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Strength Training Exercises

The Core

Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs such as your core muscles, including your abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around the pelvis.

What Strength Training and Core Does for Triathletes

A strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment for whatever you’re doing (swim, bike or run), and this in turn will reduce your fatigue in the long run. A strong core helps to improve performance. A strong core will help you maintain intra-abdominal pressure during bent-over moves and squats, thus protecting your spine. It also helps everything from posture to performance.

You don't need a Gym membership to get fit

Physical fitness should be free for everyone, and not everyone can afford the price of a gym membership. Core exercises are a simple, effective way to improve balance, flexibility, and strength without machinery or extra equipment. From legs and shoulders to chest and abs, we’ve covered every part of the body that can get stronger with body resistance alone. The best of all is that you only need a pair of weight dumbbells, a barbell, and an exercise ball.


Core stretching is a great way to warm up your body before exercise. Unlike stretching in place, which may not warm up your body effectively and may decrease explosive power and strength, dynamic stretching takes the body through stretches in motion that can help improve your muscular power and performance and range of motion. If you have pain, consult with an appropriate professional to resolve this before attempting these exercises.

Strength Training Exercises

Stretching helps circulate blood and oxygen to the joints, keeping them supple and healthy. The blood itself carries nutrients and vitamins to muscles so they can heal and rebuild. Stretching also flushes the body of toxins and lactic acid that create trigger points (knots) that bind muscle fibers together, preventing the muscle from functioning at its maximum potential. And if you don't have sufficient flexibility in your back, hips and glutes, you might resort to poor form, compensating elsewhere for that inadequacy, which can lead to injury.

There are two main categories of stretches:

  • Dynamic: Dynamic stretches involve motion and use the momentum of the body to perform the extension. These might include kicking, lunging, twisting the body and rotating the arms.
  • Static: Static stretches, on the other hand, do not involve motion; instead, they involve holding the body in a fixed position for a few seconds. An example of a static stretch is reaching behind you to grab and hold your ankle (which pulls the hamstring).

  • Core stretching exercises helps you improve your performance and help do away with triathlon injuries. The best prevention tip of all is to be as fit, flexible and strong as you can possibly be, before even beginning to train for this type of competition. Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.

    Video credits for Diego Recht who is an Endurance Triathlete and Collegiate Tennis Player. Diego collaborates with Triathlon Inspires since 2013, being a student at Stern School of Business, pursuing a double major in Finance and Economics.

    Stretching Exercises

    Stand upright with your back straight. Clasp your hands behind your back. Slowly lift your hands away from the back and up towards the ceiling. Hold for 15-30 seconds.

    Grasp your elbow and pull your arm across your chest to stretch the back of your shoulder. This stretch can be dramatically increased by lying on your back and having someone push the heel of their hand into your armpit to stabilize the scapula.

    Hold your right arm above and behind your head with your elbow bent. Use the uninvolved side to deepen the stretch by pulling the elbow of the stretched arm down further. Repeat with the opposite side.

    Place your hands behind your head as shown. Gently pull your chin towards your chest.

    Put your right hand on top of your head and pull your right ear down towards your right shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the left side of your neck and the top of your shoulder This stretch can be intensified by sitting on your left hand to stabilize the left shoulder.

    Turn your head to one side and place the opposing hand behind your head. Place your other hand on your face as shown and gently stretch. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

    Holding a rope or towel between your hands raise your arms straight above your head. Pinch your shoulder blades together and push your arms back behind your head. Stretch should be felt on both side simultaneously.

    Push the bottom of your pelvis forward. Pinch the buttocks together and keep your knees pointed slightly inwards. You will feel a stretch inside the top of the thigh and upwards towards the waistline.

    Start on your right knee with your left leg lunged forward and straight. Bend forward from your waist bringing your chest towards your left knee until you feel a good stretch. Keep your back straight. Optional: Rotate the torso to the left or to the right to emphasize the outer or inner hamstring. Point your toes towards your head and away from your head to vary the location of the stretch.

    Stand on your right foot and place your left heel on a surface well below waist level. Face straight forward and keep both knees locked. Lean forward from the waist and keep your back straight until you feel a good stretch. Optional: Rotate your torso right and then left so that you are alternately facing to the inside and outside of your leg. Repeat for 20 reps while gradually increasing the stretch. Stay relaxed and keep you movements slow and controlled. Try pointing your toes towards your head and away from your head in order to modify the stretch.

    Cross your right foot over your left knee and pull your right knee towards your left shoulder. Left hip and knee can be bent more or less to change the positioning of the stretch. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

    Keep knee fully extended to focus more on the IT Band. If you feel the stretch more in the hamstrings it means that your hamstrings are tight. If that is the case stretch your hamstrings before doing this stretch.

    Make sure you have some form of cushion underneath the knee of the quad being stretched! Pull your left foot up towards your butt and push the bottom of your pelvis forward. Pull your foot slightly out from your body to focus the stretch more on the inside of your quad. Pull your foot slightly across your body to focus the stretch more on the outside of your quad.

    Start in the same position as for the soleus stretch with the knee bent. The only difference is that you turn the slant 45 degrees clockwise as well as 45 degrees clockwise to focus the stretch more on the inside or the outside of the Achilles.

    The foundation of a healthy, muscular body starts in the core — and in the legs. If you want to get faster, prevent injury and improve their endurance, you need to strength the legs, and in particular, the upper legs and buttocks area.

    While six-pack abs and stacked arms are generally what we look for when talking about muscles, it’s absolutely paramount that a healthy workout routine includes an emphasis on building lower body strength. Once your legs develop a healthy amount of muscle, they also become calorie-burning centers, fueling further fitness. As the biggest muscles in the body, leg muscles require more blood. The heart beats more to supply new blood to the lower body, so by exercising the thighs, hamstrings, calves, and glutes, your metabolism will burn more calories.

    Lower Body Strengthening

    Position toes and balls of feet on calf block with arches and heels extending off. Place hand on support for balance. Raise heels by extending ankles as high as possible. Lower heels by bending ankles until calves are stretched. Repeat.

    Begin the crab walk by securing the O-loop resistance bands around the ankles. When done correctly, this exercise should be done from a squatting position. Next, take a giant step to the side (laterally). Slowly bring the other leg in within inches from the lead leg and repeat. IMPORTANT: Be sure to count the number of steps you take because the trailing leg will need the same amount of work. To make the crab walk easier, you can do the exercise from a standing position (instead of squatting) or you can use lighter resistance bands. To add difficulty, use heavier resistance bands or increase the number of steps.

    Hold a barbell across your upper back. The bar should rest on the top of the traps. Sit on an exercise bench and place your feet flat on the floor. Hinge forward by bending at your hips. Stop just before your chest touches your thighs. Return to the starting position.
    Lie on your back with your calves resting on a Exercise Ball. Lift your hips off the ground, form a straight line from your feet to your shoulders. Roll the ball towards you, bending your legs while simultaneously lifting your hips higher. Finish with your feet flat on the ball and a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Roll the ball back to the starting position and complete all reps.

    Lower body by flexing knee and hip of front leg until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Return to original standing position by forcibly extending hip and knee of forward leg. Repeat by alternating lunge with opposite leg.

    Standing in a shoulder-width stance with feet slightly pointed out, rest a loaded barbell across the back of your shoulders holding it with an overhand grip. Descend into a squat position by pushing your hips back and bending at the knee. At the bottom of the squat, pause, and then drive your hips upward bringing you back to starting position.
    Place the ball between the wall and your lower back, walking your feet out slightly. Lower your body toward the floor in a squat position as you continuously push back into the ball. Straighten your legs, keeping your weight over your heels to return to standing position.
    Squat down by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend forward, keeping back straight and knees pointed same direction as feet. Descend until thighs are just past parallel to floor. Extend knees and hips until legs are straight. Return and repeat.

    Pull your hips back and down while keeping your weight on your heels. Your hips must drop below your knees, reaching below parallel at the bottom. As you begin to stand the weight up, drive your ELBOWS UP FIRST. If your elbows drop at the bottom of the squat, not only does it become unsafe, but you will likely have to dump the weight forward. Complete the front squat by coming to full extension (standing all the way up) at the top.

    Squat down by flexing knee and hip of front leg until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Return to original standing position by extending hip and knee of forward leg and repeat. Continue with opposite leg.

    Upper body strength is important for all three disciplines of a triathlon. The lats, biceps and pectoral muscles are used to create power in your swim stroke, and the back and shoulders are used to generate arm swing during the run and to stabilize the bike on climbs. Weakness in any of these muscle groups will affect your performance.

    You should avoid doing upper body core exercises daily. Even though you aren’t using external weight resistance, you are still breaking muscle fibers down, which means they need a day to recover. Do your core/bodyweight exercises two to three times per week with at least one day of rest between. Use two if you have a particular hard running or cycling session scheduled.

    Upper Body Strengthening

    Pull bar to upper waist. Return until arms are extended and shoulders are stretched downward. Repeat.
    Stand with feet slightly apart, knees slightly bent, abs tight. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip. Lock elbows into the side of your torso and rest weights in your hand, on the front (or just outside) of the thighs.

    Lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold your upper arms perpendicular to your body and your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Slowly press the weights upward until your elbows are almost straight. You'll feel tension across your upper chest.

    Pull dumbbell to up to side until it makes contact with ribs or until upper arm is just beyond horizontal. Return until arm is extended and shoulder is stretched downward. Repeat and continue with opposite arm.

    Keep a 90 degree angle at the elbow, which ends up form a “W” when you reach end range of external rotation. This happens because the lat muscle mass causes your arms to abduct a little bit of your body. I wouldn’t recommend trying to keep your forearms parallel to the ground. If you perform the shoulder W exercise with thumbs back and keep your forearms parallel to the ground (and thus don’t form a “W”) I feel that you are really missing out on the scapula retraction and more importantly, the scapular posterior tilt that you achieve when forming a “W.”

    Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs. Your palms should face toward you. Raise your arms up in front of you. Pause when the dumbbells reach shoulder height. Then slowly return the weights to the starting position.

    You can either do this exercise by standing up or lying on your stomach on a bench and extend your arms in front of you. Do the letter "I", with your palms toward your sides. Now form the letter "T", with your palms turned toward the floor. Again, lift your arms by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Finally, do the letter "Y", with your thumbs toward the ceiling. Try to lift your arms by squeezing your shoulder blades together in back. They will not move much, but you should really feel that squeeze. Slowly lower your arms and repeat.

    Lying back on a bench or exercise ball, hold the inner bar of a dumbbell with both hands, arms fully extended and triceps locked. Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head, then roll your shoulders back so your elbows are beside your head. Pause, then return to the start position by contracting the triceps and lats.

    Grab a bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width, with your hands facing away from you. Hang all the way down. Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. Slight pause Lower yourself all the way back down. Go up, and really concentrate on isolating your back and biceps. Don’t swing!.

    The feet are together, glutes are squeezed, and the back is in a neutral position (you can also put your knees on the floor if you are a beginner). In other words, there should be no sag in the back and everything should be tight. Then, the entire body should move in straight line, with no sag and with your elbows at approximately a 45-degree angle. At the bottom of the movement, your forearms should be vertical to the ground.

    Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and lie on the floor on your left side. Bend your right elbow to a 90-degree angle and tuck it firmly against your side so that your palm is facing downward. Pull your abdominals in. Bend your left elbow and rest the side of your head in your left hand. Keeping your right elbow glued to your side, raise your right hand as far as you comfortably can. Slowly lower the weight back toward the floor.

    Holding a dumbbell in one hand with arm fully extended, bend at the hips until your torso is at approximately a 30-degree angle to the floor. Without moving your torso, row the dumbbell upward toward your shoulder until it touches your lower chest. Pause, then lower the dumbbell back to start.

    Lay your front side on the floor, stretch out the arms to the front, the palms point to the floor, the legs are stretched out, and the toes on the floor. Lift chest, arms and legs slightly, they hover across the floor, move the arms to the pelvis in a bow and the legs apart, the limbs do not have any contact to the floor. Come back controlled to the starting position. Now you can rest the limbs on the ground for a moment. Begin with the next repetition right away.

    You need to be flat on the ground (on your belly) with your arms and legs stretched out. Then, you just lift one arm and one opposing leg (i.e. right arm; left leg), hold, then drop them while simultaneously lifting the other ones, and simulating a swimming "chest style".

    With your palms facing your torso and a dumbbell in each hand, bend your waist by bending the knees a little bit and bringing your torso forward. Keep your back as straight as possible and your head up. The hands should hold the weights, make sure that your upper arms are close to your torso and the forearms are pointing thee floor. For this to be effective, make sure that you have a 90 degree angle between your upper arm and forearm.

    Grab a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip and hold the weights in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body. Keeping the weights as close to your body as possible, pull the dumbbells up toward your chest. Your elbows should remain flared out during the movement. When the dumbbells are at chest level (and not your chin), pause for 1-2 seconds, then lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

    Stability training refers to performing exercises while on an unstable surface with the goal of activating stabilizers and trunk muscles that may get negelcted with other forms of training. Whether you're doing stability ball training or unilateral exercises, core strengthening is a surefire to prevent future back pain. Unilateral training, lifting weight on only one side at a time, prepares you for movements in daily living and sports that bilateral movements (using both limbs at the same time) may not cover. Keep your core tight during triathlon training to build strength, prevent injury, and improve balance, coordination and performance.

    Without a solid foundation, it's just a matter of time before a structure falls down, so it's essential to build a strong workout base before you graduate to throwing around heavy weights. If you're looking for the right foundation or you're just looking to add strength and stability, follow the exercises below.

    Full Body Stability

    With your feet together, squat down and put your hands on the ground just in front of your feet. Keep your feet together and jump them back so you land(you can also add a push-pu). Bend your arms and do a single push-up. Jump your feet back in and under your body and then leap up and into the air. Land on slightly-bent legs and repeat.

    Stand facing a barbell on the ground with your feet pointed straight ahead, placed shoulder-width apart and keep your knees bent at a 5-degree angle. Bend at your waist and grab the barbell with your grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. Contract your glutes and lift the barbell until you are standing upright. Lower and contract your shoulder blades as you shrug your shoulders towards your ears. Hold the shrug and perform a calf raise. Return to the starting position by reversing the order of the exercises.

    Grab a barbell and hold it with a grip that is a little less than shoulder-width apart. Pull the barbell just above shoulders with elbows close to your body. Bend your knees and lower your body in to a half-squat position. Press the weight over your head as you press through the heels to explosively stand up. Pause and slowly lower the bar back down to the starting position.
    Place a barbell across your upper back and pull the bar down while squeezing your shoulder blades together for stability. Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent. Push your chest out, your hips back and lean forward. Lower your torso towards the ground as your rear leg trails behind you to help with balance. Only go as low as you can without your lower back rounding. Pause, and then reverse the movement, returning to the starting position. Squeeze your butt at the top.
    Stand upright and hold one dumbbell in each hand with your arms relaxed in front of you. The dumbbells should rest against your thighs with your palms facing your body. Inhale, push your hips back and lower your torso toward the floor, keeping your back straight. The dumbbells should stay close to your legs, touching them if possible. Keep your weight shifted back on your heels. Once you feel a stretch in the hamstrings -- usually when the dumbbells move just past your knees -- stop the movement and pause for a count. Exhale and reverse the movement until you are standing upright again.

    How often should you strength training your body?

    Following is a suggested amount of sets and repetitions for a strength training routine:

    Core Exercise Frequency # of Sets # of Reps
    Stretching Daily (never enough) 5-10 seconds no limit
    Lower Body 1 or 2 times/week (max) 2 to 4 (max) 8 to 15 (max)
    Upper Body 1 or 2 times/week (max) 2 to 4 (max) 8 to 15 (max)
    Body Stability 1 time/week 2 to 3 (max) 8 to 12 (max)

    Strength training and endurance training require a lot of energy, so performing either one after the other is a recipe for disaster. Even if you can effectively fuel your body with proper nutrition between workouts, you will still end up training in “recovery mode.” Always keep you still need to spend a fair amount of time on the road, on the trails, and in the pool.

    It’s best to have a strength workout on a separate day from an endurance workout so that your body can properly recover, but if you would like to strength training your body every day, just make sure you are fully recovered before beginning the next session.

    Which exercises should I choose on each session?

    That will depend on many aspects of your life. Do you have a limited amount of training time? Are you an endurance athlete looking for an extra edge? Do you want to increase the leverage of resistance? Do you have the level of resistance needed? Whatever the answer is, always remember the following rule: Quality over Quantity

    Just because you get sore and tired from a specific strength workout doesn't mean you're improving your triathlon fitness. In fact, hard, aggressive and random program design can actually lead you down the path of chronic pain and injury, and then you cannot do anything.

    Choose up to five exercises from each major part of your body (5 exercises for Lower Body, 5 exercises for Upper Body, and 3-5 exercises for Full Body). Do as many repetitions as you can with absolute perfect form. Stop when the movement is no longer perfect or even good enough. If you do 75 squats, think you'll feel a burn? Absolutely. Is there a point to performing 75 squats? Not at all.

    Following is an example on how your week might look by choosong different exercises:

    Below are acceptable weekly schedules on how often you can strength training your body, depending on your triathlon training schedule. Don't over stress your body!:

    Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
    Off Lower Body Off Upper Body Off Body Stability Off
    Body Stability Off Lower Body Off Upper Body Off Lower Body
    Lower Body Off Off Upper Body Off Off Upper Body Body

    It is extremely important to prevent and correct the symptoms of overtraining, and the equation for training is quite simple:

    Training = Work + Rest

    Do you have Overtraining Syndrome?

    The psychological aspects of overtraining syndrome are typically related to athlete mental burnout. The triathlete isn’t having fun, he/she treats every training session like work and he/she often dreads his/her races. Different than performance anxiety, these triathletes are just exhausted. Click the button below to see the Overtraining Syndrome Chart:

    In conclusion, everything in life is about balance, and just as a strength triathlete shouldn’t avoid cardio, an endurance athlete shouldn’t avoid strength training. By being open-minded and training intelligently, we can surpass our wildest expectations and become the best triathletes possible.

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