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How to Implement Strength Training with Endurance Training (Part 1 - Weekly Pattern)

November 8, 2018

Strength training for endurance sports always comes up this time of year in the seasonal marketing strategies we are all exposed to. I have seen some heated debates on the coaching forums through the years about whether the two forms of training compliment each other or not. I think it is safe to say that strength training does improve endurance performance based on the current research. Just take a look around at the best athletes across any sport and it is easy to see that building the body leads to better performance as well as injury prevention. So, if you are still reading then you probably agree with me that strength training is valuable, but how do we actually implement it into our training?  

 

What days of the week? How many times a week? Before intervals? After intervals? Will it hurt my bike performance in the short term? I found I was always looking for more details when I was trying to figure out how to balance the two training methods when I was new to the sport. I think it is easy to come up with the exercises to perform, but not so easy to manage fatigue. I have gone through much trial and error with myself and athletes I coach through the years and thought to share my experiences to help you make decisions on how to implement strength training into your own program.

 

Phenotypes 

This refers to the type of cyclist you are: All-Rounder, TTer, or Sprinter. Phenotypes can change over time and many of us are a blend of 2 phenotypes, but let's keep this simple for our purposes in this article - how to implement strength training into your program and I believe your phenotype can help and is something I look at for the athletes I coach. I am always thinking in terms of fatigue and the cost to benefit ratio. There is typically a cost associated with every benefit with training - get stronger in the gym to perform better on the bike, but also need to cut back on the bike work due to fatigue created from the gym. Is it worth it?  I think it is and worth the effort to try and balance everything.  

 

If you are a combination of two types, then defer to the dominant type for your starting point.  

 

The All-Rounder - as the name implies, generally good at everything, but not great at any one thing.  All-rounders generally adapt well to the type of training they are focused on. Peter Sagan is an all-rounder as are most of the dominant racers on your local scene.  

 

The TTer - generally good at durations 5 minutes and longer and not so good at sprinting and 1 minute power. TTers like longer steady efforts and are usually not in the mix for a field sprint.  

 

The Sprinter - generally fast and powerful, but not so good at sustained efforts longer than a few minutes. Usually hate hills. Road sprinters are what I am referring to and not track sprinters.

 

Trends I have noted based on Phenotypes:

The All-Rounder has a blend of slow and fast twitch fibers that make up their muscle mass. They generally have a decent amount of fast twitch fibers that means they can lift heavy weights and can also dig quite a hole for themselves in regards to fatigue from strength training and high intensity bike workouts. Able to gain muscle mass. Generally can handle a moderate to high training load.

 

The TTer does not have much fast twitch muscle. This is largely why they are able to ride at high wattages for long periods of time without fatiguing as the slow twitch muscles are good at this. It is a desirable trait for an endurance athlete. The trade off is that the TTer is not generally able to lift as heavy of weights as the Sprinter or All-Rounder. The benefit is that they also do not create as much fatigue from lifting weights or high intensity workouts as the other two phenotypes mentioned. TTers can find it difficult to put on muscle mass. Generally can handle a higher training load than other phenotypes.

 

The Sprinter has a lot of fast twitch fibers and can lift impressive amounts of weight.  Weight lifting and high intensity bike workouts cause a lot of fatigue and sprinters generally require more recovery than other phenotypes because they can go so deep in hard efforts.  Sprinters usually like lifting weights and push themselves harder in the weight room and can put on muscle somewhat quickly. A few full gas sprints or plyometrics can result in a lot of fatigue for these powerful athletes.  Generally can handle a low to moderate training load.  

 

Possible Weekly Pattern based on Phenotype (off-season from racing):

The All-Rounder: (1-2 hard rides per week)

Monday - OFF the bike, No strength training

Tuesday - Bike intervals followed by strength training (preferably 6 hours later)

Wednesday - Active recovery/easy ride

Thursday - Strength training immediately followed by an endurance bike ride

Friday - Endurance ride or Active recovery

Saturday - Harder/longer bike ride and core work

Sunday - Easy longer bike ride

 

The TTer: (2, maybe 3 hard rides per week)

Monday - OFF the bike, Strength training

Tuesday - Intervals (24 hours after strength training)

Wednesday - Endurance Ride

Thursday - Strength training followed by an endurance ride OR Intervals followed by strength training 6 hours later

Friday - OFF the bike or Active Recovery

Saturday - Harder/longer bike ride and core work

Sunday - Easy longer bike ride

 

The Sprinter: (1-2 hard rides per week)

Monday - OFF the bike, No strength training

Tuesday - Bike intervals followed by strength training (preferably 6 hours later)

Wednesday - OFF or Active recovery

Thursday - Strength training immediately followed by an endurance bike ride

Friday - OFF or Active Recovery

Saturday - Harder?/longer bike ride and core work

Sunday - Short to medium easy ride

 

These are not hard set weekly training patters, but are starting points I would consider when starting with a new athlete. Athlete feedback is critical to fine tune the weekly training pattern - maybe an athlete can handle more and maybe less. I also find the weekly pattern can change from week to week when we factor in cumulative fatigue and life stress. I like to use Heart Rate Variability along with subjective feedback to assess recovery for athletes I work with. Are you feeling the weights are hurting your hard bike workouts? If so, then an adjustment is needed. I often find athletes are over-trained/under-recovered from following a training plan to the letter and trying to add on too much work too soon. Overestimating FTP and riding at higher intensities than indicated is another common mistake I see with athletes I work with. Combine that with underestimating fatigue created in the gym and goals are unlikely to be reached. The strength training should follow a gradual progressive overload pattern along with the bike work. Many athletes are familiar with Training Peaks and the Performance Management Chart, but that tool will not reflect fatigue created from the weights and needs to be factored in to your training. Listen to your body and keep things simple - train really hard on your hard days and easy on your easy days. Take a rest day when you are tired and push things back a day or drop a hard day from your week as needed. Stay tuned for Part II where the exercises will be discussed.  

 

 

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