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It’s a Strength Game – TriSpecific


Long course triathlon is ultimately all about being strong.

By being able to handle ever increasing amounts of fatigue while holding form or better said, being able to maintain form under duress is the way to getting the results you desire.

The athlete that maintains pace without slowing due to breaking down is the one that goes the fastest.

It is when the muscles cannot keep forcefully contracting that we ultimately have to slow down.

And you can develop this ability to endure by thinking about your training a little different and of course using honest pacing in racing but that is another post in-of-itself .

#1. It’s not all about aerobic endurance training

Sure this is an important aspect of training but the reality is, these longer sets are catabolic on the body and truly only need to be done when we get into the specific build period for your event. How long the build needs to be is entirely dependant on your level of training consistency. The longer you have been consistent developing the require motor skills and bodies ability to handle the training stress the less of a specific ‘volume’ build you need.

#2. Understand that your aerobic endurance happens anyway

Yes you read that correctly. You don’t just build your aerobic endurance via your long bike and run. Everything counts. When your training is structured properly  your aerobic endurance develops as a by product to the whole training undertaken. So other important training systems such as strength, speed, neuromuscular and tolerance all add to the development of your aerobic endurance .. or your ability to endure.

#3. Strength sessions matter but where they’re placed matters even more

Each of the component sports of triathlon require a sports specific approach to strength. It’s no secret that most training methods understand the need for strength and sport specific strength training but unfortunately these sessions or parts of sessions aren’t placed at optimal times and thus will compromise other aspects of your training.

The truly potent way to include strength and sport specific strength sessions into your training is so they’re placed to balance the breaking down or catabolic effects of training sessions like tolerance efforts and endurance. Strength training can have an anabolic (building up) impact on your body and understanding this matters.

So it makes sense to place sport specific strength sessions the day or in the days after your longer aerobic or tolerance work. And you can purposefully place strength efforts within your longer sessions to train your body to better handle form under duress.

Lets look at some general guidelines for the strength system and how we can use sessions appropriately within swim, bike and run.

  • Training your strength system can provoke an anabolic response and thus counter the would be negative effects of high intensity tolerance or endurance sessions. Excessive endurance or tolerance sessions which aren’t mitigated WILL break you down.
  • Strength intervals should most of the time have a 1:1 work rest ratio. Doing so will help keep your overall levels of aerobic stress low thus getting the strength effect we want without whacking your other systems.
  • You need to do your strength efforts at high resistance.
  • Build your strength work like anything gradually which allows your body to adapt and handle the stress without evoking injury.
  • The strength training we are after is not preformed explosively. This is due to the high resistance levels, so we just cannot truly do so explosively which means we don’t create deep fatigue and muscle damage is lessened and thus recovery comes quicker.

When prescribed correctly, our sports specific strength training won’t spark off deep aerobic fatigue. You may have heard me talk about an insurance policy in the past and this is it. When we place a useable amount of fatigue on the muscles it means the athlete can’t push hard enough to illicit a high degree of aerobic stress. This is important. It means the athlete CAN push hard mentally and physically and thus get the benefits of doing so, but without whacking themselves aerobically.


  • Use small paddles like the TYR Catalyst 2 to help fatigue your muscles by placing a small and consistent stimulus. This also caps your heart rate so your can swim some longer ‘hard’ intervals without incurring excessive aerobic fatigue.
  • You can combine an endurance session with paddles to kill two birds (endurance and strength) with one stone and not compromise either.
  • An efficient open water swim stroke requires you to be strong. You also need specific strength to be able to swim in your wetsuit efficiently too.


  • Using a indoor trainer like the Wahoo Kickr will do so much for your biking ability – period. You get a perfectly controlled environment for strength training. If you don’t have a decent enough trainer or don’t want to invest (wisely) in something like a Kickr then you can do short repeats on a steep hill but it’s just not as potently effective.
  • Big Gear work is an absolutely essential ingredient to developing your triathlon specific cycling skills. By riding a lot at a lower cadence 60-75rpm it will keep your heart rate down which will preserve muscle glycogen while also helping you recruit dormant muscle fibers that make for more forceful and sustained muscle contractions … form under duress!


  • Strength training without eliciting high amounts of aerobic fatigue is tough when running. This is because the nature of it drives your heart rate up to a point that we truly aren’t training in a strength range now. So a normal hilly run would be best placed towards the end of your specific race build to potentially fill in any missing fitness gaps.
  • In the early stages of training you can use a short steep hill or stairs and do intervals of less then a minute or do honestly slow low intensity hill runs so as not to overload you aerobically.
  • The reality is when you do your bike training correctly you develop significant leg strength which is specific to the demands of long course triathlon. Leg strength in running is much less specific for the needs of triathlon so doesn’t need to be as stressed in training. As I mentioned above. You can use hills effectively in the later build stages to fill any potential fitness gaps.

So focus on getting strong and it will bode you well in your triathlon abilities.


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