Editor's Note: Contributing writing and USA Triathlon Coach Tawnee Prazak answers some of your most important training questions.
#1) Do you strength train year round?
A: Yes, I strength train year-round. However, what I do varies greatly; I do different volumes and intensities of ST depending on the phase I'm in for triathlon.
Here's how it breaks down: Offseason (aka transition), prep and early base phases are the best times to hit the weights hard. It's during those times when training is more general and about increasing fitness, not triathlon-specific training. Doing ST in such phases will prepare you to dominate once your in-season
Even now, in January, it's not too late to get going if you haven't already. If you're not that experienced with ST or it's been a while, start with lighter loads and generally do 3 sets of 10-15 reps. Add weight as you improve. Eventually do certain exercises with heavy loads in which you're only able to do 2-5 reps / 3-6 sets.
You WANT to lift heavy weights whether you're male or female – it's that type of lifting that will increase your strength and power that will translate to the bike especially, but also run/swim – and it won't make you overly buff (watch out, I'm going to repeat this a lot).
Additionally, body-weight exercises such as pushups are great, and working on muscular endurance is good too, specifically do 2-3 sets of 12+ reps – just please don't choose such light weights that you could lift them all day without fatigue. That's a waste of time.
Then as season progresses and gets into the build and competition phases, that's when it's time to decrease ST and increase sport-specific workouts for triathlon or whatever endurance sport it is. For example, you can still do your pullups and ring rows to help your swimming but replace those ST session with more session in the water – only swimming itself will make you a better swimmer. The strength training is just an "accessory" of the sport. Not to mention, S/B/R workouts themselves can be used as ST workouts to build/maintain muscle, i.e. hill repeats, intervals, paddles during the swim.
a) When you're in season, do ST as maintenance, for injury-prevention and to keep from losing muscle; if you're not already ST'ing don't start a crazy new ST plan in the midst of the season in hopes of increasing muscle mass, etc. – that's a recipe for overtraining or some sort of disaster.
b) In offseason/prep phases and/or after your main A race is over and you're on a break... that's when you should hit the weight room big time.
Tawnee Prazak is a Triathlete, USA Triathlon Coach, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (NSCA), personal trainer, exercise science grad student, freelance writer.
You can read more of her knowledgeable advice on her most excellent blog HERE .