Triathletes, like any endurance athlete, face the tricky balancing act of developing strength while maintaining a lower body mass. While larger muscles can always develop more force, larger muscles require more oxygen, and more blood, to maintain function over time. This would be a death sentence to any sport that is aerobic based. And while you may think that the training approach for an athlete that wants to stay light would be a complete opposite of a strength athlete where mass is of great benefit, both share a very common thread.
As mentioned in a previous piece, power is force moved in a shorter span of time (or at a faster rate). And this correlates roughly with efficiency of strength. A large person with brute strength is the person the triathlete wants to avoid. But a smaller frame might be able to generate the same amount of POWER as that large frame, but faster. And as mentioned, smaller muscles aren’t going to sap the aerobic capacity at such an immense rate.
“But if I’m worried about carrying around too much oxygen and blood loving muscle mass, why even do strength training? Isn’t the resistance associated with the movements enough?”
That answer could very well be a “yes,” if you are just a casual practitioner. But if you get that itch to do better (and its not just the itch of chaffing nipples under your shirt) then you want to enable your body to generate more power. Because with more power, comes more speed. Just tread lightly. Not everyone can catch lightning in a bottle like hybrid athlete Alex Viada. What should you focus on? As you are doing your sport, you are going to do a range of full body movements. So make sure your program encompasses at LEAST the basic functional motor patterns. Make sure you are doing these compound movement patterns in a fashion that is going to develop power, that is: lighter, but faster. Like any question of fitness, there’s never one true answer, there will always be multiple approaches to meet the needs of different body types and different composition, different training ages, etc.
Here’s your starting line:
How To Lift Weights For Triathlon (from Ben Greenfield Fitness)
Triathlete Strength Training with Helen Jenkins (from Science in Sport)
Strength & Conditioning for triathletes – What should you be doing? (from TheTriathlonCoach)
Advice: Strength Training For Triathletes (from EnduranceHour)
Triathlon Strength Training (from Jayson Westley)