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Strength training for cyclists mid season

These days, if you ask pretty much any cyclist or triathlete about strength training, they'll immediately tell you about all the benefits it has to offer. Why is it, then, that when the season starts to ramp up, the vast majority cut out strength training? How do we continue it year-round?


Strength training is a "long game"

Unfortunately, with our endurance sports requiring us to "feel the burn" and "push hard," we've been conditioned to falsely believe that in order for training to work, it needs to always be hard. As a BaseCamper, you've already experienced the magic of just enough of the right stuff at the right time; strength training is very much the same.


Incredible strength is built through consistency over a number of months and done with a focus on how you're performing the exercise. With this as our focus, rather than "lifting heavy stuff!" and making ourselves so sore we can barely pedal the bike, we tap into some really awesome performance benefits through the peak riding season:


  • Improved recovery

  • Decrease in neck, shoulder, low back, hip, and knee pains

  • Improved performance

  • Greater resilience on longer, more challenging rides

  • Higher peak power numbers

But to get those benefits, consistency is the Rosetta stone.


How to do strength training through peak season

Before we go adding in strength training sessions to what for many of us is an already packed schedule, we may need to practice "addition by subtraction." That is, removing (yes, you read that correctly) a lower-intensity ride, such as a recovery ride (GASP! But don't worry, you'll see we have you covered), or decreasing the ride time a little for one of your mid-week rides.


Why?


Because we have only so much energy, and, perhaps more importantly, we need to give the body time to adapt to the training it's doing. Tim and I hosted a great podcast about this earlier this year, which you can listen to here.


Once you (or you and your coach) have figured out addition and subtraction, we can aim for 2-4 days a week of strength training, as follows:


Dynamic warmup 2-3 days per week

The dynamic warm-up is where, in The Vortex Method, we get a lot of our important breathing, posture, and corrective exercises done. These sessions are relatively short (around 15-20 minutes) and should be done within 10-20 minutes of finishing a ride, preferably a shorter, harder interval session.


The reason for this is that we want to help the body drive the adaptations to the training it just did, while gently reminding and teaching it the much more efficient and effective postures and positions.


The dynamic warm-up done in this fashion may or may not include 5-8 minutes (total) of soft-tissue work, such as foam rolling. Be sure to set a timer for 30-40 seconds for each spot you would like to hit. This post-ride session often replaces static stretching, with the stretching session often not needing to be done!


Strength 1 day per week

Believe it or not, the peak season is the time to "lift heavy stuff" (by perceived exertion), as it helps to keep the tissues and nervous system well rounded and healthy, due to it counterbalancing all the hours we put in on the bike and running.


But there's a catch.


This one day of strength is very focused and greatly shorter than strength throughout the rest of the year.


This one day of strength training should start with a breathing exercise, progress through the dynamic warmup, and then have only 2-4 exercises total, with one exercise working up to a "heavy" set of 3-5 repetitions.


It would look something like this:


  • 1 set of 10 repetitions with an empty bar or light weight (feeling where the body is today)

  • 1 set of 8 repetitions with a medium-light weight (RPE of 6, where you feel you have a good 4 repetitions left with great technique)

  • 1 set of 6 repetitions with a medium-heavy weight (RPE of 6-7, where you feel you have a good 3 repetitions left with great technique)

  • 1 set of 3 repetitions with a heavy weight (RPE 7-8, depending on where your body is that day, where you have a good 2 repetitions left with great technique)

  • The other 2-3 exercises should focus on areas that you personally need to balance out your weak spots or focus areas, often with medium-light (RPE 6-7) weights

Conclusion

Peak riding season strength training has a wealth of benefits to offer, but it needs to be done in small, regular doses, and it's required that you make sure to slightly lower your riding time in order to allow for the energy and adaptations from both the bike and strength training to occur. Doing your peak-season strength training as we outlined here will reward you, not only with retaining much of your strength and improved performances on the bike, but also driving better recovery, allowing you to feel great mentally and physically.


We want your questions!

Have questions about strength training? We want to answer them! Click here to submit your strength training questions, and Menachem will answer as many as possible in upcoming newsletters, blog posts, and social media.

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