We often think that strength training for triathlon requires heading to the gym, purchasing a laundry list of equipment, or finding space in your pain cave (or studio apartment). It can get quite overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
I’ve worked with individuals from around the world to help get them out of pain and increase their performance, both in person and remotely. At first, coaching remotely proved to be challenging because not all gyms are easily accessible, they often lack important equipment, or they even lack the required space to get a proper workout in.
I’ve developed killer home workouts with just a few pieces of relatively cheap and easy-to-store equipment so your athletes can benefit from strength training at home. Here are my preferred home workout equipment and a workout routine that will cost athletes less than $150 and will take up no more space to store than a couple of pairs of boots.
Here’s what athletes need to get started:
- One to two kettlebells
- Strength beginners should have an 8kg and 12kg kettlebell
- Strength intermediates should have a 12kg and 20kg kettlebell
- Strength advanced should have a 16kg and 24kg kettlebell
- One three-foot-long (1 meter) foam roller
- One lacrosse ball or tennis ball
- Something to lay on that will keep you from sliding like a beach towel or a yoga mat
If you’re on a tight budget, start out with just the lighter kettlebells and the foam roller. These will allow you to get a great workout while working on strength and balance until you can purchase the heavier kettlebell.
Choosing the lighter weight may seem unusual, but we need to keep in mind that the cornerstone of increased performance from weight training comes from increased inter and intramuscular coordination. In order to accomplish this, remember that joint position dictates muscle function. That means that great technique using tempo to work on refining technique will develop a stronger mind-muscle connection.
Start by foam rolling your full body for five to seven minutes total.
- Crocodile breathing: 5 breaths
- Side-lying windmill: 5 times each side
- Sofa stretch: 30 seconds each side
- Jump rope: 2×30 seconds using short, quick jumps
- A1. Kettlebell swings: 3×15 repetitions
- A2. Bird dogs: 3×5 repetitions each side (finish 1 side, then the other)
- B1. 2-1-1-1 goblet squats: 3×10 repetitions
- B2. Reach, roll, lift: 3×5 repetitions
- B3. One-arm kettlebell shoulder press: 3×5 repetitions each side
- C1. Down dogs: 3×5-7 repetitions
- C2. One-arm kettlebell rows: 3×6 repetitions each side
- C3. Suitcase carries: 3×20 seconds each side
This is an important, yet often overlooked, area of our training. Breathing exercises help you learn how to get a great, solid, healthy diaphragmatic breath. Take your time with these, and make sure you’re doing them properly.
This is a fantastic full-body exercise which allows us to hit a number of common trouble spots for triathletes and cyclists: chest, lats, lower back, and glutes. Make sure to match your breath here as you work through the movement as it can significantly boost the positive results.
While everyone and their Auntie Anne seem to be trying to stretch their hip flexors, many miss the biggest contributor to anterior pelvic tilt: a tight rectus femoris. Make sure you are paying attention to the cues here and activate your abs while taking full, deep breaths (notice a pattern here in our warmup?) while you keep great posture.
You may be a bit confused as to why this is at the end of the warmup. After a static stretch, we’re after some very basic plyometric exercises. Jumping rope is a true plyometric exercise meaning that, when done correctly, there is a stretch-shortening cycle.
Strength training exercises
This is an incredibly difficult movement for many cyclists and triathletes to master due in large part to the disruption in the posterior chain that we induce with our hard efforts on the bike. Take your time and work to master the movement before you look to increase the weight.
This is another commonly butchered exercise. The bird dog should be done to bolster spinal stability and strength, not to put your spine through flexion and extension. Take your time and make sure you start at the proper level, which for many is going to be level one.
In the pre-season with your first races six to eight weeks away, we want to make sure our strength training is priming us for power, not just strength. In order to do so, we need to teach the muscles how to control our joints and produce power, all without losing stability. This 2-1-1-1 tempo is great for this exact purpose. This video demonstrates a 3-1-3-1 tempo; simply change the tempo to 2-1-1-1.
Mid- and lower-traps are constantly needed for our run, bike, and swim, yet these muscles are one of the more challenging areas to train without a lot of equipment. The reach, roll, lift exercise is extremely challenging to do properly as it requires us to keep our head in a neutral position, fire our obliques (muscles that tie our rib cage and hips together), and turn off the large shoulder muscles to allow our mid-back to work. Take your time. Remember, it’s not blowing the exercise just to check it off that is important, it is the technique and firing the correct muscles when and how they should.
One-arm kettlebell shoulder press
This exercise requires great posture and muscular recruitment, something everyone could use more of. If you find this exercise very difficult, work on the reach, roll, lift exercise instead. This is exercise will help you develop the mind/muscle connection and slowly work on getting better overhead movement.
This is an awesome yoga-esque movement that I will often use in place of pushups for my athletes until they are better able to control their shoulder blade movements. Note this exercise is different than the yoga variation as you are intended to hold a plank position.
This is as much a rotary stability exercise as it is a rowing exercise. Keep those hips and that rib cage locked together with your shoulder blade moving on your rib cage.
This is a fantastic way to work on posture under fatigue as well as help to work on inter and intramuscular coordination for running. The suitcase carry has quickly become an athlete favorite over the years, in part due to its simplicity and its surprising difficulty.
From start to finish this workout should take you about 30 minutes, and when done properly two to three days a week can help you train and race stronger and faster than before.
If you’re wondering why the exercises are grouped into “A”, “B” and “Cs”, stay tuned for upcoming posts here on TrainingPeaks, or take a deep dive into the Strength Training for Triathlon Success course. Use the code “StrongSeason19” to receive 19 percent off the course.