Strength training is an excellent complement to endurance sports. Cyclists and triathletes now recognise that it is a fundamental part of training. Here we explain how to set up an effective strength training programme for cyclists and triathletes.
In strength training, a distinction must be made between general strength training, which strengthens the entire body and compensates for imbalances, and targeted training of the main working muscles (→ Functional training).
You can even do general strength training at home with a few aids. 2PEAK Coach Benoit Nave has designed a program of 18 innovative exercises using a large seated ball to improve strength, coordination and flexibility. The program was developed for world-class mountain bikers. So you’ll be in great company when you follow the exercises.
A requirement for ball training is a large gymnastic ball, which can be bought in most sports shops for around 20 Euros/25 $. Here’s how to get the correct diameter for your height:
- under 1.55m (< 5′) – Dia 45cm (18″)
- 1.55m – 1.65m (5’–5’5″) – Dia 55cm (22″)
- 1.65m – 1.75m (5’5″–5’9″)- Dia 65cm (26″)
- over 1.75m (> 5’9″) – Dia 75cm (30″)
If in doubt buy the ball larger rather than smaller.
For cyclists, strength-endurance is a main performance differentiator. Strength-endurance is important for instance in hill climbing or generally for long speed sessions. There are two proven methods for achieving this, which can also be combined:
1. Specific strength training on the bicycle:
For this, you ride intervals between 3×6 and 3×15 minutes at a very low cadence (40-50 RPM) in a gear that brings you into the upper end of the high power range (Z3) according to power measurement or the middle of Z3 according to pulse. Since the efficiency of motion is exceptionally high at low revs, the pulse is lower than normal for this power output. The strength component is twice as much as at high RPM – i.e. The strength to maintain 250 Watts/50 RPM is the same as for 500W/100RPM! This is because if you move the pedal twice as fast but lower the resistance by half, the power remains the same. Even as a hobby rider, you can get a brief taste of the world class – only in terms of strength, of course. 2PEAK plans such strength endurance units in the preparation periods.
2. Maximum Strength Training:
Several studies show a close correlation between strength-endurance and maximum strength. So increasing the maximum strength of the sport-specific musculature is a good training gambit. For this we need the gym. The least risky method is the leg press. Variations like one legged squats, alternate lunging, or Bulgarian split squats incorporate more core muscles to increase the difficulty. Start these exercises only under expert supervision. Once you learn the technique, you can increase the difficulty by adding weight.
Here is how a maximum strength cycle is put together:
Phase 1: Familiarization
Duration: 3-4 weeks, 2-3 sessions a week, 8-12 sessions in total. Strength level: 40 – 60% of max strength (for one lift).
Sets: 2-4, repetitions per set: 20
Phase 2: Below-Max-Phase
Duration: 1-2 weeks, 2-3 sessions a week, 3-6 sessions total.
Strength level: so high, that just 15 repetitions are possible.
Sets: 2-4, repetitions per set: 10-15
Phase 3: Maximum Strength
Duration: 3-5 weeks, 2-3 sessions a week, 8-12 sessions total.
Strength level: so high, that just 6 repetitions are possible.
Sets: 2-4, repetitions per set: 3-6
Ball training and specific sport strength training can be combined well with the home trainer.
20 minutes warm up on the home trainer in Z2. 10 minutes circuit training with ball and exercises 1, 2, 3 and 4. Back to the bike, 10 minutes smoothly at 100 RPM in Z3, then a further 10 minutes with exercises 5, 6 and 7 in that order. Again back to the trainer and specific sport strength training with a 10-15 minute interval at 50 RPM as in para. 1, above. Force up the RPM shortly to 120 RPM then do exercises 8 and 9 and finally wind down with 10 minutes easy on the trainer. You can do this program with variations twice a week.
In this way, you avoid home trainer phobia and still manage some useful training within a compact time span. You can vary the strength exercises with 9 stretching exercises. Before doing the specific strength training on the home trainer, you should always perform exercises 6 and 7.
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