Let's start by taking a closer look at all the ways strength training can benefit a triathlete.
- Enhanced strength. It's kind of a no-brainer: If you lift weights, your muscles will get stronger. However, as you age, your muscle mass decreases. Muscle mass can start decreasing when you're in your 30s, and the average age of a triathlete is between 35 to 40 years old [source: USA Triathlon]. If you're an average-aged triathlete, you're dealing with less muscle mass, and therefore less strength.
- Muscular endurance and power. Stronger muscles give you more stamina. In a race that could be several hours long, your body needs to be able to go the distance.
- Higher resistance to injury. Strong muscles actually strengthen your bones by increasing bone density. Another plus is that stronger muscles also protect your joints. In a sport where you're using repetitive motion on your joints, you'll want to protect them as much as you can so that you don't injure yourself during training or a race.
- Better form. If you have greater muscle capacity, your body may be able to maintain a better form while you compete. If you're running hunched over because you don't have the muscle power to run upright, adding some strengthening exercises could help. However, if you're performing the mechanics of a discipline incorrectly, it's possible that weight training could exacerbate the problem [source: Haettich].
- Decreased fatigue. Improve your stamina by adding muscle. When you're racing, the muscle fibers in your body break down, causing fatigue to kick in. The more muscle fibers you have, the longer it takes to break them down.
- Improved efficiency. If you're performing the mechanics of each discipline correctly, strength training can help make your movements more efficient. Move more efficiently, and you'll move faster, improving your overall race time.
- Improved performance. When you add strength training into the equation, it can ultimately lead to better performance in both your discipline training and your race performance.
Let's look at how triathletes can maximize the benefits of periodized strength training.