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Strength Training for Triathletes, good book?


I don't really do or know anything about strength training, so this winter I was going to make it a priority.

To aid this I found this book, Strength Training for Triathletes by Patrick S. Hagerman, has anyone read it, is it any good?

Many thanks



  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    Cannot comment on the book you name but have found strength training to be beneficial but only if integrated into other tri training.

    The section on strength training in Joe Friels Triathlon Training Bible (TTB) is very good (take it from someone who works in the business)and is probably about as much as you actually need to know and do. The good thing about TTB is that if you follow the book through you come up with a personalised periodized training plan which includes all the elements to improve your performance. This includes converting gym based strength to better swim, bike & run performance - not always an easy task.

    Hope this helps

  • LancsRiderLancsRider Posts: 205
    Like the last post I have not got the book you mention in the origonal post.

    I have read Joe Friel's Going Long which outlines the benefits of a strength training phase as part of an annual peridization plan. I am basing my own training around a 12 week pre base period in which I am intending to do a lot of strength based work at the gym. Due to my own circumstances, I have a stronger base in cycling than the other two disciplines, much of this work will focus on gaining power specific to cycling. There are a number of people who would argue that a focus aimed at improved strength on the bike is the most eficient use of time. I also believe that as a 46 year old strength work is important in compensating against the aging process.

    In developing my own strength based work I have used 'weight traing for cyclists' by Ken Doyle and Eric Schmitz in conjunction with 'Training and Racing with a Power Meter' by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan for ideas how to take the strength training into the next phase of my annual plan. It is a case of how much detail you want to go into and how much time you allocate out of your weekly training schedule, if this information is of any use. I would also say that the 'anatomy' series of books are good support references showing exercises and how they relate firstly to muscle groups and then into movement patterns in the three disciplines. On their own however they offer little in the way of a programme for example.

    An issue for me is that I want to work with a focus on gaining specific transfarable outcomes. Personally I find it all too easy to go into the gym and work around a set of machines untill I generally feel knackered, does this though lead to improved performances, or am I simply following what many other people do as the gym system?

    Earlier in the year as an example I decided to focus on core stability and hip flexor strength gains to help me with improving my power when climbing out of the saddle on long climbs and steeper gradients. I used the references above to develop a gym programme integrated into my on the road training schedule. Once I could see the benefits of strength training in my training outcomes I found it a lot easier to put this gym element into my schedule. Personally one of the things I find hard about strength work is that it impacts on your other training in that you need to allow time for recovery. I find it tough to be out doing an easy ride spinning the pedals for a couple of hours when an alternative would be a more intense session where it not for the previous days heavy strength session at the gym.

    Fitting in strength based work is all part of the complex jigsaw which is triathlon training, for me developing a programme which works is a real challenge and is the thing that sets this sport appart from many others. What works for me might not be the right recepie for you, but I hope this helps a little.
  • I have read the book.

    The first section covers what is different about strength training for triathletes, how to plan a programme according to your goals, how to progress (including how to fit your weights into a periodised programme), a short section on equipment, how to choose the right exercises for you, warming up and sample programmes. The second section (about half the book) covers core stability work then specific exercises for the upper limbs and lower limbs for each of the three sports - altogether 58 exercises using machines, free weights, Swiss balls, medicine balls and bands / pulley systems. The most useful bit of the book for me was a section which identified specific exercises to help with specific problems eg "your body roll decrease the further or longer you swim", followed by 5 suggested exercises.

    I found the book interesting, clear and useful as background reading. It covers dozens of exercises, far more than you could ever do. As others have already said, the problem with weight training for triathlon is how to be selective. I am in my first year of longer-distance triathlon and spent a couple of months working on core strength (the book does not cover Pilates by the way) then a couple of months doing 5 cycling-specific exercises and 3 core strength exercises suggested by my coach.

    In short, the book gives a you a bit more than you get from the general books but probably not quite enough to plan a programme for yourself. However, it gives enough background knowledge for you to make the best use of advice from eg gym staff, friends or a coach.
  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    Have just read Strength Training for Triathletes (STT).

    There is a lot of very good stuff in there not just about strength training but also flexibility. As has been said above the section on needs analysis is very good & I'll be using some of the ideas over the next few weeks.

    Overall worth getting? Yes. Caveats? Yes.

    Firstly the periodisation (which is spot on in itself) isn't tied into swim, bike & run training or periodisation for races. For example the 12 week Olympic plan ends with a final week of 8 exercises of 6 sets of 2 reps at 95% of 1RM. Great for strength & power but would ruin you if you did it in the week before your A race. This is where the Triathlon Training Bible (TTB) is very good. You need to build strength then transfer that 'gym' strength into swim, bike & run abilities. That tansfer needs to be progressive and planned to peak for your A race. So use STT to flesh out TTB & to identify your limmiters.

    Secondly there is no avice on different groups. Older athletes (say 45+) tend to loose strength unless the weight training is maintained over a race season whereas younger ones can maintain it just through normal training. Even older athletes (say 65+) have different needs again. Very young athletes (say 16 to 20'ish) should not do the same weights/programmes as say a 24 year old. Also I would be very wary of prescribing some of the exercises and loads to someone in their first year of strength conditioning. It takes time for bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles to develop to their maximum. Strength work is a long term progressive development where benefits will appear quite quickly but the improvement keep comming year after year.

    Thirdly the exercises for running assume that heel striking is the way to run. Fine if you do & are happy doing so. However, as forefoot is for most of us faster, more efficient & less injury prone you may wish to ignore those parts.

    Overall STT is worth getting but as a supplement to TTB. Also worth getting a decent gym instructor to go through the exercises with you so that you do them correctly rather than rely on "a mate whos gone down the gym for years".

    Hope the helps

  • All excellent advise, thanks very much...
  • Hi all,

    Me again!

    I was just wondering, after investigating the price of my local gym , I'm thinking a at home version is going to have to do. Does this book cover exercises that can be done with a stretch cord and a gym ball?

    If not, should I be looking to some other books for advice...
  • Great book is Going Long which a lot of people have mentioned on here. Very indepth and you can plan out your whole shedule for the race from it. I found that strength training represented the next steps from a good bike to a great bike leg due to the power in the legs.
  • HarryDHarryD Posts: 425

    Yes, a lot of the exercises can be done with stretch cords (get a set with different resistances), a swiss ball and just bodyweight. There is always a way around not having gym equipment. The advantage of a gym is that there should be someone there to show you how to do the exercises correctly, timing & how to progress. About half the gym users I see have bad technique & for too many it is dangerously bad - these are usually male and will not take advice no matter how it is offered. That is not to say all gym instructors are much better - I've seen some shocking stuff going on with too many of them also.


  • There are some very good points made here about general gym culture. I am a member of a gym complex primarily because it has a 25m pool, but there is also extensive cardio and weights areas which come in with the monthly price.

    I tend to do a lot of my strength work at home except for the heavier stuff on my legs where I use the gym's weight machines. A lot of this uses my own body weight, stretch cords, dumbels, balance ball etc.. The reason is I simply do not feel comfortable in the weights area of my gym at many times of the day. There are a lot of young meat heads simply throwing around loose weights in trying to get a good looking upper body who spend most of the time trying to manouver themselves in front of the nearest mirror. They then hang around the spa area for an hour or so gulping down protein shakes sweating and panting a lot. I must say there are one or two serious body builder types (a lot older) who do train very hard are following a structure and shall we say are a bit more reserved.

    I think the important thing here is that you make your strength training specific to your sport, triathlon, and you keep it at the right levels and develop excellent form. This does not require in the main expensive gym equipment it is surprising how much work you can get out of the right resistance of stretch band, or am I just soft? My idea of strength training for triathlon today aged 46 is so much different to when I was doing it in my mid twenties when playing competitive rugby. Back then I would have laughted at what I do today and called it soft girlie stuuf, no offense to the females out there. Come to think of it the hardest training I did back then was when the club brought in a yoga instructor to work on our core strength pre season, which was far tougher than any circuit sessions we were doing to reinforce my point.

    What you need to do is have a balanced and mature attitude about strength work, personally I find that easier to achieve at home than in the gym environment, we are all different however, remember to focus on why you are doing strength work in the first place and don't get carried away by other distractions such as building muscle size, our egos can be quite destructive at times.
  • Most athletes already know this, and as a triathlete, you probably know that strength also builds endurance. But traditional strength training programs are too general to benefit triathletes.
  • Try reading magazine articles. Every once in a while their will be articles about strength training. Try cyling fitness, H2open www.h2openmagazine.com, or obviously triathlon 220. www.slimmerfitterstronger.com
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