top of page

Coaches Blog

Strength Training for Triathletes

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Strength training is a polarizing topic in triathlon. One opinion is that strength training isn’t necessary for triathletes - the most common reason is that it will cause the athlete to ‘bulk up’, changing swimming dynamics, making them into more of a ‘sail’ on the bike, and making it more challenging to run. The alternative belief is that yes, strength training has a place in triathlon. I support the second belief. I’ll outline why and the benefits you can expect to enjoy in each sport.

Benefits of strength training for swimming

Strength can improve our stroke and our posture in the water by ensuring that our glutes engage, our hip flexors lengthen and our ankles move appropriately (kicking).

Strength exercises for swimming include:

- Lat Pulldowns

- Standing Leg Kickbacks with band

- Pullups, planks

- Supermans

- Swimmers

- Band pull-apart

- Band up and overs

Strength training benefits for cycling

Stronger legs create a more powerful pedal stroke, stronger upper body and stronger core create more body stability!

Strength exercises for cycling:

- Deadlifts

- Squats

- Lunges

- Calf raises

- Band and cable exercises that exert our abductors and adductors

- Band and cable leg extensions

- Wall-sits

- Planks

- Crunches

- Standing obliques

- Farmer’s carry

Strength training benefits for runners

Core is key for running - it’s what holds the body up when we’re tired (which we are after swimming, biking and now…running!). Remember the rest of the body!

Strength exercises for running:

- Band and cable exercises that exert our abductors and adductors

- Band and cable leg extensions

- Wall-sits

- Planks

- Crunches

- Standing obliques

- Farmer’s carry

- Box jumps

- Reverse crunches

- Bicycle crunches

Strength training a few times a week for 30-45 minutes per session can help improve your performance and it adds variety to your weekly training because sometimes grinding out swim/bike/run all the time gets B-O-R-I-N-G.

Athletes that I work for often have 2-4 strength sessions per week, depending on their goals and race selection. For example, an athlete that is racing Ironman Lanzarote is doing a lot of heavy leg strength work (especially in the off-season) because they have about 7500 feet of climbing during the bike portion of the event and their legs need to be able to manage that much climbing.

Another athlete does a lot of weighted walking and hiking for their job so they’re programmed with not only strength training but ruck marching (hiking with a big pack) to make sure they’re ready for their job functions.

How to add strength training to triathlon training

Talk to your Coach about implementing appropriate strength training into your plan on a weekly basis. If you are self-coached, reach out to a Personal Trainer that is certified to work with athletes, for example, the NASM PES (National Academy of Sports Medicine Performance Enhancement Specialist).

It’s worth it to hire the trainer for a few sessions to help show you proper technique and help you set up your strength plan.

The best advice I can offer: Master proper lifting techniques, increase weight lifted slowly and methodically and be consistent in your lifting schedule.


Maria Netherland is a Northwest Florida-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Endurance and Youth & Juniors Certified Coach as well as a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist. Coach Maria loves working for athletes of all abilities, military athletes, and new triathletes as they pursue their goals. Maria is a veteran of the US Army and a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate. She can be reached at


bottom of page