How Strength Training for Triathletes Works

Periodization Strength Training for Triathletes

As mentioned on the previous page, periodization training involves changing up your workout at various intervals to prevent stagnation and muscle plateaus. Periodization strength training programs usually start off by requiring you do a high number of repetitions of an exercise at a low weight, and they gradually progress to doing a low number of repetitions at a higher weight.

Periodization strength training works by dividing up a calendar year into smaller training periods. It begins by building a muscular base and gradually increases your strength before settling into a maintenance period. This mimics how a triathlete trains in each of the disciplines, as you have to build a base level of endurance in each of the sports before you can increase the speed and intensity at which you perform them.

Although known by a variety of names, periodization strength training for triathletes generally follows these phases throughout the calendar year:

  • rest
  • off-season (also called base training or adaptation)
  • pre-season (also called transition or strength)
  • competition (also called maintenance)

During each of these phases you focus on building strength in your muscles by gradually changing the variables of your workouts. During the competition phase, you scale back on your workout to maintain the strength you've built up during your pre-season training.

The whole concept of periodization strength training centers on changing the variables of your workout so that your muscles don't get used to moving one way and "plateau." You create periodization in your workouts by making adjustments to these variables:

  • the number of sets per exercise
  • the number of repetitions per set
  • how long you rest between sets, exercises and even training days
  • what exercises you do, and in which order you perform them
  • how fast you perform each exercise

By changing up these variables in regular increments throughout your training year, you'll force your muscles to constantly change how they work. If you don't allow them to adapt to one way of moving, you'll continue to gain strength.

Now, let's look at how you can build a periodization strength training workout.