“A Swim-Specific Triathlon Workout for the Gym”

Today, I’m going to give you a fun and challenging triathlon oriented swim-specific workout that you can do in the gym. For an extra boost to your multi-sport training, complete this challenge directly before a spin class or bicycle workout – and for those of you going for the longer base endurance workouts, tack on a run as well. What the heck, might as well get the full meal deal, right?

I’ve attempted to include equipment that most gyms should have. Remember, wearing your swimsuit, swim cap, and goggles in the weight room is optional, but not recommended. In some situations, you just shouldn’t squat in spandex.

Warm-up: Complete on arm ergometer or rowing machine:
2 minute warm-up, followed by a hard-easy ladder: 1 hard pull or cycle followed by 1 easy pull or cycle, then 2/2, 3/3, and so on up to 10 hard pulls and 10 easy pulls. Then ladder back down from 10/10 to 1/1. Finish this station with a 2 minute maximum effort, before moving on to…

Cable work: Complete 15 repetitions for each of these three exercises, with minimal rest:

Straight arm cable pulldowns: use a bar for a handle – grab with both arms and pull from high (above shoulder height) to low (down to hips) without bending your arms.

Bent arm cable pushdowns: do the same exercise, except begin with elbows bent at 90 degrees, and straighten at bottom

Standing cable rows: bring cable height down to bellybutton level – row into body, squeezing shoulder blades back.

Complete this cable circuit three times through, then move on to…

Core work: Again, complete these three exercises as a 3x circuit with minimal rest (15 repetitions):

Superman: line in prone position on ground with all four limbs outstretched – lift all limbs off the ground, hold briefly, then return to starting position.

Bicycle crunches: start on back with one leg extended and one leg bent (both feet hover above the ground). Complete a crunch by flexing upper body up while bending the straight leg and straightening the bent leg. Return to starting position (that’s one rep, complete 15 for both sides).

Mountain climber: in push-up position, bent right knee to touch left elbow, then left knee to touch right elbow (complete 15 to each side)

Finally, move on to….

Leg work: Complete both exercises as a 15 repetition circuit.

Cable kick forward: attach leg to cable apparatus – standing on one leg with the kicking leg straight, kick forward as if kicking soccer ball. Switch after 15 and complete 15 kicks for the opposite leg.

Cable kick back: again stand on one leg, but hinge forward at the waist and kick behind. Same number of repetitions.

Complete this circuit only 2x.

This workout will work many of the same muscles that are utilized while swimming, but remember, nothing can substitute for the feel and drag experienced in the water, so don’t completely neglect the pool – just throw a resistance training workout in if you simply can’t get a good swim time or need a change-up from the normal routine.

The off-season is a great time for cross-training, so a weight training routine like the one outlined above is recommended, especially at this time of the training season. If you like this type of workout, you’ll definitely want to check out a book I found that is jam-packed with video exercises and workouts specifically designed with the busy triathlete in mind. Just go to