We look at the ben­e­fits to help you de­cide if it’s a worth­while in­vest­ment of your valu­able train­ing time

Triathlon Plus - - Contents - Words Phil Mosley


Let’s face it, find­ing enough time for triathlon train­ing can be a real strug­gle. Even when you’re do­ing a fairly min­i­mal two swims, two rides and two runs per week it still seems like a lot. The prospect of adding an ad­di­tional strength ses­sion or two can seem im­pos­si­ble with a full-time job and a fam­ily. So what’s the so­lu­tion if you’re strapped for time? Should you ditch strength train­ing in favour of the swim, bike and run? Or should you head to the gym in your mus­cle-vest and ig­nore the triathlon work­outs? In this fea­ture we’ll take a look at the ev­i­dence to help you make the right de­ci­sion. And if you de­cide to go ahead with strength train­ing we’ll give you some sim­ple sug­ges­tions to get you started.


Re­search on the ef­fects of strength train­ing for en­durance per­for­mance is mixed. Sev­eral stud­ies re­port no ben­e­fit what­so­ever, whereas oth­ers re­port sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits. How­ever, a July 2014 sci­en­tific re­view from the Scan­di­na­vian Jour­nal of Medicine and Sci­ence in Sports ex­am­ined the re­sults of the most re­cent stud­ies and con­cluded: “Com­bin­ing en­durance train­ing with ei­ther ex­plo­sive or heavy strength train­ing can im­prove run­ning per­for­mance, while there is com­pelling ev­i­dence of an ad­di­tive ef­fect on cy­cling per­for­mance when heavy strength train­ing is used.”

The rea­sons be­hind these po­ten­tial ben­e­fits are not cer­tain, but one of main sug­ges­tions is that in­creas­ing your strength helps you be­come bet­ter equipped to use fat as a fuel dur­ing en­durance ex­er­cise. This is be­cause the stronger your “slow twitch” mus­cle fi­bres, the greater the per­cent­age of the work­load they can han­dle dur­ing swim­ming, cy­cling and run­ning. This teaches your body to spare your lim­ited glyco­gen stores, thus de­lay­ing the time it takes to be­come fa­tigued.


While there is some ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing that the right kind of strength train­ing may help you be­come a bet­ter ath­lete, there are some lim­i­ta­tions re­gard­ing body type, age, avail­abil­ity and back­ground.

• Strength train­ing for triathlon is more ben­e­fi­cial for nat­u­rally skinny types known as ec­to­morphs. This body type is de­fined as thin, usu­ally tall, frag­ile, lightly mus­cled, flat chested and del­i­cate. For oth­ers, who gain mus­cle quickly, there be­comes a point when con­tin­u­ing strength train­ing ceases to be ben­e­fi­cial for en­durance sports.

• If you have an ex­ten­sive back­ground of strength train­ing (for ex­am­ple, rugby play­ers) you don’t stand to gain as much by adding ex­tra strength. You may be bet­ter fo­cus­ing your time on en­durance train­ing and flex­i­bil­ity.

• Re­search has shown that when you get into your 30s and 40s, your mus­cle mass starts to de­cline. While triathlon train­ing has been shown to com­bat this to some de­gree, it’s still true that older ath­letes need to fo­cus more on re­sis­tance train­ing in or­der to main­tain their cur­rent strength.

• Strength train­ing should be done to sup­port your swim, bike and run train­ing, rather than in­stead of it. If you are very lim­ited for time and have a choice of a triathlon work­out or a strength work­out, choose the triathlon work­out ev­ery time.

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