What's Cool In Road Cycling

Changing up Strength Training for Riding Season

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With the better weather and some easing of pandemic restrictions, going outside and riding to our heart’s content is both necessary and fun. But now is NOT the time to ditch your strength training. Here’s why and how you should be looking to turn UP your strength training as riding season swings into force.

kittel
Marcel Kittle – Max Strength work

If you’ve been following the ideas laid out here in the Toolbox pieces over the last 6 months or so, you’re most likely at the point where you can FEEL the increase in either your power on the bike, or your ability to stay strong for longer from your on-bike work. It is incredibly tempting to ditch the weights and focus solely on getting outside to ride. Hey, you can already feel and see the differences on the bike, so why continue?

Much akin to riders boosting their FTP and feeling better dropping the hammer, this feeling of strength often leads riders astray from “polishing up” their fitness and abilities, as they skip out on the top end/ heavier work for which they’ve worked so hard to prime the body.

Examples of these workout foci include for on-bike:

  • Power Starts (10-15 second starts jumping out of the saddle and working to spin up the gearing with small ring up front, 14-16 gearing in the back)
  • 20-120 second ALL OUTS with incomplete rest (geared to help improve enzymatic availability for these efforts, along with maximum power capacity

Examples of these workouts include for off-bike:

  • Max Strength work including 1-2 sets of 2, 3, 4, or 5 repetitions at an RPE of 8-9)
  • Explosive strength work, such as short sets Russian Kettlebell Swings, Hang High Cleans, Explosive push-ups, and Explosive seated rows

 

pez fleche
PEZ on-bike power climb

Guidelines for programming

While including these in your weekly training can have a huge positive impact on your abilities, trying to do too much can lead you to overreaching, and even mid-season burnout. Each of these workouts would count as a Development session, meaning, for their respective kinds of training (on-bike, strength) these sessions take some of the biggest tolls on the body when compared to other workouts. With this in mind, we’ll want to plan these sessions into each week with a few guiding rules.

Development days should be preceded by movement days/ recovery days
Programming the harder training days after a lighter day/ one with very little training stress, helps to “prime the pump” so to speak, as it will allow you to come into the development day training with a much better training status. But beware! These Easy days MUST be just that!

 

If you are performing Development in one aspect, the following workout in the other discipline should be a short stimulation session
This is where many endurance athletes push too hard, and thus lose fitness. Every training you do cannot be a development session, and in order to build fitness, we need easy days, and stimulation days. Stimulation days are those that are just hard enough to stimulate, or continue the desired adaptations from the training session, but which don’t take long periods to recover from.

Example: if today is Tuesday, and you performed your Development session (Max Strength/ Explosive Strength) session for your strength training, Wednesdays on-bike workout could be a 75-90 minute Sweet Spot workout, Low Cadence Tempo workout, or VO2 Max workout (with 1 to 1.5-2.0 work to rest ratio) with a total TSS of 100-150 for the intermediate and advanced rider.

 

Choose 1 main, and 1 minor focus for each 3-8 week training block

We can’t please (train) everybody. There is immense power in focus. You can’t train everything well all at once, so don’t try to train every system at once. You just end up too tired overall to stimulate and train each system optimally. Instead, focus on one system, hit it hard, and allow yourself to recover properly before moving onto the next system.

Think of your training blocks having just 2 foci as me wearing a pair of stilettos. And now think about your training block of trying to train 3-4 things at once, like me wearing a pair of Loafers. I’m a pretty big guy, weighing over 80kg right now. How painful would it be for me to step on your foot with the heel of the stiletto? It would probably pierce through if you were barefoot. And how painful would it be if I stepped on your foot with the heel of the loafer? It certainly wouldn’t be pleasant, but as soon as I stepped off you’d feel better, even if you were barefoot. Your focusing down in your training for blocks of 3-8 weeks of time will help you maximize your returns, and allow you to see far better results.

zakarin
Zakarin solo climb hammer

Summary

Think of the hard work you’ve put into strength training over the winter and spring as the foundation for prime time riding season. It has set the stage and now is the time to put it into action on the bike and really make the big gains. A few key and specific workouts can do the trick.

At the same time, be careful how you do it. Don’t spread your energy out trying to do everything at once. Like multi-tasking in life, that never works well because our attention and energy are spread too thinly, so we’re never giving our true best. Pick a system and make that your prime focus for each training block.

Until next time, remember to train smarter, not harder, because it’s all about YOU!

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Is there a topic on strength training/training you’re interested in that you’d like to have covered?

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