In Part 1 of this series, I discussed possible weekly patterns for concurrent endurance and strength training. The fatigue created from each type of training can be very individual pending how well an athlete recovers from each type of exercise and also how hard they push themselves. Don't be afraid of trial and error to see what works and does not work... we often learn best from what does not work.
When I was first practicing as a veterinarian, my mentor mentioned several times that it is called practice for a reason when I was uncertain of where to start with a patient. Same applies to training - we start by using sound scientific principles such as, progressive overload and adjust as needed as we get more information regarding the response. We are always learning and many things in life are trial, error, and adjust.
Another tip: remember to ease into things though and gradually progress your training and you will improve your odds of success and minimize risks of injury. And because there is a real risk of injury with strength training, it is best to get the help of a qualified professional when learning how to perform exercises.
I currently use a 20 week program in the 'off season' divided into 3 phases:
- Stability Phase - 8 weeks
- Strength Phase - 8 weeks
- Power Phase - 4 weeks
(note: maintenance workouts are used for the remainder of the year - 1-2 times per week)
The first 2 weeks of the strength program, assuming an athlete is coming off of a well deserved post-season rest, are very basic and easy to give the body a chance to adjust to the loads - especially the connective tissues. Then, I gradually progress to make the workouts more challenging throughout the 20 week program. I think 2 strength sessions per week and one core session per weekend is adequate for cyclists. I find I can complete most workouts within 45-60 minutes.
Okay, let's get into some exercises and workouts. All workouts in each phase (Stability, Strength, Power) include all 5 steps listed; starting with a solid warm up, then moves into core, followed by power work and strength work, and then ending with static stretching and foam rolling.
1) Warm Up - Dynamic stretches
A proper warm-up is a must for the gym just like the bike. Dynamic stretches help get the body loosened up and ready for action. Jumping jacks, shooting basketballs, high knees, and jumping rope are forms of dynamic stretching. The goal is to ease into the movements and get your body warm and ready to do some hard work, minimizing the chances of injury. Five exercises taking about ten minutes is generally enough. I like to move in different planes for the dynamic stretches - some twisting and lateral movements as those movements are not done on the bike and I believe these movements help keep us balanced.
2) Core (3 times per week)
Core work is important for cycling performance and to keep the body balanced. Because it is the most important strength work to me, I typically do it first to make sure it gets done and also to prime my body for a solid, stable core for the remainder of the workout. Some possible core exercises, with 2-3 sets done in a circuit:
- Plank - hold for 30-60 seconds
- Side Plank - hold for 30-60 seconds
- Prone Cobra (some form of back extension) - 15-25 reps
- Bicycle Crunch (something with a twisting component) - 15-25 reps
- Supine Bridge - 15-25 reps
Then rest 1-2 minutes and repeat the circuit. You can increase the difficulty of your core routine every ~4 weeks to make it a little more challenging in a progressive manner (e.g. one-leg planks, Single-leg side planks, use a stability ball, etc.)
3) Power Work (Plyometrics)
Stability phase: 8 weeks
- Multi-planar hops and progress to Split-jumps - just easing into things and getting the body moving in different directions.
Strength Phase - 8 weeks
- Squat-jumps and progress to single leg hops
Power - 4 weeks
- Squat jumps in conjunction with Squats to use Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP).
- The theory with PAP is that lifting heavy weights triggers the nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers to be utilized with the squat jumps. A cool way to see PAP in action is to do some sprints on the bike - 3-4 x 6-8 second track stand sprints with 90 seconds rest in between - the 3rd and 4th sprints are often the most powerful due to PAP.
Tip: - consider using PAP if trying to increase your sprint power.
4) Strength Work
I think of strength work within a workout as a full body circuit. I like to perform 2 pulling exercises for every 1 pushing exercise to help offset the pushing nature of being on the bike. For example, if I do 1 leg pushing exercise such as squats, I want to do 2 pulling exercises such as hamstring curls and stiff legged dead lifts.
Here is a sample routine for the strength portion of a workout done in a circuit in the Strength Phase of the program. (note: a circuit is where you do the first exercise, immediately followed by the next exercise, without any rest since it is a different body part. 3 sets on Day 1 of the week and 2 sets on Day 2 of the week.
1) Stiff-Legged Deadlift 10-12 reps (pull legs #1)
2) Bent Over Rows 10-12 reps (upper body pull #1)
3) Push-ups - 15-25 (upper body push #1)
4) Pull-Ups - 15-25 (upper body pull #2)
5) Squats, Lunges, Step-Ups, Dead-lifts or Leg Press 10-12 reps
5A) Single Leg Squats - 15-20 reps (push legs #1)
6) Hamstring Curls 10-12 reps (pull legs #2)
Rest 2-3 minutes and repeat
5) Finish the session with 10-15 minutes of static stretching (always after any workout) and foam roll any tight areas.
The goal of strength training is to build the body and you will find most sports use a similar weight lifting program to each other. As with training on the bike, basic exercises and workouts are the keys to improvement. Complicated workouts may catch our eye, but I find simple always works best. Customize your own training - many exercises can be substituted to target the same muscles. Take a look at https://exrx.net if you are looking for alternate exercises to target the same muscle groups or suggestions on how to make exercises easier or more challenging. I hope this helps you with some ideas for your own training and I will address frequently asked questions and share several references for your review in the third and final part of this series.