How to Implement Strength Training Using Periodization

A man working out with dumbbells on the floor.

Be strategic by using periodization to organize phases of your strength training.

~By Coach Lindsay Leigh

Strength training supports our performance and reduces injury risk. Given how important this is for endurance athletes need strength training, we’ll cover some best practices for implementing a periodized strength training routine throughout your season.

Phase 1: Adapt

Before you begin any strength training sequence, you should focus on mastering the movement first. So, when you are about 10-12 months out from your A race, you can begin a body weight and light weight phase to gradually adapt to strength training. Toward the end of this phase, you will want to increase the weights to prepare for a max strength phase.

Work through key movements that support swim, bike or run, including exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, lat pull downs, various types of rows, push ups, and the like. If you’d like assistance with setting the right foundation during this phase, consider a Zoom one-to-one personal training session, right from the convenience and safety of your home.

Phase 2: Max Strength

Eight to 9 months out from your A-priority race is the time to focus on max strength work, which involves 3-5 reps and 3-5 sets of an exercise, 87-93% of 1RM (so it should be hard!), and a lot of rest between sets. This is the phase that requires the highest skill, so be sure to master the form of the movements before loading heavy weight.

You should include a push, pull, squat, hinge, and carry during this phase. Plyometrics can also be included during this time. You can continue this phase for 2-3 months, while changing the movements every 4-6 weeks (each category of movements has tons of different exercises).

This phase will have the biggest impact on your swim/bike/run workouts, but training stress from swim/bike/run workouts should be low this time of year. If you are injury prone or have limited experience with strength training, it is okay to skip this phase or enlist the support of a personal trainer to ensure you are doing the movements correctly.


Phase 3: Hypertrophy

When you are within 4 to 6 months of your A race, transition away from heavier lifting since training stress from swim/bike/run training is increasing. Shift into more hypertrophy work. During this phase you can complete 3 sets of 8-12 reps with 45 seconds – 1 minute rest, done 2-3 days per week.

This is also a good time to do single leg strength and address any weaknesses or muscular imbalances. It’s also easy to superset exercises during this phase, which can save time in the gym.

Phase 4: Functional/Corrective Strength

Two to 3 months out from your A-priority race is the time to work on corrective movements and focus on injury prevention. Movements during this phase include plenty of body weight exercises, balance and stability work, single leg exercises, etc. The movements in this phase may look a lot like physical therapy exercises to address any muscular imbalances you have. The strength training during this phase is low stress since swim/bike/run stress is high.

Recovery & Strength Training

Always be sure to give your body at least 48 hours of rest between the same muscle groups, and remember, strength training is NOT rest and should not be scheduled on your rest/recovery day. Lastly, we strength train to improve performance and decrease injuries, so be sure your form is perfect before loading weight to movements.

If you don’t have access to a gym, no problem! You can still get in high quality strength training, as we’ve outlined here, with our tips to trick out your home gym with this list of key equipment.

Happy lifting!

How to Implement Strength Training Using Periodization
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