Podcast, Strength training

Strength training intensity, specificity, workout structure, and home-based options with Dave Cripps | EP#272

 February 8, 2021

By  Mikael Eriksson


Strength and conditioning coach Dave Cripps of TriTenacious and Coalition Performance returns for his second interview on That Triathlon Show. In this interview we discuss some key aspects of strength training for triathletes and endurance athletes, that when done right will greatly increase the effectiveness of your resistance training.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • The importance of intensity (weights) and intent (~power/speed) when lifting
  • Why is technique important in order to reap the benefits of strength training?
  • Exercise specificity and the Goldilocks principle - not too little but not too much
  • Workout structure: how to choose number of reps, sets rest duration, and progression from one workout to the next
  • Advice for home-based strength training 

Sponsored by:

The finest triathlon wetsuits, apparel, equipment, and eyewear on the planet. Trusted by Lucy Charles, Javier Gómez-Noya, Flora Duffy, Mario Mola, and others. Visit roka.com/tts for 20% off your order.

Zen8 Swim Trainer Logo

The ZEN8 Indoor Swim Trainer allows you to improve technique, power, and swim training consistency. You can target specific aspects of your stroke, like catch and pull-through, work on core activation and body position, and make sure you stay consistent in your swim training even when you don't have time to go to the pool. Try the Zen8 risk-free for 30 days, and get 20% off your first order on zen8swimtrainer.com/tts.



04:10 -

  • My name is Dave Cripps and I have quite an extensive background working with strength training both via online services and with professional athletes.

Intensity and intent

05:15 -

  • Many endurance athletes are quite unfamiliar with strength training terminology, for instance high intensity within strength training does mean a high weight/% of 1 repetition max (1RM).

    Seventy % of 1RM use to equal around 12 repetitions max, and for endurance athletes, it’s typically recommended to do 8-9 repetitions at this intensity.
  • What endurance athletes want to achieve (the intent) with strength training is to be able to recruit a larger number of muscle fibrers for a certain movement/activity, i.e. neuromuscular adaptations.
  • I would recommend most triathletes to do strength work between 70-85 % of 1RM at what they do 4-8 repetitions of and around 4 sets.


22:00 -

  • There is a lot to say about technique…

    First and foremost it is about safety and avoiding injury.
  • I like to explain exercises by analogies and also make sure that the athlete understands the intent of the exercise since this enables them to get the most out of the exercise.

Exercise specificity

28:40 -

  • I would say that either you can be too specific or too general…

    I definitely think that the exercises you do must be really specific to the movements you’re targeting to improve.

    However, one does want to create a bit of ”margin” within this movement in order to withstand injuries and not ge too ”closed” in one movement.

Workout structure

38:50 -

  • My main advice to triathletes is to do 4-8 repetitions at 70-85 % of 1RM and 4 sets.
  • In terms of rest between the sets, most research recommend 2,5-3mins, however, in order for the athlete to keep focus during the entire strength session I use to prescribe activation/conditioning/mobility work between the reps.
  • In regards to progression on increasing weight on the exercises and when to introduce new exercises, I think it is good to not switch exercises too often, probably is around 8 weeks with the same exercises kind of a good time period to develop over specific exercises.

    The first part of the period is then typically focused towards technique and expanding the range of motion, whereas one strives for increasing the weights and/or number of repetitions in the latter part of the 8 week period.
  • The two ways of progression through a period is either to increase weigh or raise the number of repetitions per set or number of sets.
  • I wouldn’t get too hung up on what the numbers/weights (absolute or in relation to bodyweight, like in squats ord deadlift) are, the main thing is that one progresses in the right direction, the focus should always be on the process.

Strength training at home

01:07:30 -

  • With the pandemic going on with many gyms unfortunately closed, the question on how to best do strength training at home is raised.
  • In order to increase difficulty, one can experiment with single limb exercises and/or increase range of motion.

    One can also experiment with explosive/plyometric exercises, which requires longer rest between the sets.
  • In regards to what kind of equipment one should prioritize to have at home, resistance bands, kettlebells and/or dumbbells, chin up bar, bench and rack or cage probably come rather high up on the list.

Michael’s top tips on home strength training equipment

01:24:20 -

  • The equipment I (Michael) believe is most essential to have in you ”home gym” is the following: Adjustable kettlebell, resistance/power bands (both big and small), door anchor (makes it possible to attach for instance your elastic bands) and finally a stability ball.


Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

If you are a long-time listener and appreciate the value the podcast brings, please consider taking a couple of minutes for leaving a rating and review on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you can think of leaving a rating and review.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Explore our products and services