Strength Training

There was a time when endurance athletes avoided strength training.  Many have a great fear of gaining weight and they think that strength training will cause them to bulk up.  This is unlikely.  Strength training has many benefits to it such as increased speed and endurance as well as protection against injury.  Just as there is a periodization plan for swim bike and run.  There has to be a periodization plan for strength training.


Based on the comments from athletes I train and their results from previous races I tailor the weight-training program to the athlete and make sure they follow specific guidelines:

  1. Prevent imbalances
  2. Use multipoint exercises when possible
  3. Always work the core
  4. As race season approaches more specific and functional
  5. Keep it simple
  6. Always include the core…Abs and Lower Back
  7. Use strength training to prepare for each period in your season (prep, base, build, and peak)


Strength Training Phases:

  1. Prep Period – This happens usually in the late fall and early winter and the purpose is to prepare the muscles and tendons for the exercises in the next phases. This is a great time to use body weight exercises, and circuit training as it becomes more aerobic.  This phase should last about 4 weeks and ideally should be done 2-3 times a week.  The load should be light and reps should be high and speed of lift is slow.  Examples of exercises include squats, step-ups, lat pull down, pushups, seated row, leg curls on stability ball, abs and core work.
  2. Base Phases – In this phase the purpose is to teach your brain to use those bigger muscle fibers. Be sure to select your load conservatively and then increase as you progress.  The load in this phase should be one that lets lift 10-15 reps but with perfect form.  The reps should still be slow and ideally 2-3 sessions a week for about 3-5 weeks.  Examples of exercises include squats, step-ups, seated row, chest press or lat pull down, leg curls or heel raises, and standing row as well as core work.
  3. All other periods (Base 3 Build and Peak) is maintenance – In these phases you need to start to decrease the high intensity lifting but stopping all the resistance training in base 2 may cause a gradual loss of strength.  Women and men over 40 in particular need to make sure they are maintaining their strength workouts as it takes longer for them to build muscle mass and less time for them to loose it.   Continuing to work on core muscle groups and personal weakness areas will maintain strength needs.   In this phase sessions can be 1-2 times a week with a light load with perhaps an increase in load for last set (2-3 sets). Reps are 6-12 depending on the load and speed of lift is moderate.  In this phase I still like to do the same exercises I did in the previous phases but with more functional core work such as single leg deadlifts, dynamic step ups, medicine ball down and rotate and reach, clamshells.

**To properly time your peak for a race make sure to eliminate strength training for seven days leading up to races and then 2 days after.


Kortney Haag

Kortney has been a competitive triathlete since 2008 when she was honored as a member of Team Minnesota and received the Minnesota Rookie of the Year award. She is a mother of two young active boys and understands the time challenges many athletes face and the importance of balance in life as well as in training. Kortney has extensive racing and coaching experience in a variety of multi-sport and endurance events from sprint to iron distance triathlons.

  • Certified Personal Trainer — National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS)
  • USAT Level 1 Coach
  • USAC Level 3 Coach

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