If you skim through any triathlon magazine, forum, or blog, you are bound to find some article or blog on strength training for triathletes or the best weight lifting movements for triathletes.
With some variation, these movements are:
- Lat pull down
- Box jumps
The above movements are all great exercises, but, I am sorry to say, they will not make you a faster triathlete. These articles leave out three key bits of information:
- The best way to get faster as a triathlete is to swim, bike, and run.
- The functionality and purpose of these exercises
- The need to have strength phases
While important, time in the gym is meant to supplement your key swim, bike, and run workouts not supplant them. If you find that you cannot complete your key sessions because you are too sore from lifting in the gym then you are missing the point of these gym sessions.
Moreover, if you are crunched on time and you are debating to get in the pool for a key session or hit the gym, ten times out of ten, you should swim.
These articles also leave out why you are doing these exercises gym sessions, which should be to make you a faster triathlete. Unless you are lifting purely for vanity’s sake, which is a legitimate reason — we all want to look good in our speedos, I see the purpose of including the gym as:
- Train your brain to recruit more muscles when doing specific exercise (i.e. neural recruitment
- Remaining healthy hormonally
- Train and strengthen muscles that are often neglected when swimming, biking, and running, until you fatigue
- Train fast twitch muscles that are often needed for hills, passing people, or quick sprints
- Boost coordination
With all of these in mind those five exercise that I listed at the beginning of the article are not going to do much for your swim, bike, and run with the exception of reason four and even then there are better exercises for you to do, which are all dependent upon what phase of the year and race season you are in.
Like how your training undulates and the focus changes as you approach a race, so should your gym sessions.
In the beginning of the year, you should be worried about coordination, balance, and neuro engagement while as your race approaches, your focus should shift to quick power bursts.
The next time you see one these articles on strength training, keep these points in mind and don’t be fooled by false promises that speed can be solely gained in the gym.