If you’re just joining us, here’s a brief overview of what we’ve covered so far in our series on strength training for cycling.
- Introduction: In the introduction to our series, I shared the caveat that I’m not an expert in strength training; I’m more like a fox than a hedgehog.
- Health: In part one, I made the case that improved health is the best reason for cyclists to start strength training.
- Heavy: In part two, I noted that if you’re hoping to use strength training to improve your cycling performance, lifting heavy is critical.
- Barbell: In part three, I highlighted the necessity of year-round strength training, suggesting that barbell training at home is your best bet to remain consistent over months and years of training.
- Compound: In part four, I indicated a bias for compound barbell movements utilizing a full range of motion.
- RPE: In part five, I introduced RPE as the preferred language of intensity for strength training prescription.
Before we jump into the specifics of our plan, let’s pause to call attention to two essential training concepts.
1: Nutrition Underpins Progress
If you’ve spent time on this site, you’ve read about the role nutrition plays in fueling your best days on the bike; of course, many of the same sports nutrition principles for cycling apply to strength training .
If you’re not meeting the energy demands of your training (especially after adding heavy strength work), improvements in strength and cycling performance are likely to stall .
Take time to review your nutrition strategy while ensuring your food choices support your overall training volume and intensity.
2: Concurrent Training Requires Flexibility
Trying to improve endurance and strength at the same time (concurrently) is challenging. Here’s why:
- Evidence suggests concurrent training can generate an “interference” effect, which is likely to reduce your gains in strength [2, 3]. That’s a fancy way of saying that as a cyclist, your strength progression and capacity will be blunted by all your time on the bike. If you’re comparing your strength gains to an athlete not spending hours on a bike, you’re not being realistic.
- On the flip side, fatigue from strength training can impair your cycling performance . In a practical sense, training strength and endurance concurrently requires flexibility and purposeful planning. Ham-handedly forcing strength training on top of whatever you’re already doing on the bike isn’t likely to improve your cycling.
When we acknowledge the complexity of concurrent training, it’s clear we need a few strategies in our training toolbox to help us smartly integrate strength and endurance throughout a varied season.
Here’s an example of how one might shift between three different strength phases over the course of a season, flexibly supporting different training objectives in strength and on the bike.
In our plan, we’ll divide strength training into three phases:
- Adapt to new movement patterns
- Build maximal strength
- Maintain the strength we’ve worked hard to build
In these three phases of strength training our workout frequency, exercise selection, set/rep scheme, and target intensity will be tailored to meet our strength objectives while providing space to accommodate our primary performance objective of getting stronger on the bike .
Let’s jump into the details.
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- Jeukendrup, A.E. and M. Gleeson, Sport nutrition. 2019.
- Coffey, V.G. and J.A. Hawley, Concurrent exercise training: do opposites distract? J Physiol, 2017. 595(9): p. 2883-2896.
- Fyfe, J.J., D.J. Bishop, and N.K. Stepto, Interference between concurrent resistance and endurance exercise: molecular bases and the role of individual training variables. Sports Med, 2014. 44(6): p. 743-62.
- Doma, K., et al., Training Considerations for Optimising Endurance Development: An Alternate Concurrent Training Perspective. Sports Medicine, 2019: p. 1-14.
- Suchomel, T.J., et al., The Importance of Muscular Strength: Training Considerations. Sports Medicine, 2018. 48: p. 765-785.
- American College of Sports, M., ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. 2021, Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
- Androulakis-Korakakis, P., J.P. Fisher, and J. Steele, The Minimum Effective Training Dose Required to Increase 1RM Strength in Resistance-Trained Men: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med, 2019.
- Ronnestad, B.R., E.A. Hansen, and T. Raastad, In-season strength maintenance training increases well-trained cyclists’ performance. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2010. 110: p. 1269-1282.
- Mountjoy, M., et al. (2018). “International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): 2018 Update.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 28: 316-331.
- Rippetoe, M. and S.E. Bradford, Starting Strength: Basic barbell training. 2017.
- Baar, K. (2014). “Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training.” Sports Med 44 Suppl 2: S117-125.
- Wang L, Mascher H, Psilander N, et al. Resistance exercise enhances the molecular signaling of mitochondrial biogenesis induced by endurance exercise in human skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol. 2011;111:1335–44.