In-Season Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

The importance of resistance training is becoming more widely known in the endurance community. Some have labeled it the 5th sport in triathlon, the 4th being transitions of course. However, I do get some questions referencing in-season resistance training programs. Many specific “strength” workouts (run/bike hills or swimming with paddles) are being implemented during an athlete’s competition phase, should you have a resistance routine during your racing months? For most athletes, I would say definitely yes. Endurance athletes can see great benefit from an in-season strength routine. Now before you head to the gym to max out on back squats and bench press, lets think about the goal of any in-season resistance-training program, which should be maintenance of the strength and power gains made in the off/pre season. The off/pre season should emphasize heavier weight with low repetitions, Olympic style lifts, and plyometrics to increase force production and improve performance.  Resistance training programs have many benefits to the endurance athlete such as:

  • Injury prevention
  • Correcting muscular imbalances (specificity)
  • Muscle (motor unit) recruitment
  • Muscle Fiber adaptations (Slow Twitch vs. Fast Twitch)
  • Generally a stronger athlete is able to handle the additional load from increased training volume in the swim, bike and run (S/B/R)

So why not continue to gain some of the benefits? Depending on the length of your “in-season” competition phase you could implement a program in one of two ways:

1) In a longer race season (16+weeks), break down your resistance training in meso-cycles similar to your S/B/R. You would be peaking for your “A” Races not only with your S/B/R training but also with your resistance training. Adjusting intensities and volume to complement your existing training. Strength and power phases of training will most commonly be used.

2) For a normal race season (8-16 weeks), more of a moderate maintenance program is ideal for most athletes. This program is grounded in skill, technique and preservation of previous resistance training gains.

Focus should be on the specificity of the resistance training you do, which should directly translate to the sport. An example, a heavy back squat doesn’t directly translate to your sport. You are never going to be pushing both feet off the ground or down on both pedals simultaneously. From a functional standpoint you would favor a single leg squat, split squat or single leg deadlift. Your swim pull is not going to be with both arm so why do lat pull downs with both arms? Another reason to focus on single limb movements and balance. In general terms, replicate as many sport movements as you can in your resistance routine.

Competition phase for many athletes could account for 8-12+ hours a week of just S/B/R. So now comes the question, “How often should their resistance program be implemented and for how long?” Most of the literature I found suggest 1-2 times a week with duration of 20-30 minutes. This means roughly 8-10 exercises while following a maintenance intensity/volume of 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. In general, a total body workout that targets all your major muscle groups for your sport. To get more out of your session make a few modifications to bring in core balance and strength. In maintenance, you don’t necessarily need to have access to a gym. This is where a few free weights, kettle bells or resistance bands will be sufficient to met the goals of the program.Resistance Training

Sample In-Season Resistance Program for a Triathlete:

2 Sets, 8-12 Reps, 15-30 seconds of rest

1a) Single Leg Squats (Weighted/Body weight)

1b) Single Leg Box Jumps (12-24”)


2a) Stability Ball Single Leg Hamstring curls

2b) Backward lunges


3a) Single Arm (dumbbell/kettle bell/Resistance band) Chest Press

3b) Single Arm Bend over row


4) Single Arm Bicep curl to shoulder press to flexion of elbow (set up for) tricep extension overhead then return to start position for bicep curl. (To increase difficulty and work on balance stand on the opposite leg of the exercising arm)


*a) and b) denotes superset where you do exercise Xa) then do Xb) immediately following before you rest.

**some of the videos demonstrate the movements with both legs or arms, still conduct with single leg or single arm as noted

Core work could be added, such as:

2 sets:

Stability Ball pass (from hand to feet)- 15-20 passes

Weighted Russian Twists– 15-20 reps

Stability Ball Roll out – 15-20 reps

The training in your sport is most important during your competition phase “in season”. Your focus is on technique and race intensity efforts. These sport specific workouts should take priority as well as your recovery from those primary workouts (S/B/R). During this time use resistance training to supplement your training regiment to help met your training goals and objectives.


Training hard today makes tomorrow easier!


Coach Nate

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Training for Heat?

Training for Heat? In early spring…

Today, during my run here in Minnesota, I realized how enjoyable running in 25 degrees felt.  Didn’t need extra layers or mittens to maintain body heat for a short 6 mile run. This then sparked my thoughts on training for events in warmer climates.  Since most of us in the Midwest have endured many days below zero and even others around the country experiencing an unusually cold winter, many of us have a spring race that is in a warmer climate.  Many athletes make plans for races in California, Texas, etc. where temps will be in the 70s-80s°. Even with cooler temps you can make the necessary physiological adaptions to heat when you can’t train in the climate you are racing in.

The easiest way to prepare and make the physiological adaptations is with natural acclimatization, which can usually be done in about 10 days.  Here are some simple strategies to prepare for warm climate race.

Time of Day:

As like many others, my weekly workouts take place in the early morning or later in the evenings, usually when the temps are at there coolest.  A strategy while using the current high temperature of your climate is to plan your workouts during the high temp for the day.  This may mean moving your work out to over your lunch break, which could be a 20-30 degrees difference for you.

Train indoors:

Sometime being indoors is the best way to regulate the temperature in which you are training.  For some (me) this is a hard concept to accept after a winter full of treadmill sessions and indoor trainer rides but most gyms and basements are around normally around 65 degrees.  This gives you a consistent regulated training climate.

Layer the clothing:

With spring slowly approaching you may not see temperatures much above 50 degrees or not getting the effect of Texas heat on the trainer in the basement so now what? Time to add the clothing layers.  The key is gradually layered clothing to fit the climate you are going to race in.  The clothing you want to use is cotton such as: long sleeve t-shirts, sweat shirts, sweat pants, stocking cap, etc. This aids in keeping body heat from escaping.  Tech clothing is designed to allow body heat to escape so using cotton is more beneficial for this application.

These strategies can be used independent or interdependently to meet the climate you are training for.  MONITOR YOUR FLUID INTAKE AND DEHYDRATION.  Ensure you are maintaining proper hydration levels while checking your hydration status.

Over the course of the 10-14 days using natural acclimatization you will see a decrease in heart rate, plasma volume expansion (blood vessels expand).  You will have a decrease in concentration of electrolytes in your sweat (e.g. sodium, potassium). Your sweat rate will also increase, that is right you will sweat more but your sweat will be more diluted.

Training hard today makes tomorrow easier.


Coach Nate

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Beginner Triathlon Clinic, Mankato YMCA

With spring right around the corner, triathlon season will soon be upon us.  The beginner/intermediate triathlon clinic sessions will be on 3 different Saturdays: 22 March, 12 April and 26 April. This 3 session clinic is designed for those beginner/intermediate triathletes by introducing them to the sport while also gaining and improving skills and techniques to be successful.

Each session is from 6:15-7:45am, we will begin in the pool and transition to dry land for the second half. For the dry land portions you will spend time on how to train for triathlon, skills for transitions, improving running technique and a mini triathlon as a culminating event. This is a great start for anyone interested in competing in the local MSU, Mankato Spring Triathlon (3 May) and/or the North Mankato Triathlon (28 June).

Cost is $45 for YMCA Members and $90 for Non-Members.

Registration is through the YMCA.

Hope to see you there. The clinic is limited to the first 15 athletes that register.



Coach Nate

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Triathlon Training/Clinic Mankato YMCA

After some coordination with the wellness director at the Mankato YMCA, I am excited to announce that I will instructing a triathlon clinic on the 3 different Saturdays: 1 March, 22 March and 12 April. This 3 session clinic is designed for those intermediate/advanced triathletes who want to improve their skills and techniques.

Each session is from 6:15-7:45am, we will begin in the pool and transition to dry land for the second half. For the dry land portions will spend time on decreasing time in transition, improving running technique and using strength training to increase performance and injury prevention.

Cost is $45 for YMCA Members and $90 for Non-Members.

YMCARegistration is through the YMCA.

Hope to see you there. The clinic is limited to the first 15 athletes that register.

We are working on organizing a “beginner” triathlon clinic at the YMCA in the near future as well so stay tuned.


Coach Nate

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Chevron Houston Marathon

Big congrats to athletes Patti and Angel this weekend both running the 5k and the marathon in Houston!! Patti ran a personal record marathon (3:27:23) and Angel finished a great race as she prepares for the Rocky Raccoon 100 in two weeks. photo

Weather seems to be great all across the country today hope you were able to get out and enjoy it.


Coach Nate

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New Website

Please take some time to explore the website.

Happy Training,

Coach Nate

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