30-Minute Strength Workout For Triathletes

When one sees an Olympic Swimmer in motion, going sub-15 minutes for 1,500m looking like he is swimming in slow motion, we can only but marvel in their athletic prowess.

Apart from the many hours spent in the pool, these guys and girls are spending a lot of time in the gym’s building their strength and power output. As a triathlete, you don’t need to go to those extremes, but but 3 gym sessions a week can certainly put you a on a higher level.

Dry –land Training (aka gym workout) is ideal for the winter period or rainy days. We can cut down the hours spent in the pool and instead, supplement this with dry-land swim training. A weak swimmer is a slow swimmer, no matter how many miles you log in the pool. A strong swimmer can spend less time in the pool but still swim faster

You don’t need a fancy gym membership with the latest in high tech equipment either. You need a maximum of 30 minutes and a few key exercise routines to get you on your way. If you don’t have the time or the money to join the local gym and you got some free weight hanging around at home, that will suffice as well.

For those with access to a gym facility, the below routine is short, sweet and very effective. Don’t be intimidated by the gym bunnies and behemoths that frequent these places. You are not there to build bulk muscle and look like Arnie. It’s the strength and power we are after


Start with 4 sets of 20-25 sit-ups to get the blood flowing nicely. Keep the rest period between all routines and exercises to the minimum.

5 Upper Body exercise geared to TRIATHLETES

1 & 2: Super-set combining tricep pushdowns and bicep curls

1 set of tricep pushdowns comprising 20 repeats followed immediately by 1 set of bicep curls, also completing 20 repetitions. You only rest briefly after both the tricep and bicep routine has been finished. We do this 4 times over. The triceps and biceps are certainly put to good use when you swim, so we build them up and keep them strong with this superset. You can do them separately but the big benefits come in the super-set (one routine directly after the other)

3: Shoulder Press

4 sets of 20 repeat’s using a barbell or dumbbells

  • 10 press-ups that have the bar resting behind the neck and
  • 10 press-ups that come to rest at the front of the chest

You need power in the shoulder area for an effective and strong arm pull. Added strength in the shoulder area also assists in preventing swimming injuries once you start pounding the miles in the pool. You also increase the flexibility of the shoulder region which can allow you to swim more effectively with a better swim technique.

4. Straight Arm Pushdowns

Using light weights to start with, 4 sets of 25 repetitions with minimal rest period between. As you get stronger, increase the weight load.

This is the BOMB when it comes to dry land workouts and direct strength gains you can transfer into the pool. Make sure the back is straight at all times, use your abdominals to keep your balance with the arms in the locked position from the top right through the pushdown motion.

By doing this one exercise religiously, you will immediately notice a difference in the power output with a better and stronger fore-arm pool when you hit the summer swim sessions.

5: Bench Press

4 sets of 15 reps with 20 seconds rest between. To maximise this workout, do a set of abdominal crunches while you rest on the flat bench. We don’t need a chest the size of a mountain but a solid pectoral workout will do wonders for your swimming come the summer months. The abdominal crunches in between each set will also be a bonus to flight off that winter flab.

LOWER BODY WORKOUT routines geared towards triathletes wanting to swim faster

We could spend hours on legs alone but we don’t have the time, so 2 x basic exercise routines will give you some added strength gains in the legs that will give you an extra boost in the leg kicking department.

1: Seated Leg Press

Do 5 sets of 30 repetitions.  Rest period between is 20 seconds. Increase the weight load fractionally per each set so the last set will be you’re hardest and heaviest. This exercise works your calves, thighs and hamstrings depending on where you position your feet on the flat board. A stronger more powerful kick will definitely come from doing this gym routine 3 x per week.

2: Leg Extension

4 sets of 30 repetitions using moderate weight load. You can increase the weight load from set 1 to set 4. A strong thigh muscle is essential for a strong and powerful kick. It’s the buoyancy we are after more than anything so some leg work in the strength department will deliver the results when you throw yourself into the water.



These should not take you more than 30 minutes to complete. The rest periods between each different exercise routine must be kept to a minimum to ensure an effective and hard work out.

Doing this workout 3 times per week will aid your swimming ability and transform you into a more accomplished swimmer.

You will notice that when you do start up with regular swim training once again that the arm pull is a lot stronger and in general, the body will be more up for a swim workout than ever before.

Remember: As a triathlete, we need to spend our time wisely in the gym and that means sticking to the basic exercise routines which are short and sharp yet effective.