Mark Allen's 12 Best Strength Exercises

8. Dumbbell Pullover (works all muscles in catch phase of freestyle stroke)

  • Beginning position: Lay face up on a bench. Clasp dumbbell between both hands with arms extended straight toward the ceiling
  • Ending position: Arms fully extended behind your head, with weight touching floor, if you are that flexible

9. Backward Lunges (adductors and glutes; targets all muscles used in push phase of hilly running)

  • Beginning position: Stand with legs together; rest the bar comfortably on upper back
  • Ending position: Step back, extending leg out behind, and lower your body into a split squat. Drag the toes of the extended foot on the floor on the way back up to the starting position

10. Bicep Curls (front of upper arm; assists in part of the pull phase in the swim and provides climbing leverage on the bike)

  • Beginning position: Grasp a weighted EZ-curl bar with both hands, using an underhand grip. Elbows tight against the sides of your body and arms slightly bent
  • Ending position: Elbows fully flexed, bar raised up to collarbone height. Make sure to keep elbows locked tight against your sides

11. Tricep Extensions (back of upper arms; maintains form through back half of swim stroke)

  • Beginning position: Kneel one leg on the bench, place the other foot on the floor. Bend forward 45 degrees from the hips. Place the weight in the hand on same side as the leg that is on the bench. Keep elbow tight against your side. Begin with weighted arm bent.
  • Ending position: Arm extended back fully in straight position

12. Leg Press (glutes and quads; most important exercise for developing power on bike)

  • Beginning position: Start seated on the sled with your knees bent and feet roughly shoulder width apart
  • Ending position: Legs extended fully

Each exercise should be done on 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.

More: 20-Minute Strength Training Workout

Breathe out on contraction and in when lowering of the weight. The one exception is the dumbbell pullover, where the breathing pattern is reversed: breathe out when lowering the weight and in when lifting it. Rest 90 seconds after each set.

Finish your strength-training routine with:

  • Sit-ups
  • Stretching

On the sit-ups, work all areas of the abdomen (lower, middle and upper), but don't go overboard. It is important to strengthen the abdominals because they help prevent lower-back problems and support the diaphragm.

However, overdevelopment of your abdominal region may restrict your ability to breathe during intense exercise. An effective breath comes from expanding your abdomen, not from raising your shoulders. If your abdominals are overdeveloped, you cannot get a relaxed, deep breath. My rule of thumb is no more than five minutes of moderate abdominal work twice a week.

More: 4 Core Exercises for Triathletes

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