5 Classic Strength Training Moves for Triathletes

These five simple, classic movements will improve performance and reduce the chance of injury.

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It’s no secret we love tech. So when the trend of data collection hit the weight room in the form of new wearable technologies, we were intrigued. Some wrist wearables (Atlas Wristband) can now record your heart rate, reps and sets. Some are even smart enough to evaluate your form (Beast Athlete Sensor). Others have sensors integrated into clothing that tell you which muscles are firing, how much you are activating them, and more (Athos). All of this data can be viewed in real time and collected for review. And that’s awesome.

However, since strength training wearables are still in their infancy, they haven’t yet hit that mark where the tech becomes universally affordable. Case in point: A single smart shirt can run more than $390. And while we would admittedly blow a month’s grocery budget on a shirt that tracks our pectoral activity, we know we should wait and save up. But we don’t have to wait to start making our bodies tougher, because when it comes to strength training, traditional exercises done right have proven again and again to be the most effective at building strength and reducing injury.

“Strength in general helps prevent injuries through improved muscular stability around a joint,” says Daniel Payseur, director of the United States Performance Center and a strength coach who has also worked extensively with endurance athletes to help them increase their performance and stay injury free. “Higher failure points make it much more difficult to push the tissue or structure to the point it will fail.”

Here are five simple, classic movements Payseur recommends to improve performance and reduce the chance of injury. Aim to complete 3 sets of 10 reps for each move twice a week, increasing to three times a week as you get stronger.

RELATED: Strength Training for Triathletes

Romanian Deadlifts

“Hip hinging movements such as the Romanian deadlift (RDL) are important because they strengthen muscles that are often neglected by swimmers, cyclists and runners,” says Payseur. “Those movements are all very quad- and hip flexor-dominant whereas an RDL is glute- and hamstring-dominant.” RDL’s also provide a benefit similar to the squat because they build absolute strength. To protect your back, keep your spine in a neutral position similar to what it would be when standing. A 15- to 20-degree bend in your knees will help keep the pressure off your spine.

Back Squats

For building absolute strength, nothing beats the back squat. “Increased strength leads to improved movement economy,” says Payseur. Greater economy allows you to conserve energy, which is critical in long-distance racing. Your knees should be shoulder width apart and your core fully engaged. To help avoid knee injuries, do not let your knees bow inward, and only drop until your thighs are parallel with the ground.

Box Jumps

High-velocity movements like box jumps can improve your power development and economy, yet they are often neglected by triathletes. “Box jumps are a simple way to add high velocities into training without having to learn complicated exercises,” says Payseur. Keep your eyes and chest up, and engage your core. Start with a box about two feet off the ground.


Pull-ups are an easy exercise that have many benefits for triathletes. They improve shoulder strength and also help with your posture, spinal alignment, and build your lats, which are critical for pulling yourself through the water. Changing your grip will help you work different muscles to help avoid overuse injuries. Be sure to engage your back muscles as well as your arms to pull yourself up.

External Shoulder Rotations

This exercise is one of the best for preventing injury and optimizing shoulder health. Payseur points out that when running or riding, your shoulder is either locked in place or moves through the same motion over and over again, which can lead to overuse injuries like tendonitis. This exercise provides variety, which will help prevent overuse injuries. Keep your arm close to your body when performing this exercise. It’s about range of motion, not the amount of weight you can lift, so start light.

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