Do Triathletes Need to Strength Train?

The offseason is a time when triathletes typically wonder if they should add strength workouts to a triathlon-training plan or just stick to swimming, cycling and running.

Good question.

Youth and Gender

Consider that our natural maximal-muscular strength is achieved somewhere in our 20s or early 30s. Women tend to be 50 percent weaker in the upper body and 30 percent weaker in the lower body than men. This measure is for average males and average females in terms of absolute strength.

More: Strength-Training Circuit for Triathletes

Athletic women are generally stronger than nonathletic women, but not as strong as athletic males in the same sport. When strength is divided by body mass, the percentage difference is much less.

For example, a 210-pound male can bench press roughly 62 percent more than his 132-pound female counterpart. If we look at bench press weight divided by athlete body weight, the difference between the two genders narrows to only 2.5 percent.

Much of the strength difference between men and women is due to hormonal factors, which is what gives men greater muscle mass. Although women may not want to be as strong as men, they can use a weight-training program to increase their strength per pound of body mass as well as their lean muscle mass. This, of course, is a competitive advantage if orchestrated correctly within a training plan.

More: Periodization of Strength Training

Changes in the Body

Some of the adaptations that occur when we strength train include increased muscle fiber size, decreased body fat percentage, increased muscle contractile strength and increased tendon, bone and ligament tensile strength.

In addition to performance related improvements, a weight-training program can prevent bone loss and increase bone mass, which is critical to the prevention of osteoporosis in men and women.

Many of the changes a strength-training plan will provide are improved physical capacity, economy, metabolic function and a decreased risk of injury. A side benefit is you'll also look marvelous.

More: 20-Minute Strength-Training Workout

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