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Rich Dafter

Strength Training is the Core of
Top Triathlete Barb Lindquist's Training

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Why has pro triathlete Barb Lindquist been a consistent podium finisher over the years? How does she race year round in as many as 20 events a year and still come out on top?

It is a given that smart training, good nutrition, and a lot of hard work are the foundation to her success. So let’s take a look at a key element to the formula that keeps Barb at the top of her game.

One essential element to her success has been strength training. This ingredient has helped to keep her injury-free — a key to consistency. In the past seven years Barb has never been sidelined do to strains, tears, overuse, and other chronic symptoms that many athletes experience.

Barb races year round so her strength training is not structured in the traditional cyclical pattern of weight training. We have a year-round schedule. After years of conditioning, muscle memory builds so the pattern in which she trains puts her into a maintenance level with her program.

Year to year there are slight variations to mentally freshen the workouts; however, the program has continued in a consistent vein over the years, inserting variations to the existing routine occasionally.

Key races will slightly alter the timing of the training in order to prepare for a specific event, similar to a taper concept. For the most part, though, there are no major changes in the routine throughout the year. Pretty boring, eh?

To understand Barb’s strength training program, we have to plug the use of the Total Gym. The Total Gym works on a cable system using your body weight on a sled at various resistance levels.

The concept of the machine allows you to strengthen more than one body part at a time safely. Safety is paramount. There are too many ways to end up injured when going to the gym if you are not extremely knowledgeable about machines and free weights. You can’t train effectively or efficiently if you’re injured.

OK, enough of the sales pitch — let’s look at the nuts and bolts.

We use a high-repetition routine designed to alternate upper- and lower-body workouts, giving valuable rest and recovery. With any strength program it is necessary to give time to rebuild the muscle.

It must be mentioned that proper nutrition is very important both prior to and post-exercise to promote recovery. I can’t emphasis this enough.

Barb uses a number of products from Platinum Performance, the pioneers in using flaxseed products. The Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids are now being recognized as having vital elements to aid the body repair connective tissues and assist the immune system.

This nutritional element, in combination with stretching and yoga, helps the muscles to maintain suppleness. This combination is just as important as the strength program itself. Taking time each day for a strength workout is an important part of the injury prevention.

Now on to “Pumping up!”


Upper-body workouts are on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Lower body and core sessions are on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays with Sunday off. In race week, the program is reduced to one light day early in the week.


With Barb’s swimming background, she has a built-in reserve of muscle memory and strength. We rely on that longtime base when charting a plan for her workouts. She spends less time on the arms and shoulder area than she does on the core and lower-body workouts.

So with that in mind, the program is fairly simple.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Upper-body Total Gym sessions 3 x 20 reps with one minute's rest between each set.

Areas emphasized: Fly pulls, triceps, bicep curls, bench press and pectorals routines. Using the Total Gym for a full range of motion exercise we are able to combine several movements in a smooth flowing pattern, working muscles in an opposing fashion.

While lying on your back on the Total Gym sled, the movement is a circular arm rotation alternating forward and backward. Imagine a gymnast on the rings to visualize this movement. This rotation works the shoulders, pectorals, and the smaller muscles in the upper arm and forearms at the various points in the circle.

With free weights or machines you would do it in a circuit fashion, alternating opposing muscle groups. An example would be 20 reps on the biceps, then move to 20 on the triceps. Bench presses and fly pulls are more conventional movements.

Pushups and chair dips are other exercises we mix in when on the road.

This season we have increased the stretch cord sessions in regards to the upper-body focus. The cords are convenient when traveling and serve as a substitute for swim workouts on the days we don’t have pool sessions. Exercises include fly and free arm movements concentrating on a high elbow position to simulate swim movements.

The build-up follows a gradual progression based on feel. We aren’t trying to bulk up muscle mass, so weight and resistance is low to moderate. The speed of the movement is quick.

A good starting point is to begin with 12 x 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off; progressing up to 20 x 1 minute on, 20 seconds off in the peak of the season.

LOWER BODY: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Total Gym exercises: one-legged squats, hamstrings combined with crunches, and calf raises. Sessions 3 x 20 reps building to 3 x 30.

The one-legged squats are done alternating legs (20 right leg, 20 left leg, etc ...) with no rest between sets. The pace is varied. Some days will be slower when concentrating more on the strength emphasis. Other days we’ll use a faster pace with lower resistance to fire the quick-twitch fibers. Either way the “negative” is always controlled and slower than the “positive."

Hamstring exercises combined with the crunches are done on a low level of resistance, concentrating on a quicker pace on the up phase and a slow, controlled pace on the down movement.

For calf raises, the repetitions are slightly less — 2 x 15. This is a slower movement combining a calf and Achilles stretch on the downward phase as the heels move lower than the toes.

Supplemental exercises include split-legged squats — 3 x 20 — using a chair to rest the back leg on. In this exercise, concentrate on the hip flexor area and work a stretch into the movement.

Walking lunges are a mainstay. They are done on a slight incline at 3 x 30 to 40 steps.

We also will use weights and a slower movement to aid in the stretching. Concentrate on keeping the thigh and knee at a 90-degree angle to prevent knee stress. This is also a great exercise to help balance.

CORE STRENGTH: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Core strengthening creates the foundation for body stability. To be efficient as a multisport athlete strong abs and back are a must. A rigid core is necessary to promote fluid motion in the swim and run without energy waste. Not to mention it adds comfort for all those bike miles.

There are many options for core strengthening exercises: pilates, ball work, and yoga. We use a variety of these elements combined with four sit-up positions for the core. By implementing a side-twist on the up movement and using a range of motion from 6 to 12 inches off the floor, the upper and lower abs are worked.

Barb does only 30 reps for each of the four different areas, for that “six pack” burner workout.

A strength program has additional benefits beyond making one stronger. It helps to reduce the possibilities of injury and helps to keep weight down. The specific types of exercises should be designed to improve the weakest area first.

Build slowly and don’t try to overload the muscles with heavy sets. It is important to balance muscle groups between the front and back of the body.

The program I have designed for Barb is simple but specific for her needs. It follows a conservative, consistent approach and has played a key role in Barb’s success.

Loren Lindquist is the coach — and husband — of Barb Lindquist, who is one of the top professional triathletes in the world. In 2002 Barb was on the podium in 18 out of 19 events, with eight wins. Barb received numerous honors for her 2002 season, including Inside Triathlon's Person of the Year and Best Overall Triathlete of the Year, Triathlete magazine’s Triathlete of the Year, and the U.S. Olympic Committee's Triathlete of the Year award. She is a favorite for the US Olympic team for 2004.

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