Strength Training for Cyclists & Triathletes: In-Season guidelines

With the (completely unnecessary) change of the clocks done, and days now longer, the road riding season is in full-swing. While many of us may think that now is the time to "drop strength training" and focus on our riding, this is in fact the OPPOSITE of what you should be doing….especially for those who are looking to perform better this year, than any other year.

This should include pretty much all of you,

Our focus, at this point in the season, should be 70-80% on the bike, with the other 20-30% being on continuing shorter, more focused strength training sessions. 

Yes, yes, I know this makes you want to throw your computer or mobile phone against the wall and tell me I'm a blaspheme....but it's true.

But why only 70-80% focus on our Riding/Running/Swimming? Shouldn't that be 100%?

Much of this comes down to how our bodies actually deal with the training stress we place on it when riding, and how we can keep it working in tip-top shape. 

WHy Strength Training is pivotal through the season

While riding our bikes is SUPER fun or SUPER PAINFUL (you like it...you know you do...), in order for us to actually get stronger and maximize the training effect from our in-sport training, we have to:

1. Get our recovery on point- EVERYTHING from quality of sleep, nutrition & nutrient timing, and more!

2. Keep our muscles at healthy resting lengths- This happens through a focused and well balanced strength training program, including massage, such as foam rolling. 

3. Alternate periods of increasing and decreasing training stress- Commonly called periodization, this is an area that many cyclists & triathletes get carried away with during the warmer days, and often find themselves burned out in late August and early September, just when the weather is at it's best for pushing long distances, they don't want to even look at their bike or running shoes because they're burned out.

4. Continue to stimulate strength training adaptations so we can see even better on bike performance.

Strength training is like any other training, when you remove the stimulus, your abilities will fall, relatively fast. Yet so many cyclists and triathletes drop their strength training as soon as the weather turns, and then wonder why their body isn’t recovering as well between rides, or why their abilities are falling off.

Now don’t get me wrong, you absolutely should be increasing either the quality or the overall quantity of your in sport practices. But it needs to be done intelligently, allowing you to keep RECOVERY as a top goal.

This is the first mistake many of us make: More is more is more is more is more. When the weather gets warmer, we ride way longer. I myself am totally guilty of this in my early days, as looking back on my own training logs I can tell exactly when the weather turned, as my strength training dropped off to 1-2 short sessions a week, while my riding time nearly tripled.

But a large part of what allows us to go out an push ourselves in our sport is the fact that we spend time using a properly built strength training program to allow us to build a better, stronger, and more balanced and resilient body.

The key here is that the Strength Training Program doesn’t simply mimic “Sport specific” positions and demands on the muscles, joints, and fascia. Rather, we want to ensure that it balances out the joint muscle balance, increases our ability to maintain STIFFNESS to CONTROL FORCE, and gives us the ability to direct that force where and when we need it.

If you’d like to learn more about this, take a listen to episode 2 of my podcast “The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete”

How To Include Strength Training Throughout Your Season

“Put me in coach, I’m ready!”- Ace Ventura

The in-season strength training sessions only need to last about 30-45 minutes, and quite often become the highlights of each week, leaving the athlete feeling refreshed, balanced, and powerful.  

The shift from:
"NO! NO! NO! I can't Strength train through the season! I'll be slow!"

to 5 weeks later:

"This is the best I've felt and ridden in YEARS!"

always brings a big smile to my face for each athletes that goes through the transformation.

The best part of it all? Your in-season strength training can easily be included in your weekly riding schedule, and you don't necessarily need to head to the gym to do it. 
 


Here's How To Do It:

 

OPTION #1

 Look at your weekly schedule. Which are your off days, and which are your shorter ride days?

While we must keep 1 day a week completely off from physical activity/ training, we can use shorter Strength Training sessions (30-45 min) 2-3 days a week. 

While it's often thought to separate your strength training and in-sport workouts, it's been my (anecdotal) experience with REAL ATHLETES that doing Strength Training after an in-sport training works well. Especially if the training program is well balanced, and addresses weak areas and movement deficiencies. 

KEY POINTS: If you're going to do this, make sure the time between workouts (i.e. changing clothes after a swim.bike) is less than 20 minutes. This will allow the body to "treat" the double session as just one big workout. 

 
OPTION #2

15 minutes of super focused work immediately before & 10 minutes AFTER your in-sports sessions, 4-5 days a week. 

The 15 minutes before you get on the bike, should be focused on firing up your rotary stability, glutes, and mid back, while the 10 minutes after should focus on hinging, thoracic extension, your glutes, and rotary stability.

While this may seem a bit "weird" it is the consistency of doing the key exercises that will help you stay fit, healthy, and on track to get even better. Simply lifting 1x a week for long periods of time will NOT help your performance continue to build.

While there are times that Strength Training 1x a week may be appropriate (i.e. the Grande Tours), these are exceptions, and usually we’ll want to see the majority of endurance athletes 2x a week with strength training, although those sessions will be only 20-30 min in length, and VERY focused.
 

If you're getting into your taper time of year (2-5 weeks before your big event), OR if you are a newly minted Cat 1/Pro or World Tour Rider, we will want to do strength training as a separate session completely. Ideally we will want to have 2.5-3 hours in between your on-bike sessions and your strength training sessions. If you fall into this category, you can email me with specific questions.

For everyone else, these 2 options are the way to do it!



Learn more about Strength Training for CYCLING Success via Coach Brodies Training Peaks University online Course!

Learn more about Strength Training for TRIATHLON Success via Coach Brodies Training Peaks University online Course!