Strength Training for Triathletes: The Model for Injury Prevention

Strength Training for Triathletes: The Model for Injury Prevention

Strength Training for Triathletes: The Model for Injury Prevention by Dr. Craig Smith

When I read online or discuss the concept of injury prevention, I feel there is a common misunderstanding in athletes and coaches about the concept. Injury prevention is not a series of exercises.  Nor is it a massage after a particularly hard week of training. It may include both but it fails to look at the big picture.  Injury prevention is a system meant to first look at the most common injuries in the triathlon community, the biggest risk factors that contribute to injury, the most common mechanisms of injury, and finally the methods and initiatives to address each of these issues with reassessment to see how it worked.*  Take a look at the Figure 1 to see the basic concept.



Figure 1

Now, the first step is never complete because sport is always evolving.  There is new tech, new shoe types, different bike design, changing strategy, etc which modify the epidemiology of injury in triathlon.  Our best available evidence in triathlons is quite limited.**  Step 2 is being grown, especially by a group in Australia.***

However, there is still not enough information to make a fully evidence based program for injury prevention in triathletes through a strength program coupled with the specific triathlon training.  In my opinion and the goal today, is to use the information available and meld it with the experience of the triathlete and coach.

Here is a case study:

A triathlete comes into camp looking to increase her speed on the bike.  An injury history form is filled out, which indicates that the athlete had an anterior cruciate ligament injury 5 years ago.  The athlete has been fully cleared for activity and has no current pain, but will normally experience pain with a volume increase in running.  She has competed successfully in multiple ironman races over the last 4 years.

Based on this information alone, we can say that this athlete is predisposed to injury (Figure 2).  These are known as intrinsic risk factors.  Now, she wants to use her new tri bike that puts the body in the typical flexed and aerodynamic position. This is an extrinsic risk factor that needs to be included in our thought process because it will increase risk for her having an injury especially at the hip and low back.

20160312_093443_resizedFigure 2

From this basic profile we can complete our injury prevention model by screening movements.****

Now according to the best available evidence and my experience in running, swimming, and biking, a triathlete needs to have basic amounts motion in the neck, thoracic spine, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and big toes. Showing all of these would take too long for the blog post today, so instead I will touch one screen that should definitely be included based on the information above.

For this hypothetical athlete, we really need to assess for the presence of a hip impingement or she will likely experience a break down with the new tri bike.


Now if this test is positive, the tri bike makes no sense.  Another easy impingement test to do on your own is a deep squat.  If you feel pain or discomfort in the front of the thigh, you may have an impingement as well.

This is a long winded approach to help you see why basic principles on injury prevention show multiple areas that can be approached to reduce injury while improving performance.  In this example, we could target the long lasting complications of ACL injury (gluteal amnesia, gait abnormality, poor power generation in single leg tasks, etc), the recurrent pain with running, or what bike is best.  Failure to look comprehensively at the big picture is a huge problem in the triathlon community because a performance only view can lead to no performance.  A tri bike may make you faster and save time, but if it aggravates an underlying impingement, then you may have surgery in your future.

Each decision you make during the off season and during training, should support this overall view of injury prevention, including how long you take to ramp up, the volume during a week, how to schedule recovery into your week, if multiple triathlons are smart (races increase the rate of injury compared to just training), and equipment selection.


* As a researcher in this area, there is one paper I constantly reference on injury prevention methodology. van Mechelen W, Hlobil H, Kemper HC. Incidence, severity, aetiology and prevention of sports injuries. A review of concepts. Sports Med 1992;14(2):82–99.

** This type of research is not easy -which is why it’s so limited.

*** Vicenzino, Chapman, Bonacci

****Screening is a term used in medicine.  When a screening test is used, we want it to be highly sensitive. A sensitive test will have low rates of false negatives (people who are found to not have the problem by the test, but really do!), meaning that while false positives (people found to have the problem, who really don’t) may also be found, we won’t miss people that are at risk because the harm of false negative is much higher than false positives.


Dr. Craig Smith PT DPT is the Owner and director of Smith Performance Center.  He is a physical therapist, strength coach, researcher, and adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University.  He is a researcher and has authored many papers that have appeared in clinical trade publications.  He focuses on movement impairments, dysfunctional gait, and running analysis along with long term athletic development with a focus on injury risk reduction and screening. His specialties include strength and conditioning programming, return to play evaluations, running and foot biomechanical analysis, and physical therapy.

Unbelievable Raffle Prizes at the NY TRI EXPO

Unbelievable Raffle Prizes at the NY TRI EXPO

20160311_155548_resizedThere are so many amazing raffles that will be given out at the NY TRI EXPO on Saturday, March 19 from 10 – 6 pm at Citi Field.  A portion of the raffle sales will go toward a donation to the American Lung Association, our charity partner.

Here are some of the raffle packages you can win:

  • Corporate Membership to the Queens Chamber of Commerce
  • Bike Transport Anywhere in the USA!
  • One month free coaching with Danielle Sullivan of Iron Fit Endurance
  • 6 Months of Training Videos from Endurance Films
  • One Hour Strength Training with Sharon Levy of Excel PT and Workout
  • Roundtrip Amtrak Acela for two anywhere on the northeast corridor
  • Sprint Race Passport from EventPower LI

There are also gift certificates for a duathlon, training camp, day of relaxation, vitamins, runner’s package and more!

Don’t forget to buy your raffle tickets.  There are more than 20 different prizes all valued at $100+++!  Tickets are 3 for $25; 8 for $50 and 20 for $100!

Purchase your tickets at the expo and help support the American Lung Association.



NY TRI EXPO’16 Partners with Leading Companies

QUEENS, NY (February 18, 2016)- The NY TRI EXPO’16, coming to Citi Field on March 19, from 10 am – 6 pm will be sponsored by leading companies in various industries.

“I’m so grateful to have these companies on board to help put on the NY TRI EXPO ’16 in New York City,” said Hilary Topper, Show Producer of the NY TRI EXPO. “Each company and organization brings something different and helpful to the table in terms of fitness, nutrition and triathlons. With their partnership, I know we will have a great expo for Tri-State area triathletes. “

To date, sponsors and partners include:

  • Essentia Water
  • Amtrak
  • Body Balance Massage Therapy
  • Endurance Films
  • Clif Bar
  • Natural Force
  • Queens Chamber of Commerce
  • Saltwater Canvas Mesh Bags
  • U.S. Masters Swimming
  • DelMo Sports
  • Vermont’s Original Bag Balm
  • Empire Tri Club
  • Ashworth Awards
  • DeathRow Velo
  • Live it Up with Donna Drake!
  • Endurance Sportswire
  • Marriott New York LaGuardia Airport
  • American Lung Association of the Northeast
  • Mook-A-Million
  • Yelp.

“Most of these sponsors will also be exhibiting at the NY TRI EXPO ’16. We invite you to check them out and learn how they can help improve your triathlon performance and change your life,” added Ms. Topper.


The New York Triathlon Expo, established by HJMT Media Company will feature running, cycling and swimming experts and brands. It is slated for March 19, 2016, at Citi Field, which is conveniently located to accommodate attendees from New York, Long Island, New Jersey, Westchester, and Connecticut. Thousands of triathletes, runners, swimmers and cyclists from across the Tri-State area are expected to attend. Sponsors include companies such as Essentia Water.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the American Lung Association of the Northeast. Registration is open at

Why I Became a Triathlete by Hilary Topper

Why I Became a Triathlete by Hilary Topper

About four years ago, I decided to run to try to lose weight. I saw a ton of other people dropping weight fast and thought this was a good quick fix. Little did I know it took a lot of work and dedication to even run a 5K. Then, one 5K turned into a 10K and one 10K turned into a half marathon. Now, let me preface this, I’m not athletic. I never have been. (I actually failed gym!)

11351368_10152855114102761_844992874912656777_nI had a running partner, Marti DiPaola. We would run every weekend and fly out of town to do half marathons.  After the Brooklyn Half Marathon, Marti said, “I don’t want to do these any longer.”

“How about a triathlon?” I asked her.  So, we signed up for one in Florida. We both fell in love with the sport and did several more the following year including NYC and one in Milwaukee, WI.

I started to read a ton of books on the subject and hired a coach, Danielle Sullivan of Iron Fit Endurance. She was a pro-triathlete and taught me a a lot, but I wanted more.  I researched and couldn’t find anything besides a couple of books that really didn’t give me all I needed.

I would attend expos as part of the triathlons I was competing in, but I found that there were no educational courses offered and to be honest, I was always so nervous the day before the race, I didn’t want to attend any anyway!  I just wanted to pick up my number and get out of there!

At about the same time that I started triathlons, I started to write a blog, A Triathlete’s Diary – The blog focuses on me (the non-athlete) trying to train for triathlons.  I expanded it to review products and services for the runner, swimmer and cyclist as well.  And, I wrote about my experiences at the races. I also let other people share their journeys on the blog as well.  More than 50,000 unique visitors later, I decided to take the blog to another place and create an expo where I could meet likeminded people and develop learning programs for runners, cyclists and swimmers and create the NY TRI EXPO ’16.

The NY TRI EXPO ’16 is now a reality and will be happening on Saturday, March 19 from 10 – 6 pm and open to everyone!  If you ever thought about doing any one or all three of these sports together, or if you just want to learn more about nutrition, strength training or how to prevent injury, this expo is for you.

I hope to meet you there!  To register, go to use code: NYTE16_QueensCC.



Interested in Triathlons? Check out the creator of NY Tri Expo's blog:

  • Get updates on the newest gear.
  • Enter in contests for free stuff!
  • Learn about and join virtual triathlon team, WeRTriathletes.

Subscribe today!

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Google Plus