Triathletes Should Embrace the Gym, Not Fear it!

The Importance of Strength and Power Training for Triathletes

We seem to have this belief that we can’t miss a swim, ride, or run session, yet we are willing to miss the very session that can help us develop significantly for our sport. In my opinion, integrating strength, mobility, and power work into the training program is equally as important as focusing on the three race disciplines. 

Following a properly prescribed professional strength and power conditioning program will enhance your ability to grow power on the bike, allow for a much smoother transition to the run, and help you really take off and beat the field home.


No time in the gym can replace swim, riding, and run training. However, a properly designed strength program will enable you to optimize all three disciplines, which will better your race performance. 

This program should generally be preceded by a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) to ascertain any fundamental areas of concern that would limit your progress.

Essentially, your strength training should run parallel to your endurance plan. Both are equally important pillars of any triathlete’s training and subsequent performance.

Where strength training goes off the rails

Many athletes make the mistake of thinking that it’s enough to hit the gym two or three times a week and do a few fitness, kettlebell, or CrossFit classes without a plan. 

This approach rarely has a positive impact on triathlon performance.

Unfortunately, non-specific strength sessions are a waste of time, as repeating any program without progression won’t yield results. Including random strength training sessions in the off-season so as not to impact the heavy load during the endurance and race phases of training is not the answer either. 

Even the athletes who start off the season with great strength goals can drop off after a few weeks when life stress gets in the way or they become demotivated by lack of improvement due to not having a progressive program. If one is not mentally prepared and physiologically adapted to the importance of the training, it’s easy to give up.

Andre’s Tip

During my time as a coach, I’ve noticed that only a small minority of triathletes have a year-round progressive challenging strength and power program that is built by a professional strength and conditioning coach.

These programs are designed to yield the results needed to optimize all aspects of racing, as well as help to reduce stress by offering a more balanced training load. In my opinion, every triathlete should follow one of these programs.

Why is there a limited focus on strength and power training?

I believe there are several reasons that a large number of triathletes do not consider time in the gym to be critical to their performance. I’ve listed a few below:

  1. The impact that gym time has on swimming, riding, and running is.
  2. Programs are developed without proper knowledge, and they, therefore, lack progression and the correct type of prescription and include boring exercises, which don’t lead to results.
  3. There is too much focus on club and group training. Some triathletes find it hard to train away from a club or group environment, so working out alone in the gym is something they cannot handle or get excited about.
  4. Weight training is thought to make you heavy and slow you down. However, this could not be further from the truth. It’s essential to develop muscle in the legs, glutes, lats, and shoulders and to enhance your function of the mitochondria to create more energy and power – all of which can happen at the gym.
  5. THE BIG ONE: 80-90% of group coaching relies on group sessions that only include swimming, riding, and running. Have you ever been to group training where they take you to the gym and do a strength and power session?

There are four key exercises that you can do right now to increase your strength and power and improve your racing.

If you’re interested, email me and I will share some short videos I’ve made of some of the best exercises and activation drills you can do to help you optimize your performance. You can also follow me on YouTube.

About the Author

Andre Obradovic

Andre Obradovic is an ICF Leadership PPC Level Coach, A Primal Health Coach, a Certified Low Carb Healthy Fat Coach, & a Certified Personal Trainer. Andre is also a Founding member of the Dr. Phil Maffetone MAF certified Coach. He is an Ambassador for the Noakes Foundation, and a regular subject matter expert lecturer for the Nutrition Network (a part of the Noakes Foundation) Andre has completed 16 x 70.3 Ironmans and in 2017 he competed in the 70.3 Ironman World Championships. He has completed 18 Marathons and over 30 Half Marathons. Andre currently focuses his athletic competition on Track and Field with the occasional Marathon.

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