I am in the process of beginning training for an Olympic distance triathlon in September. I have a good routine set-up for that which will involve six days of training per week (swim, cycle, run).

What I would also like to achieve in the process is to put on some muscle mass. I know that training for a triathlon is not really conducive to muscle mass gain, but I see no reason why incorporating some weight training will see at least a small amount of mass gain.

With this in mind, I have the following routine:

  • Chest: Decline push ups, incline push ups
  • Shoulders: Upright row, shoulder press, rear deltoid raise, shrugs
  • Arms: Bicep curls, tricep extensions, palm-up wrist curls, palm-down wrist curls

Each will be performed with dumbbells (adjustable up to 40lbs) with sets of about 3x12.

Will this build much mass? Bear in mind I am starting essentially from scratch with regards to weight training.

About me:

  • Weight - 70kg
  • Height - 6'1"
  • Sex - male
  • Age - 20
  • Goal - upper body mass gain (in particular arms)
  • Injuries - injury free
  • Diet - very good (whole foods, majority plant based)

Current level of fitness:

  • Run 1x per week (10k, p.b. 55 minutes)
  • Cycle 3x per week (50k)

Access to gym:

Not currently, although I can join.

  • 1
    I'm worried about the lack of pull exercises. You have upright row, which is arguably downright harmful for your shoulders, but you don't have anything where you pull stuff towards your chest to supplement all the push exercises. I would HIGHLY suggest adding pullups and/or cable pulldowns, as well as bent-over barbell rows.
    – Alec
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 5:00

3 Answers 3


This will build some mass, but it won't be balanced.

You're missing any form of back exercise in this plan, I'm assuming you'd want to train your back aswell to keep your upperbody balanced so that your chest and front delts don't over power your back and rear delts. (so you maintain a natural thoracic extension)

You could add things like: pull-ups, inverted rows or bend-over rows.

I would also like to add that upright rows are harmful for your shoulders and I'd suggest NOT doing these.

  • Okay, I have arms, shoulders and chest covered and I should add some exercises for the back now. Would standard bent over row, wide bent over row and deadlift (all using dumbbells) cover me?
    – Smaointe
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 7:22
  • @Smaointe Yes, those are good basic exercises to get more mass in your back! I myself always incorporate both deadlifting and pull-ups when training back, in my eyes these are the foundation for a strong back. The reason I didn't mention deadlift in my post is because you already seem to work your legs 4 times a week with the running and cycling, and deadlifts are also very heavy on the legs, so you might not get enough rest if you also deadlift in between those cardio days.
    – MJB
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 10:07

To build muscle you need 3 components:

  1. Sufficient Quality Rest
  2. Sustained consistent programming with progressive overload.
  3. Sufficient nutrition (particularly protein).

Lets look at all of these:

  1. 6 times a week triathalon training is already a lot, add weight training onto that and you are leaning towards overtraining. 6 days a week training is the maximum recommended and that includes weight-training.
  2. To get bang-for-your buck you should look to the compound exercises below. You want to aim for higher repetitions 10-15 range for the majority of your exercise as the endurance of this rep range will help your triathlon effort. You want to aim to increase the weight linearly by a small amount every week.
  3. Your diet sounds healthy but I doubt you are eating enough protein to develop muscle if you are already in a trained state. You should carefully monitor your diet, especially in the run-up to the tri.

Basic Routine:

Add whatever other exercises you want but you MUST do these ones. I'd
recommend looking to add pull-ups and dips first.

Pick 2 exercises from group A and 1 exercise from group B each session,
then just rotate your picks every session increasing the weight by the
smallest increment you have every time you revisit that exercise.

Bench Press (use dumbbells)
Overhead Press (use dumbbells)
Row (dumbbell row would be fine)

Deadlift (look up single leg Romanian deadlift)
Squat (look up goblet squat)

Yes, as long as you eat enough and consume the right amounts of nutrients to do both. I would recommend doing some research on nutrition for triathlon and also for body building.

Please note that there is a massive difference between what most people consider ‘healthy’ and eating the right things for what you are doing. This is the most vital thing to remember for your long term fitness success. You may also want to start recording what you are eating to ensure you are sticking to your diet; especially given that you are doing massive amounts of cardiovascular exercises which, if not done right, will be detrimental to muscle building. There is a nice write up here which is a good starting point to figure out your needs.

Also given your age and lack of weight training experience I imagine your routine with those weights will become really easy fast, I would recommend starting to do more reps if you cannot go heavier. Also look into harder bodyweight training such as one handed pushups/pull ups, otherwise look at joining a gym.

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