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Strength Training Exercises and Phases Described

Strength Training

Strength training is one of the most commonly overlooked tools available to improve your performance with a minimum of additional training time. A well-executed strength program can actually allow you to cut up to 25% out of your aerobic training and have even better results!

I have boiled the program down to what I consider to be the 12-key exercises necessary to develop overall body fitness for triathlons. The strength program is to be done two day per week. This is a combination that maximizes the benefits to you from the time spent in the gym.

The exercises and order are as follows:

  1. Lateral Pull-Downs
  2. Leg Extensions
  3. Leg Curls
  4. Bench Press
  5. Squats
  6. Dumbbell Pullover
  7. Reverse Lunges
  8. Side Lateral Raises
  9. Calf Raises
  10. Biceps
  11. Triceps
  12. Leg Press

Each exercise should be done to a count of two on the contraction or lifting of the weight and a count of four when lowering the weight. Form is of utmost importance when doing the exercises. Isolation of each muscle group is the goal.  Breath out on the lifting the weight and in on the lowering of the weight. Note: The one exception is the dumbbell pullover where the breathing is reversed (breathe out when lowering the weight and in when lifting it).

The Four Phases of Strength Training

The strength program is divided into four distinct phases. Each one is designed to work different aspects of overall strength. Also by changing the form of stress on the muscles, there will be continuous development of strength throughout the entire program!

Phase One: Adaptation (1×12-15 repetitions). During this phase the goal is to adapt the body to the stress and motion of lifting. Each exercise is to be done as follows: one set of 12-15 repetitions. The correct weight for each exercise will allow you to feel like you could have done 1-3 more repetitions with good form at the end of the set. The weight is too heavy if you are feeling a strong burn in the muscles at the end of the set, or if you do not feel you could have done a few more repetitions at the weight you chose.

Phase Two: Endurance (2×12-15 repetitions). During this phase an increase to two sets will happen, with each set still at 12-15 repetitions. Again, the correct weight is one that allows you to complete the two sets knowing you could have done 1-3 more repetitions with good form and without any major burning in the muscles.

Phase Three: Power (three sets 10-8-6). Feel the Burn! This phase is where the largest improvements in strength come. It is also when the sluggishness that weights can cause will carry over most into your swimming, cycling, and running. So don’t expect to feel like Carl Lewis at the same time you’re lifting like Arnold Schwarzenegger!

During the Power Phase, the exercises are divided up into two groups. On the first strength workout of the week five exercises will be powered with the three sets: lateral pull-downs, leg extensions, leg curls, dumbbell pullovers and leg press. The powered exercises are done in three sets instead of two, and the repetitions change to one set of 10, one of 8, and a third of 6. The correct weight is one that will end the final set at your maximum effort. The remaining nine exercises are kept at 2 sets of 12-15 just like in the Endurance Phase.

Then on the second strength workout of the week, the following five different exercises will do the three set maximum effort: bench press, squats, inclined press, biceps, and triceps. And as in the first day, all other nine exercises remain as in Endurance at 2×12-15 repetitions.

The Power Phase is about maximum effort. People find that the weight needed to do this is 10-25% more than the weight used for good form during the Endurance Phase.

Day 1

  • Power Lateral Pull-Downs (1×10,1×8,1×6)
  • Power Leg Extensions (1×10,1×8,1×6)
  • Power Leg Curls (1×10,1×8,1×6)
  • Bench Press (2×12-15)
  • Squats (2×12-15)
  • Power Dumbbell Pullover (1×10,1×8,1×6)
  • Lunges (2×12-15)
  • Side Lateral Raises (2×12-15)
  • Calf Raises (2×12-15)
  • Biceps (2×12-15)
  • Triceps (2×12-15)
  • Leg Press (1×10,1×8,1×6)

Day 2

  • Lateral Pull-Downs (2×12-15)
  • Leg Extensions (2×12-15)
  • Leg Curls (2×12-15)
  • Power Bench Press (1×10,1×8,1×6)
  • Power Squats
  • Dumbbell Pullover (2×12-15)
  • Lunges (2×12-15)
  • Side Lateral Raises (2×12-15)
  • Calf Raises (2×12-15)
  • Power Biceps (1×10,1×8,1×6)
  • Power Triceps (1×10,1×8,1×6)
  • Leg Press (2×12-15)

Note: Not all exercises are powered. Side Lateral Raises, Lunges and Calf Raises all have a chance of causing injury if powered incorrectly. The risk is not worth the benefit.

Phase Four: Chisel (2×12 repetitions). This is when all of the strength that has been gained will be honed with repetitions that simulate the speed of muscle contraction during racing. In the Chisel Phase, lighten the weight back down to the same or slightly less weight than what was used during the Endurance Phase. Do two sets of 12 repetitions to the count of two on both the contraction and the relaxation.

This is a fast paced action, very anaerobic in its feel. The weight should be chosen so that it feels light yet become challenging at the end of set two due to a mild lactic acid build up. Failure starts to come from the speed of the move, not the load on the apparatus that is being lifted. Again, focus on good form, and make sure that there were still one or two repetitions left at the end of the second set.

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