Mark Allen's 12 Best Strength Exercises

During the Power Phase, you will divide your exercises into two groups. On the first strength workout of the week you will include the following four exercises: lateral pull-down, leg extension, leg curl and dumbbell pullover. These exercises are done in three sets instead of two, and the repetitions change to one set of 10, one set of eight and a third set of six.

The correct weight is one that will require you to give your maximum effort in the final repetition. The remaining eight exercises are kept at two sets of 15, just like in the Endurance Phase.

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Then, on the second strength workout of the week, perform the following five exercises in three sets, as above, again completing the final rep at maximum effort: bench press, squat, biceps curl, triceps extension, and leg press. As in the first strength workout of the week, all remaining exercises are performed as in the Endurance Phase, at 2 x 15 repetitions.

The Power Phase is about maximum effort. You will probably find that the weight needed for this phase is 10 to 25 percent more than the weight you were using with good form during the Endurance Phase.

Power Phase Sets

Day 1

  • Power lateral pull-down (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Power leg extension (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Power leg curl (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Bench press (2 x 15)
  • Squat (2 x 15)
  • Lateral dumbbell raise (2 x 15)
  • Calf raise (2 x 15)
  • Power dumbbell pullover (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Backward lunge (2 x 15)
  • Bicep curls (2 x 15)
  • Tricep extensions (2 x 15)
  • Leg press (2 x 15)
  • Sit-up
  • Stretching

Day 2

  • Power lateral pull-down (2 x 15)
  • Power leg extension (2 x 15)
  • Power leg curl (2 x 15)
  • Bench press (2 x 15)
  • Squat (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Lateral dumbbell raise (2 x 15)
  • Calf raise (2 x 15)
  • Power dumbbell pullover (2 x 15)
  • Backward lunge (2 x 15)
  • Bicep curls (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Tricep extensions (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Leg press (1 x 10, 1 x 8, 1 x 6)
  • Sit-up
  • Stretching

This phase should last three to six weeks before you move on to the Chisel Phase.

Phase Four: Chisel (2 x 12 repetitions) — In this phase, you take all the strength you have gained and hone it with repetitions that simulate the speed of muscle contraction experienced during racing.

In the Chisel Phase, you will reduce the weight back down to a level equal to or slightly less than you used during the Endurance Phase. Do two sets of 12 repetitions to the count of two on both the contraction and the relaxation.

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Chisel Phase Sets

  • Power lateral pull-down (2 x 12)
  • Power leg extension (2 x 12)
  • Power leg curl (2 x 12)
  • Bench press (2 x 12)
  • Squat (2 x 15)
  • Lateral dumbbell raise (2 x 12)
  • Calf raise (2 x 12)
  • Power dumbbell pullover (2 x 12)
  • Backward lunge (2 x 12)
  • Bicep curls (2 x 12)
  • Tricep extensions (2 x 12)
  • Leg press (2 x 12)

Note: To compound the positive effect of the leg press during this phase, do each of the two sets with one leg at a time, instead of using both legs together.

During Phase Four, the Chisel Phase, the weight should be chosen so it feels light yet becomes challenging at the end of set two due to mild lactic acid build-up. Fatigue is caused mainly by the speed of the move, not the load you are lifting. Again, focus on good form, and make sure that there are still one or two repetitions left in you at the end of the second set. The rest period between sets is dropped from 90 seconds to about 30 seconds.

This phase should ideally be three weeks but can last two to four weeks and should end about three weeks before a major competition. The anaerobic intensity of this phase makes it sustainable for only a short period of time.

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Mark Allen is a six-time winner of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. For information about Mark's speaking availability, please call 800-994-5306. For state-of-the-art, customized training programs, visit To learn about Mark's Sport and Spirit seminars, please call 831-475-9560 or go to

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