Which workouts do I sacrifice for strength training?

Hi all,

I’m training for middle distance triathlons and wanted some advice on how to to fit strength training into my week.

I’m doing somewhere between the mid to high volume plans - I customise and move things a bit - which means I generally have 2 workouts everyday, or 3 some days if I want to give myself a recovery day. The problem I have is that if I squeeze 2 strength sessions in I have some really big training days and no doubt the strength training fatigue will impact the next workout.

My cycling is my strongest sport so I feel I can miss a bike workout, e.g. Petit, in place of a strength session. I could also replace one of the high intensity sessions with a strength workout which would increase my % of low intensity work per week (because I’m decreasing high intensity volume), which should help improve my base. My swim is weakest, but the effort to improve this vs the reward is also lowest for my target events, so I feel I could miss a swim session and not be in too bad shape for the overall race. My run has the most room for improvement - 70.3 half marathon just under 1:45, but with training I think I can hit 1:30, so if anything I think I need to increase the low intensity volume on the run for the greatest impact on the overall time. Also, I think strength training is most likely to improve my run performance.

So, wondering how others would manage a mid/ high volume training plan with 2 strength training sessions per week, and balancing the 3 sports for optimal gains

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Why are you looking to add a strength session? Do you have a specific injury or imbalance you need to fix? Do you want to add a different style of workout because you’re tired of swim/bike/run?

The reason I ask you this is because doing some strength training isn’t going to make you faster. There are strength exercises you can do within the sport to help rather then spend time in the gym.

If you’re looking to get faster and within your race season don’t bother getting to the gym now. If you’re just looking to mix it up or do something a bit different then cut probably a bike workout. It’s tough to keep a healthy balance, especially with being an amateur.

I think a standard playbook is to go into maintenance mode for strength when you’re in a build or specialty phase. Most people can do that with one strength workout per week. If there are a couple extra lifts I want to keep doing more than that, I’ll fit them in briefly after another workout at my gym.


I think many would disagree with your statement regarding importance of strength training. During season maintaining strength is a good way forward that you built pre-season. If you are a bit older, maintaining becomes even a bit more important.

To answer the initial question, I’d say it depends on the strength training you are planning to perform. Some of the pettit sessions are considered to be TSS-fillers, to keep total training load up, some are considered to be an easy ride between tougher sessions.

Generelly Tuesday and Thursday are two of the key sessions in TR-plans. Wednesday is considered to be an easier one and fridays is a TSS-filler.

With all the training you have stacked, look into what days you normally have your key sessions. Based on that, do what you can to enable you to come as fresh as possible to those sessions.


“I think many would disagree with your statement regarding importance of strength training.”

I think for a lot of time crunched athletes, especially triathletes, you have to really watch the balance of your time. If you’re not currently injured or needing to rehab something whats the better use of your time/going to get you faster working on swim/bike/run or lift weights in the gym?

Also there are strength exercises you can incorporate within those disciplines to help develop more strength (hill running, big gear work, etc) that will help while still developing specific skills needed to get faster.

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I will let the smart people argue what is most time efficient or not. From the little studies I have read lately, strength training is good for performance. I am not sure how much strength training big gear cycling actually is, didnt Chad compare it with walking up stairs lately, dont remember the exact context but I agree you activate the muscles fibers but how much actually strength training becomes out of it… I let smart people argue about that :slight_smile:

Personally, I have whats needed at home to do some training with weights, so the effort is relative small from that perspecive.

But lets agree upon one thing, being consistent and finding whatever motivates one to keep that consistency have a higher probability for a positive outcome.


My interest in strength training started when I listened to the Keegan Swenson podcast episode. He advocates regular strength training all season and it clearly works for him.

More recently I had a couple of races in which I felt my cardio system wasn’t the limiter, but my quad strength (the bike), or my calves (the run) were. So I was thinking that if I strengthened these muscles, and others, my legs would be stronger and match my engine. Not sure of the science but that was my theory.

My goal is to improve performance. Be faster for longer.

I think the idea of strength training sessions for triathlons is more about maintaining speed, ie not slowing down, than it is about getting faster.

For the majority of the 70.3s I’ve done, I’ve felt it is the muscular endurance which has let me down, much like the original poster, it never felt like the aerobic engine was the limiter. It is addressing this issue, which leads me to do 2-3 sessions (of 30mins each) of strength exercises each week.

Like the original poster, I’m rubbish at swimming. I’d agree with the idea of dropping one of these sessions, ie only doing 2 sessions per week - especially if its not coached sessions. If you’re not getting coached, you’re probably not going to get appreciably faster, so getting through the swim with minimal detriment to the bike and run sections, if probably the way to go, and is what I do.

The filler, aerobic bike session, I’m not sure what this achieves really, I’d be tempted to drop this for a session of weights instead.

My “weight training” involves kettlebells and bodyweight exercises. I do some of the bodyweight exercises plyometrically. I’m not training to be stronger per se, but to resist fatigue under load.

Hope helps.

Hi JP - yes this is exactly what I was getting at in my original post. Do you find an improvement in your ability to sustain pace during the run because you’re strength training?

I’ll let you know after the next one.
I’ve been purposely doing more of this type of training and more hills (on bike and running).

Hopefully this will translate to a 70.3 HM time much closer to my normal HM time.

We’ll see.

If training strength helps prevent injury then I think it’s time well spent, and therefore more time for swim/bike/run

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Except for multisport, unless you’re trying to eek out that last 1 or 2% with strength training. Incorporating plyos or explosive efforts have been shown to improve economy but the best way to get better at s/b/r is to s/b/r. The actual force requirement for race pace efforts is so low the limiter is how well your body can deliver and make energy using oxygen.

Strength training is more like the decorative icing on a cake that is already complete to add just a little bit of pop. It should be added on to an already complete cake.

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What I do:

During fall and winter lift 3-4 sessions a week following a program. I enjoy weightlifting so it’s fun.

During season will lift 2-3 days a week rotating the core upper body lifts and dropping the leg lifts. To find the time, instead of doing 75-90 min zone 2 easy days I’ll do 45-60 min ride and then use the “saved” time for weights and core. I’ll only do main compound lifts dropping the accessory work.

If I was trying to peak for a goal event of importance, would drop the lifting for 4-6 weeks before that event to focus on the race and eliminating fatigue.

Also in terms of time management, I’ll just ride indoors during the week. The rollers are about 8 feet from the power rack. Come home, change, bike, lift, shower, eat.

On the road can’t say lifting has made me faster. On the mountain bike absolutely.

Hope that’s useful to the op.


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can you just add the strength to an easy run or bike day?