realistic, achievable, yet highly effective progression that will strengthen the whole upper back.

Tips: Try to maintain clean bodylines, don’t hang off the straps or let your hips drop.
Translates: Upper body strength is essential if you want a powerful swim stroke, or to maintain an aero position on the bike over long durations and hold a strong run form that doesn’t crumple when tired.

6. DB Overhead Press
Pushing through the upper body is just as important as pulling, with regards to developing balanced upper body. The overhead press creates significant demand not only on the structure of the shoulder joint but also on strengthening your trunk stability.

Tips: Increase the demand by performing as a single-arm press. Do it infront of a mirror to ensure you stay tall and avoid twisting your back throughout the movement.
Translates: Do your hips wiggle from side to side during the swim or do you struggle to maintain optimum position on the bike? Do you feel like you are wasting precious energy? Work on these to maintain a strong body position during every stroke.

7. DB Single Arm Row
Similar to the imbalances we have in our legs, most of us will have the same discrepancies in our upper body, which could be affecting our swim stroke and how much power we create through the water.

Tips: Before starting make sure you are in a ‘square’ position with your hand underneath your shoulder and hips are level. Maintain tension through your midline and avoid rounding your shoulders.
Translates: Bring balance to your upper body for a more efficient swim.

8. Elevated Single Leg Glute Bridge
This is still arguably the most effective way to get your glutes working. Our glutes are our biggest powerhouse, and even though you may have heard ‘you have no glutes’ that physiologically not true, you just need to learn how to find them and how to use them.

Tips: If you feel it more in your hamstring than your bum, bring you heel closer in and focus on driving through your heel. Rest your shoulders/mid back on the raised surface and lever from this point.
Translates: Stronger glutes bring support to your entire lower back and hip girdle, bringing support to your knees and ankles, such as preventing your knees from falling in on the run and enabling more power on the bike.

9. Band/Cable Wood Chop
The primary role of our core is to stabilise and protect. This exercise forces you to engage and brace your core through rotation. If you want to feel what you core is designed to do this exercise is perfect.

Tips: Slow and controlled. Don’t let the band pull you out of shape, brace through your core and follow the movement with your head
Translates: Prevent over rotation in the swim. Regardless of sport this will help to prevent injuries carrying out everyday tasks, picking things up and twisting.

10. Paloff Press
Similar to the banded wood chop, the pallof press requires a great deal of core recruitment, but this variation challenges your midline through anti-rotation as it fights to stabilise and hold position.

Tips: Look to hold perfect posture, standing side on with your shoulders back and your head up, press the band/cable away with assertiveness and control.
Translates: The ability to brace and control your midline under load will allow you to hold strong form and shape both on the bike, run and in the water.


Words and gym Images: Kriss Hendy
Main image: Korupt Image


Kriss Hendy

Seeing the need for better athlete education and understanding with regards to Strength & Conditioning for the endurance athlete. Kriss works with a variety of athletes from age groupers to professionals, developing programs that support and heighten their endurance performance. Kriss is based in Byron Bay with his wife (professional triathlete) Polly Hendy. He has an International client base that use his Online Strength Training Packages.
For further details or to contact Kriss, visit: www.krisshendy.com
Instagram: @kriss_hendy
Twitter: khendy3

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