A well-designed strength training program can dramatically improve your performance all season.

Dr. Patrick Hagerman, EdD, FNSCA, CSCS, NSCACPT shares a simple circuit program for sprint-distance racing that will pay dividends quickly—and hopefully convince you that a well-designed strength training program can dramatically improve your performance all season.

There is no single strength training program that will fit every triathlete. Likewise, there are countless possibilities for how to shape a strength training program. This excerpt from Strength Training for Triathletes provides an idea of the types of programs you can design based on:

There are circuit programs and periodized programs, as well as general strength programs. Any of them can be oriented toward improving muscular endurance, hypertrophy, strength, or power.

The sample program I’ll share here is based on the actual training practices of athletes, but that doesn’t mean you should use them exactly as they are presented here. There is no guarantee they will work for you, because they were not designed for you! Study how they are put together and feel free to substitute exercises you have chosen and workloads that are appropriate for your body to develop a program that will take you to new levels of performance.

Strength Training for Sprint Distance Triathlon

Sprint triathlons are more about speed than about endurance. You need cardiovascular endurance, but because the distances are shorter, you don’t have to pace yourself for as long, and you can compete at a higher intensity. With higher cardiovascular intensity comes the need for more muscular power (the ability of muscles to contract very fast). In addition, because sprint triathlons are the shortest, you may be more likely to compete in a greater number of competitions per season, so you will need a strength training program that takes that into account.

Let’s try out a simple circuit program for sprint-distance racing that will pay dividends quickly—and hopefully convince you that a well-designed strength training program can dramatically improve your performance all season.

Circuit Program for Sprint-Distance Triathletes

A circuit program will have very short rest intervals between each exercise—basically only as long as it takes to get to the next exercise. So don’t dally.

Instead of completing all of the sets of an exercise before moving on to the next one, you will complete one set of each exercise in your workout, then repeat the circuit until you have finished all your sets. The order of your exercises is up to you, but alternating muscle groups is the most practical choice. The sample exercises below will alternate nicely.

A circuit of 6 to 10 exercises will only take about 30 minutes to complete. By adding more exercises, you can design several different circuits so that you have a different workout every day, or use the same one each time, as long as you allow enough rest time so your muscles are fully recovered from the last workout.

My book includes five sample strength training programs for sprint-distance triathletes (and many more for other race distances). There are two sprint circuit programs, and three periodized sample programs.

Sample Strength Training Circuit
Strength Training for Triathletes includes the full strength training circuit with 8 strength exercises that target functional strength, power, and endurance in several key muscle groups for sprint triathlon cycling power. Try this simplified circuit below using the four exercise links. Once you master each exercise, you should be able to complete this workout in about 15 minutes.

1. Step-Up


2. Dumbbell Incline Press

3. Knee Raise

4. Dumbbell Deep Squat