Jen Rulon

Over the last few years, I come up with the “Top Five Strength Exercises for ______” but I figure we need to start the year with a  FRESH “Top Five Strength Exercises for Triathletes.”

Why? I have learned so much over the last couple of years going from lifting a TON to not lifting much before major races. It is a delicate balance for sure but it is all about what your goals are for YOU!

Here are the 2018 FRESH “Top 5 Strength Exercises for Triathletes:”

  1. Squats
  2. Romanian Deadlift
  3. Shoulder to Overhead Movements
  4. Push Ups
  5. Ab Wheel (Advanced Athlete) or Chin Ups for Core Work

Why do I suggest these 5 exercises for a triathlete? A triathlete has a good cardio foundation, but building a solid foundation in the legs, upper back, and core will be the key to YOUR success. Triathletes want to get faster, prevent injury, and improve their endurance. These lifts or body weight movements are what I feel is essential to a triathlete athlete’s success. Here is my reasoning why I LOVE these exercises:


If you want more details about how to do a squat, head to “Rulon Rules to a Back Squat.

What’s not to love about the squat? Squats are essentials to everyday life. You squat to sit on a chair/couch, the throne and you should squat to pick up objects versus bending at your waist.

There are so many different options and way to do a squat:

  • Air squats
  • Goblet Squats (With a kettlebell)
  • Dumbbell squats
  • Back squats
  • Overhead Squats
  • Front Squats

Squats is a full lower body exercise working the hip and knee joints, along with the numerous muscles on the anterior (front) and posterior (back) part of the leg and the butt. We have quadriceps, which consist of 4 muscles, along with the hamstring, which consist of 3 muscles and the Gluteus Maximus and Minimus.

Charles Poliquin, who writes a lot about strength training, actually encourages runners and endurance athletes to lift. Poliquin, in addition to research, states that “including full squats in a lower body program can improve muscular endurance and prevent the early onset of fatigue.” Check out his link about “Include Full Squats in Your Training to Run Faster and Improve Endurance.”

Romanian Deadlift (RDL’s):

If you want more details about how to do a RDL  head to “Rulon Rules to a Romanian Deadlift.”

We probably have heard of the deadlift, which is starting from the ground with the barbell and coming up to the hips, and lowering it back down. What I love to do with my athletes is the Romanian Deadlift, which is taking the barbell from the hips and lowering the barbell down slightly past your knees. We don’t want to lower it all the way to the ground; this would be considered a stiff-legged deadlift.

Romanian Deadlifts will work the trunk, hip and knee joint. The RDL’s will work the gluteus maximus, hamstring muscles (3 muscles), along with lower back (erector spinae) and quadratus lumborum and will also strengthen our quadriceps (4 muscles).

As triathletes, we tend to have a weaker posterior chain, so we need to work that in the gym versus in the pool, bike or run.

Shoulder to Overhead (STO) Movements:

I have not written a specific blog about STO but look for it in February!

There are many different options for a shoulder to overhead movement in the gym with a bar, dumbell and kettlebells. Here are some to name a few:

  • Strict Press
  • Push Press
  • Push Jerk
  • Split Jerk

When I work with triathletes, I will look at the strict press and push press as an overall lift that will work the upper body for a triathlete.

A strict press or military press is being used for the upper body only, with no leg movement. The muscles being used for the strict press are the deltoid, triceps, pectorals, and serratus anterior. Look familiar to the swim stroke muscles? Strict Press is great for improving your long-term shoulder health, as it is also for the lower back and core muscles, which are needed for cycling correct! (Poliquin, T-Nation).

Check out the Strict Press of me at The Tribe Strength and Conditioning Gym:

A push press uses the shoulders and deltoids just like the strict press, but since you are using your legs for the push press, the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus are being used as well. A triathlete will use all of these muscles during the swim, bike, and run.

Check out Nick from The Tribe Strength and Conditioning Gym:

Push Ups:

If you want more details about push ups, head to “Rulon Rules to Push Up.

Push Ups can be tough for a lot of athletes and people in general. Push ups are a GREAT exercise for overall upper body and core work, as it can help you in the pool with your swim and having strong core with adding some “planks” to it.

Push ups will strengthen will utilize muscles of the chest (pectoralis major and minor), shoulder/elbow joint (serratus anterior, anterior deltoid, bicep, and triceps) and many muscles in the wrist and hand joint.

The great bonus for push ups is that it will also engage the cervical and lumbar spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet to stabilize the primary muscles mention above.

Even if you are on your knees for a push up, you are still doing the movement. Check out the details in my other blog.

Core Work:

I have not written a specific blog about core work but look for it in March!

Core work is a tricky subject because sit ups are not the end all be all for every athlete. I have an athlete that can not do sit ups due to her back, so I have to come up with new workouts and such to help her with her core. The same may apply to you.

So, I have to be very mindful for all athletes on which ab work that I like. You may or may not be able to do these movements BUT I would like to see you work your way up to these.

First of all, I should say about ab and core work, abs begin in the kitchen. For you to get that 6 pack stomach, eating crap won’t help. Second of all, if you are highly stress, cortisol will likely be a cause of gaining weight in the abdomen region as well. Maybe “Abs are not made in the kitchen” maybe it is “Abs are made on vacation.”

Here are two exercises that I like to do for core work for myself:

Ab Wheel (Wheel of Death):

Remember the ab wheel? It became very popular in the 70’s and then people started getting injured with it. If you are weaker in the core, then I would focus on working on plank workouts.

If you want to attempt the ab wheel, then I would start off with being on your knees. I have attached a video below, as I have not put one together but I will by March for you all:

Chin Ups:

Huh? Yes, chin ups are all about using your core and your own body weight.

What if you can do a chin up? Not a problem, I have started athletes with negative chin ups. For example, jump on to hold yourself and then gradually come down in 20 – 30 seconds movement. You want to lower yourself as slowly as possible. You can do 3 rounds of 5 in a row with a 1:00 in between.

Those are my FRESH “Top Five Strength Exercises for Triathletes” for 2018. By adding strength to your program 2x a week/an hour a day, you will get faster, have a better final kick at the end of your race, prevent injuries, and decrease your body fat.

Starting TODAY, you will be able to grab my ebook, “Rulon Rules: STrength Training & the Triathlete” for only .99 cents and then it will increase over the next three days! Make sure you grab your ebook TODAY! Click on my “Amazing” lululemon athletica tank top! 

AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I am Jen Rulon, a Coach, Kona Finisher and a Public Speaker. I’ve been coaching triathletes for 18+ years and I received my Masters in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. I train triathletes to reach their potential and coach triathlon coaches to successfully grow their businesses using my own proven methods. My knowledge has been featured in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Men’s Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach — I’m a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 14, 2017.

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