Strength and condition like a Brownlee

by Tim Jarrett

Leeds is fast-becoming the Triathlon capital of the world thanks to the legacy being created by the Brownlee Brothers and an exciting new batch of Triathletes coming through the ranks.

In recent years, Strength and Conditioning has become well-used as a supplementary form of training to help Triathletes become robust and able to tolerate the high amounts of long distance training they do.

It has been particularly well-practised with the young athletes at Leeds Triathlon Club who are trying to accelerate their body’s capacity to train like the Brownlee Brothers – a proven training system that has clearly yielded great success.

The Brownlee training system will only produce results for those who are robust enough to adopt it without breaking down under its shear demands.

So, here are 5 exercises which will help you bring your body closer to that of a Brownlee…

1. Single-Leg Glute Bridges

Many of the injuries triathletes develop are caused by high amounts of repetitive movements and can be fast-tracked by improper or unbalanced body mechanics. The Single-Leg Glute Bridge is an excellent low-level exercise that is useful for developing good hip mechanics whilst also developing capacity (endurance) in the muscles around the hip (Glutes). It can also be done as a double-leg variation, however, the single-leg variation challenges the three-dimensional stability of the hip joint and as a result, really brings in the muscles on the sides of the hip (Glute Medius). This is an excellent warm-up exercise that requires no equipment. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg.

Start position

Start position for glute bridge

Finish position

Finish position glute bridge


2. Pogo Jumps.

This exercise targets the muscles and tendons around the ankle consisting of the Achilles Tendon and Gastrocnemius (Calf). The aim is to perform quick, plyometric style jumps with very little yield (bend) at the knees, hips or ankles (See correct vs incorrect below). Performing jumps in this style helps to overload the elastic properties of the Achilles tendon which in turn helps improve running economy.

Tipaim to spend as little time on the floor as possible.

Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.

Correct landing position

Good landing for pogo jump

Incorrect landing position 

bad landing for pogo jump


3. Hop Cross

It is well-known that long-distance athletes can be at a heightened risk of stress fractures due to high volumes of repetitive movement they undertake. The aim of this exercise is to up-regulate the activity of Osteoblasts – a cell which stimulates the substance of bone and as a result helps protect triathletes from stress fractures in the lower limb and foot. Running itself provides a stimulus for Osteoblast activity, however, this exercise adds more by providing multi-directional forces to the lower limbs that further increase Osteoblast activity. To perform, jump sideways a small distance and rebound quickly back to your original position ‘catching’ on the same leg (See below).

TipYou can mix it up by jumping in different directions.

Perform 3 sets of 5 jumps on each leg.

 Start position

Start hop


Rebound hop

Catch position


4. Back Squats

This is a staple of most Strength and Conditioning programmes and for good reason. A correctly loaded back squat offers many benefits to numerous muscles of the body and also extends to positively influencing the hormonal profile of an athlete. Because the bar is loaded on the shoulders, it applies tension to almost every part of the body but especially targets the knee extensors (quads) which are key for performance on the bike. It builds multiple athletic qualities such as strength, robustness and under the right nutritional circumstances, muscle size. To perform correctly, start with your feet shoulder width apart and toes facing out. Sink down so that your hamstrings meet your calves getting your knees wide and out of the way (See below). Perform 3 sets of 5-8 reps.

Start position

Start squat position

Bottom position

Bottom squat position


5. Press-Ups

The benefits of doing correctly performed press-up are far-reaching and offer plenty towards being able to swim fast.

To swim at a high speed you must be able to generate a high power output from the muscles of your arms and shoulders – precisely what is demanded from press-ups. That being said, a press-up should not just be considered an exercise for the arms and shoulders, but also of the core. Done properly, you must keep your trunk rigid and prevent your lower back from arching (See correct vs incorrect below). It is the perfect exercise to practise an ideal ‘streamlined’ body position that helps you to reduce the ‘drag factor’ when trying to swim.

Correct position

Correct form for press up

Incorrect position

Incorrect press up form