Episode 18 – The 5 Stages of Strength Training for Cycling & Triathlon Success

The strong savvy cyclist & triathlete podcast

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Human Vortex Training and Menachem Brodie present The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast where we talk strength training, physiology, psychology, tech, and much more to help you get fitter, faster, and stronger in and out of your sport, giving you expert insights talking with other leading experts. And now, your host, world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.

Menachem Brodie:

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this episode of The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast. It is fall, Labor Day has come and gone, which means that my inbox has been filling up with a lot of questions about strength training for cycling. Now, while I’m very happy to see that the tides have turned over the last five to seven years and we’re seeing more and more cyclists looking for strength training and learning or wanting to learn how to improve their on-bike ability by hitting the gym, what a lot of cyclists miss is that strength training should not just be a transition fall or winter or base time of year kind of thing.

But what we’re going to do today is share with you the best practices that are going to allow you to be able to go out and just dominate your field hopefully as long as you melt together the strength training with the on-bike training that you need to have in order to progress for next year. So what we’re going to do today is we’re going to go over the basics of strength training and share with you the best practices, what exactly it is that you need to be doing, and the stages you need to go through in order to understand and progress without getting injured. So if you’ve been listening to The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast here for the last couple of months, you know that Dr. McGill was on for a pair of interviews.

Well, actually it was part one and part two. We spoke about how a lot of cyclists don’t get injured or don’t injure their backs necessarily on the bike, but rather it happens whenever they are in the weight room because the muscles of the leg are strong but their spine and the tissues and the muscles that surround the spine and the core are not. And I just used the term core, and we need to remember that the core is not being able to plank. The plank seems to have this magic pill or magic fantasy behind it that it’s the one exercise that if you can do a plank for two minutes, then automatically your risk of injury goes down and your power production on the bike goes up.

But that is not the case. So let’s start off today by first understanding what is it that we want out of our strength training first and foremost. A lot of us like to think strength training, easy, Brodie; we need numbers, we need to go up in weight on the bar, we need to be able to squat a certain amount and deadlift a certain amount. But in fact, that’s quite a fallacy, and really, one of the biggest benefits that you’re going to get as a cyclist from strength training and as a triathlete is going to be the opportunity to be able to balance out the imbalances that our sports make for us.

So cyclists have a little bit worse than triathletes in that we’re going to be very stuck in a forward position because our arms are in front of us, we’re in that crouched position, or as Dr. McGill called it, that wind position on the bike, which means that our chest, specifically our pec minors, our lats, are going to be very tight. Our hip flexors are going to be very tight, our glutes aren’t going to be able to activate in a way that’s going to` support us or give us the power we need. And a lot of us also have a very floppy and weak core. And I really do mean core.

When I talk about core, if you’ve listened to past episodes, you know that I’m talking about pretty much everything; the internal, external obliques, the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, the pelvic floor, and the diaphragm. Those are the primary core muscles that provide the abdominal hoop that will allow us to lock the rib cage and pelvis together. And this is really where we want to start to focus our abilities; this is on breathing, being able to get a good diaphragmatic breath, 360 degree expansion of the ribs and lungs which will allow you to be able to have movement from the ribs at the spine which allows you to be able to keep other muscles kind of in check within reason.

It’s not going to be a magic pill. When it comes to strength training, it’s a matter of balancing out the movements you don’t get in your sport in such a way that it will allow you to be able to perform better in your sport. And this is the number one place that most cyclists and triathletes drop the ball, is they go into the gym… And I see this on a lot of forums, I see it in groups that I’m involved in and I’m a part of, where people say, “Oh, I’m going to start strength training. What should I do?” “Oh, you need to do squats and deadlifts and hamstring curls and leg presses. But don’t do upper body. You don’t want to put on weight because that would be bad.”

Actually, that’s not quite what we want. Now, some more enlightened folks will say, “Oh, you need to work on the posterior chain; so your hamstrings, your glutes, and the muscles along the spine.” That’s a little bit better. But again, they’ll say, “Don’t do too much upper body because that’s a waste of your energy.” That’s not necessarily true. There’s a lot of different considerations that we have to take when we get into strength training. And again, today, we’re going to focus just on the five stages. For those of you who have taken my Strength Training for Cycling Success or Strength Training for Triathlon Success courses on TrainingPeak University, you’ll be very familiar with these five stages.

I actually just commented a couple of days ago on the Wattage forum, on Google groups or Yahoo groups, I can’t remember which one it was, because someone said, “Oh, cyclists should do heavyweights, sets of three to five, perceived exertion of seven to eight for all of their exercises, and that’ll help them be able to progress.” And I responded, “Well, actually that’s only the third, that max strength is actually the third stage and there’s two others.” So, number one is anatomical adaptation. And regardless of whether you’re just starting for strength training right now or if you’ve been doing it year-round, this anatomical adaptation phase or stage is really, really important to go through each and every year.

This is a time of year where we have our… as athletes, we call it the off-season, or transition if you’re a little bit more forward-thinking, because there really is no off-season. Those who think of it as being an off-season and in-season tend to fall off the wagon pretty quickly because they’re like, “Oh, it’s off-season, I can get away with X, Y, and Z, and then I’ll get myself back in shape.” Oh boy, that’s a mistake, especially for endurance sports. We can’t let ourselves fall too far off the wagon because we can really go backwards and lose fitness. This is why the number one way to continually set PRs and to get stronger year to year, week to week, month to month, is to not lose training time.

That is what we’re after. And this anatomical adaptation stage is where a lot of people skip, either because they’re not really interested in going lighter, they see it as taking a step backwards, when really what you’d be doing is allowing the body to recover at a deeper, deeper level, both mentally and physiologically. It allows the stresses in the body to be reduced to more manageable levels where day after day you’re getting fuller recovery while allowing you to still keep progress forward ever so slightly.

So before I dive deeper into this anatomical adaptation, I just want to mention the five stages we’re going to go through here. And there’s nothing new about these. In fact, these have been around since the 1980s, 1970s even, they’ve been made much more, I guess, prevalent or well-known in the more advanced strength and conditioning world. Those who are strength and conditioning coaches tend to recognize these. Tudor Bompa was the guy who wrote a lot of the books on these. And there’s nothing new here per se. However, this is not common knowledge in our world. In fact, if you go and ask the average personal trainer, most of them, unless they just finished their schooling, aren’t going to be able to remember these.

They’re going to remember you need to go through an adaptation phase and then a hypertrophy phase, and that’s it, and that’s what they’re taking their clients through. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you are looking for performance gains out of your strength, which means we have to keep in mind every year your annual training plan and these five. So the five stages are; as we mentioned, number one is anatomical adaptation. This is going to last anywhere from three to eight weeks depending on your level of development as far as strength training, your imbalances in your body, as well as the recovery processes that your body is able to go through and how quickly and fully it’s able to recover.

So stage number one, anatomical adaptation. We’re going to come back and dive into that. Number two is a forbidding word in the world of cyclists and triathletes, hypertrophy. “Oh, Brodie, hypertrophy. Oh my gosh! My muscles are going to grow bigger, I’m not going to be able to climb, and my power’s going to go down. What are you telling me? Why would I possibly want to go through hypertrophy? Why? I want to skip this? I want to get as far away as possible from this.” Okay, take a deep breath, relax. Hypertrophy is not the enemy, sarcolemmic hypertrophy or hypertrophy is growth of the tissues around the contractile tissues that provide… Bulk is not what we want out of our strength training.

But myofibrillar hypertrophy is something that we want. And again, if you took the Strength Training for Cycling Success or Strength Training for Triathlon Success course, I spent quite a bit of time going through the four or five slides here allowing you to understand why hypertrophy is necessary. Hypertrophy is where we’re actually growing the contractile properties of the muscle, and this is where your programming or the sets and repetitions that you’re doing are going to have a huge impact. In fact, many cyclists get wrong or they skip completely and they don’t get what they can or need out of their strength training.

So that’s level number two. We’ll come back to that in a minute. So number one, anatomical adaptation, number two is hypertrophy, number three is max strength. This is where we’re pushing heavier weights, sets of two to five repetitions, RPE of seven to eight. That’s about right. After that, we’re going to go to transition to sports-specific skill and strength. And this is where we get much more riding time or much more time out on the road or in the pool with our new strength gains. But that doesn’t mean we’re not doing it in that time period beforehand. Then the fifth is maintenance.

And each of these stages has a preferable time period. So anatomical adaptation as mentioned is three to eight weeks. Muscular hypertrophy can be anywhere from four to 10 weeks. Some people even say 12. Max strength will be six to 10, and then transfer to sport can be another four to six, and then maintenance can be two to six. Those are rough estimates. Now, some of you out there who are well-read will say, “Well, Brodie, this isn’t what Tudor Bompa said.” No, but if you go through and look at all the different research out there, these are about the ranges. Now, some people will say the max strength should be eight to 12. These are just the starting points.

There is no magic formula except for the one that works for you. But in order to get to the one that works for you, you have to understand that must, must, go through each one of these stages in order to get what you want and need out of your strength training. It’s a lot to swallow, right? I mean, I’m throwing a lot of stuff at you and some of you guys are saying, “Well, I’m listening to this because it says strength training for cycling, how to plan a year. This is way too much information for me.” It is, a little bit, but this is the necessary information that people need to know, like yourself, in order to have better results.

Or as the saying goes, “If you want to have tomorrow the things others don’t have, you need to do the things today that others won’t do.” And that’s why you’re here, is because you’re getting that information that you need in order to properly plan your training year and to understand that strength training is a year-round item in your training. So we already spoke about anatomical adaptation, and with Labor Day passed, some of us are looking towards longer rides. That’s my favorite time of year, is actually the fall. The sunlight is still out, it’s warm enough to start off 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 in the morning with arm warmers, legwarmers.

Pack back pockets of fuel, you can go out for four, five, six hours, and not run out of water too soon or overheat. It’s just a wonderful time of year to go out. So, anatomical adaptation goes really well with this. This is where we’re decreasing the competition a little bit, or if you’re in those group rides, they may be the most competitive time of year, which means you might want to wait until the last competitive group ride goes off. Now, if your group is, let’s say on California or in Colorado where it tends to be competitive all the way up until the first snow and sometimes after, you’re going to have to be able to put a firm deadline on your competitive season and get into transition.

And this is a mistake I see a lot of athletes, especially in California, do. There’s always competition, there’s always strong riders, but if you truly want to progress and take leaps and bounds forward each year, you have to choose a time of year that you need to slow down a little bit. I would suggest usually the end of September at latest. It allows us to kind of get ready for the state championships in the spring now, which tend to be April, May, June as opposed to July, August, which they used to be. It seems like they’re getting early and earlier because of Cyclo-cross and how many people want to get out for that.

And that’s the other consideration for the anatomical adaptation going now, a lot of you are already in the beginnings or middle of training for crossing gravel. That means that the demands on your body are going to be a little bit different. Gravel is going to mean lower gears, it’s going to mean working the bike more, which means if you’re coming from riding almost exclusively road, or most of you exclusively road, we need to start prepping the body through anatomical adaptation to be able to handle those specific demands.

And what’s great about this, it’s three to eight day weeks, it’s really getting you to start to activate muscles, to fire muscles, to get things rolling a little bit better, to start connecting with muscles you haven’t used as much throughout the year and to start to opening a number of joints that may have gotten pretty closed off or tight because of the number of hours and the power you were putting down on the road bike. Popular or common areas would be the shoulders where the pec minor gets very tight, especially if you’re doing Cyclo-cross. You’re going to have to shoulder that bike, so we’ve got to get those shoulders back and down just a little bit for most of you.

You’re riding with the shoulders up in the ears, you’re getting that neck ache. If you read Bicycling Magazine, I actually gave a playlist of a number, I think eight or nine exercises, to beat neck and upper back pain. So you can look at those on the YouTube playlist I have or the HVT blog. Number two is going to be the hips; so, lower back pain and discomfort. And this is the number one complaint for a lot of guys and ladies going to Cyclo-cross that were roadies. They see how much fun it is, but their bodies are so beat up and sore after the first practice. This is where we can get you to be able to perform so much better by just doing a couple of different exercises.

So once again, on the HV Training YouTube channel, we have the Healthy Cycling series, which was initially designed for a Cyclo-cross group that I had, a number of athletes who were having common issues. So these are at-home exercises you can do with next to no or no weght. You really don’t need much equipment if at all. Pardon the air conditioner there. But there’s a number of things that you can do that for three to eight weeks… three weeks is not that much time and it still keeps you out on the road. I don’t want you to think anatomical adaptation means that you’re going to have to stop what you’re doing and you’re going to have to just decrease your ride.

We actually don’t. We just need to put the strength training first before you get onto the bike and then do a couple of exercises after to hit target areas. So if you’re going to follow that Strength Training for Cycling Success formula kind of that we have, if you look at the Healthy Cycling series, you can do that both before and after the bike. If you’re looking to gain strength, you would do it twice before you get on the bike and once after. If you’re looking to keep the bike the focus, you would do it perhaps twice or three rounds after you get off the bike. Either is fine, but you need to ensure that you’re giving yourself at least three or four weeks to balance out those muscles.

And the thing is, is that time after time, the number one complaint is, “I don’t have time. I already have to drive the Cyclo-cross practice and I have to come home.” Most athletes, once they make the five to 10 minutes, they take a yoga mat, they don’t mind getting dirty, and they do it right after a Cyclo-cross practice. Within two weeks, they’re like, “Brodie, I feel amazing. Why didn’t I start these earlier? Why didn’t you make me do them?” I can’t make anybody do them. You need to go through this and you need to have that self-drive to be able to do it. But the anatomical adaptation is relatively short in the grand scheme of things.

But really, what we want to try and do is decrease the ride volume. So if you’re an intelligent rider out there and you’re going into Cyclo-cross from, let’s say riding a road bike eight to 12 hours a week, most of you are going to be decreasing your ride volume naturally because of how much more challenging and the different type of challenges that Cyclo-cross puts you through. So most of you are going to drop down to between six and eight hours a week. So if you’re writing 12 hours, most of you come down to around eight. It just naturally kind of happens, which is great, because it means you have a little bit of extra time to go through that anatomical adaptation workout.

Now, this doesn’t mean that if you’re seasoned and you’ve been doing strength training year-round for the last two or three years that you should go just back to bodyweight exercises. I do recommend bodyweight-only exercises for at least a seven to 10 days, if not 14, to take the stress off the tissues a little bit, but some of you who are more seasoned find that if you take more than 10 days off of resistance training, that you start to slide back a little bit, and you notice that you get a little bit weaker and you feel a little bit off. In that case, just drop the load down to about 50% of total volume of what you had been doing before and go back to the basic fundamental five plus one; push, pull, squat, hinge, press, rotary stability.

Spend two to three weeks there of going through about 50% of the weights you were doing before and then start ramping it back up. And this is really a great time for you to start to notice different imbalances that you have because the weight is lighter. And this is a common concern… or actually not concern. It’s something that a lot of athletes or a number of athletes, not a lot, come back and say, “Well, I noticed with a lighter weight that X, Y, and Z is happening with my squatter, deadlift, or bench press.” Yes, I have road cyclists bench pressing. And they notice with the lighter weight that something else is going on.

The reason this is important is it tells us that the weight can mask different issues that you have because it’s pressing down and causing a shift in how the muscles are firing. So, anatomical adaptation has a lot of different positives that you can gain out of it, but you must go through it at least three weeks. Now, after that, hypertrophy. “Oh, the terror! It’s like a Halloween word. Oh my, Lord! I can’t do hypertrophy. What’s going to happen? I’m going to look like Arnold.” First of all, dude, if you look like Arnold after touching a weight, that’s pretty amazing. There was actually a gift I saw from one of my friends. I’ll see if I can find that and put up on the HV Training Facebook page.

Because it was actually pretty funny. There was a female looking at a two-pound weight and thinking about touching it. And then she touches it, and poof! She turns into this like 230-pound bodybuilding. You just see her go, “Ooh!” It doesn’t work like that. Muscular hypertrophy, the reason why it’s so important is because we’re not just getting hypertrophy of the muscle itself. And this comes down to the sets and repetitions that you’re doing. Essentially, the mechanical loading that you’re putting onto the muscle and the percentage of estimated one-rep max that you’re loading through this phase and the next phase are going to determine what the adaptations your body is going to have to those training programs.

So what this means in short, is pretty much what we’re looking at is getting you the type of loading through hypertrophy that we’re getting what’s called myofibrillar hypertrophy. I always stumble over that word. I can’t really say myofibrillar. I had to re-record that a couple of times for the Strength Training for Cycling Success until I could get it down. But the myofibrils are the contractile parts of the muscle. Simply put, what that means is these are the actin and myosin bridges that were forming chemically. That’s what we’re getting hypertrophy of. Whereas the bodybuilding approach, which is sets of, yes, 12 to 18, which is where most cyclists are, is more sarcolemmic hypertrophy, which is muscle size.

Now, the difference is, is that most of us as cyclists, we’re not quite getting enough of a dose of those sets of 12 to 18 to cause big, big gains like a bodybuilder because we’re not loading it as much as they do, they’ll go to burnout and failure. But some of you are, and then you’re saying, “Oh, I put on unnecessarily weight. I can’t do strength training.” It’s because you were missing a really important part of the puzzle. And that’s not your fault, it’s just that those that are out there that are putting out a lot of the information about strength training for cycling and triathlon, they mean well, they just don’t realize that they’re just copying and pasting the bodybuilder approach that was so prevalent in the US since the 1960s and ’70s.

That is what strength training was up until two decades ago. The 2000s, maybe mid ’90s is when we finally started to see an integration of the Eastern Bloc approach, which is the periodization, Tudor Bompa started coming out with stuff, Thomas Kurz, Louis Armstrong with the conjugate method, started becoming a little bit more popular thanks to the internet. But many of the trainers out there today, the average personal trainer, is still following the bodybuilder approach. And same with those that are out there that have done some strength training for cycling or triathlon in the past, because that’s what they learned.

But I’m here to tell you, when it comes to muscular hypertrophy, what we want to actually be looking at, unless you’re a true beginner… And true beginner, I generally start between eight and 12, sets of eight to 12. What we’re actually looking for are sets of six to 10 and some heavier weights. The reason the heavier weights are important is because it causes mechanical load. The mechanical load is where we’re going to get a lot of the adaptations for muscular hypertrophy. If we do it at the lower range, six to eight repetitions let’s say, what we’re going to do is we’re going to cause the contractile properties, the myofibrilors… excuse me, the myofibrils to become better adapted to handling that load.

Along with that, the fascia is going to be able to adapt to that. You also have the sheath that goes around the muscle all the way down to the tendon, which names escapes me at the moment. Paramecium perhaps, it’s probably not right. I don’t have a textbook in front of me. But essentially, you’re strengthening all of those tissues by putting that pressure on it through that mechanical loading. And what that means is you’re going to not only strengthen the muscle, the red muscle tissue itself, but you’re also helping strengthen the connective tissue, the white tissue, and this takes longer.

This is why a meniscus injury or a cartilage injury or a tendon injury takes longer to heal, is because there’s not a rich blood supply there. That’s why it’s white. So it takes longer for these things to adapt. And this is why the hypertrophy, the muscular hypertrophy phase, is one of the longer ones. We’re talking about six to 12 weeks depending on what your training year looks like. And a lot of you are going to realize this coincides with base training. So what this means is, if you look at the science out there to date, essentially, if you’re out doing endurance sport for more than five to seven hours a week, the ability to put on muscle bulk is going to be very difficult. It’s almost like putting a hormonal stopper.

You’re physically not able to put on that muscle bulk because you’re changing the inner hormonal status enough that you’re signaling to the body, “Hey, this endurance thing I’m doing is more life and death than the 60-minute or 65-minute or 45 minutes strength training regimen that I’m doing.” I want to get a little bit stronger, I’m doing that three days a week, so that’s important also, but the body’s going to naturally lean towards the hormonal status that it’s in more time which is going to be endurance. Now, this is also where it’s important to organize your strength training. And there are some studies coming out now pretty much showing what a lot of coaches have experienced over the last couple of decades.

And that, is if you’re looking to gain strength, you want to do strength first. If you’re looking to gain endurance, you want to do endurance first or an endurance-based activity such as cycling, running, or swimming. So, what that means is during the base period, depending on someone’s personal schedule… And I wrote a really great piece on the HVT website, on the blog. I also was interviewed for Men’s Health I think two years ago about; which is better, a morning workout for strength or an evening workout? And the bottom line is, it depends on what’s better for you, what’s more consistent for you.

That’s pretty much what the science is showing as well, is it doesn’t matter which one you choose, but be consistent with it, because then you’re changing the hormonal status of the body to be able to have those adaptations. So if you’re going to strength train in the evening, stick with the evening; occasionally during in the morning because your schedule is hectic or you have a late morning. That’s fine. If you’re going to do it in the morning before your ride, let’s say you have a flexible schedule, maybe you’re an entrepreneur or a dentist or a family physician and you can start at 10:00 in the morning and you can get up and do both in the morning, do your strength first for the next three or four months.

You’re going to see bigger gains for it. And this is where we’re going to have that muscular hypertrophy phase. The other reason we’d like to put it first is, especially for females here at HVT… We’ve been following Dr. Stacy Sims for a number of years and a couple of other female researchers. She’s the one that’s out in the press. But women need to have in the second half of their menstrual cycle, in the luteal phase, days 14 to 28, they need to have a mixed protein meal first thing in the day. Within 30 minutes of getting up, essentially, you want to have some type of proteins supplement. You can do branched-chain amino acids.

Yes, for those of you who are well-read, there are articles out that are saying branched-chain amino acids or essential amino acids are essentially a waste if you’re getting enough, regular protein in your diet. But let’s be honest here, if I am going to go out and do a strength training workout first thing in the morning, the last thing I want to do is suck down a protein shake before I head out the door. It sits in your stomach, it doesn’t feel that good. So I would recommend using a essential amino acid or branched-chain amino acids. Sorry about that. The phone was on silent and I got to get this.

But the thing is, is that really what we’re looking for is to make sure that you are fueling properly for your workout. Now, for us guys, as long as you’ve had protein within 18 hours, or have protein within 18 hours of your workout session, you’re going to be covered, you’re going to be fine. You’re not going to have any issues at all. But for females, in that second half, it’s really important to have that mixed protein or that protein source before you go out, because you’re already in a catabolic state. So especially for muscular hypertrophy, I mean, all the time, this is important. This isn’t something that only if you’re strength training.

If you’re a female and you’re looking for performance gains, you want to get better as a cyclist or triathlete, this is something you need to do all the time, but especially so when you’re doing muscular hypertrophy work, which is most of the base period. So, these are some things that we need to consider. So we have anatomical adaptation three to eight weeks, we have the Healthy Cycling series on the HVT YouTube channel, we have the exercises to beat neck and upper back pain that we had back in the bicycling. These are some things that will help get you started for anatomical adaptations and addressing some of the issues.

So we’re going to take a short little break here and we’re just going to have a bumper fill you in, give you a little break or use the restroom, drink your coffee, refill your coffee, and then come back because we’re going to talk about transferring from muscular hypertrophy to max strength and then max strength to transition to sport-specific strength, and from sports specific-strength over to maintenance. We’re going to talk about that in the second half of today’s show, so hang tight.

Speaker 1:

Want to learn more, check out humanvortextraining.com for more on this topic from coach Brodie and today’s guest.

Menachem Brodie:

All right, well, we don’t have a guest today, but we are giving you lots and lots of information here about the annual stages of strength training for success in cycling or triathlon. Now, the thing is, with hypertrophy, as cyclists and triathletes, we need to wrap our head around that there’s, again, two different types of hypertrophy. You have the sarcomere and we have the myofibril. We want the myofibrillar hypertrophy. That’s the actual contractile part of the muscle and that’s what we want to have grow stronger and get better. Now, to be honest, it does mean you’re going to put on a little bit of weight.

Now, until you get to the semi-pro or pro level, and we’re talking about European pro, the amount of weight you’re going to put on is negligible, because again, if you’re riding enough, if you’re riding at least five to seven hours a week, you’re not going to be able to get into that hormonal status as well as you need to in order to grow massive muscles. Now, there’s always exceptions to that. I have one friend in particular, I won’t mention him by name, but if he so much as does like two sets of 10 at a perceived exertion of five for shoulder press, his shoulders blow up like shoulder pads. He’s genetically predispositioned for that muscle to get bigger. And we all have different muscles that we tend to do well like that.

It’s a matter of understanding where you stand and what your body responds to. But for the vast majority of us, 90% or 85% of us out there, we should not be afraid of lifting heavier weights and going through the muscular hypertrophy stage. Now, if it makes you really nervous, you can go through it for eight to 10 weeks. I know I said six to 12, that’s a little bit more for advanced. I would say eight to 12 weeks, eight to 10 weeks would be the minimum we want to take you through, because we need the connective tissue, the fascial system, and the different parts of the muscle essentially to have that growth in order to sustain what’s going to come next; and that is stage three, which is max strength.

Now, max strength, I want to make clear here. As cyclists, as triathletes, we have zero, zip, nada, not a single ounce of must to do a one-rep max. There is no need for it, none. That is not our sport. If anybody tells you that you need to do a 1-RM testing in order to find your weights, tell them that you got to a oceanfront property in Idaho you want to sell to them, because you don’t need it. Think about that joke for a minute; oceanfront in Idaho. You don’t need it. You don’t need it. Estimated 1-RM, use an estimated 1-RM. In fact, here at Human Vortex Training, a vast majority of our strength training for athletes has gone based off of perceived exertion for the first year.

We want a perceived exertion during max strength of about seven or eight for our working sets. But most of the other time, we’re fives and sixes. And this is the second area, aside from jumping right to this heavyweight or max strength part of the five stages that a lot of cyclists make, is they go too hard in the gym. You’re not supposed to be sore after every single workout in the gym. If you are, you are doing it wrong. Go to CrossFit where the type As are hammering themselves into the ground and the turnover for people is between six and 12 months because they injured themselves because they don’t go through the recovery.

And it’s not a knock against CrossFit, it’s a knock against those personalities that think they need to dig themselves deep every freaking time, and then, “Oh, yeah, I was so sore I threw up after the workout.” You shouldn’t be going that hard, bro. No, stop it. Don’t go that hard. That’s dumb. If you’ve listened to the episodes I had with Tony Gentilcore here, we talk about this. We talk about it, it should be five, sixes and sevens, bro. Especially as endurance athletes, we have no right to pick up a weight that’s anything over an eight and a half, ever. Your tissues need the time to adapt to that, man. You don’t need that in your sport.

And what time in your cycling are you going to strap a 50-kilo weight on your back and try and climb the hill? Never, unless your teammate broke down at the Tour de France and his bike’s broken and you got to get them over the finish line. Then geez, okay, that’s pretty cool. That’s sportsmanship right there. Never. You don’t need 1-RM, bro. That’s why strength training gets such a bad rap in the world of cycling still, because people are idiots. Yeah, I’m opinionated, and yeah, I’m pumped up about it because it’s stupid. You’re going to sit here and tell me that weightlifting injured you? Show me your program. You’re a freaking idiot, bro.

Why are you picking up a weight for 1-RM? That’s just your ego talking, man. Let your ego talk out on the bike. That’s what you’re here for. Get off my soap box a little bit, but it really gets me hot under the collar as you can hear. It pisses me off. I don’t give strength training a bad rap and tell people that strength training injured you and ruined your cycling career. You’re a Cat-3 racer, bro. You got no need to pick up that weight. It’s Cat-3, everybody wants to be on top of the podium, but that’s just stupid. Come on, man. Some of the Cat ones are even worse. They got to be super competitive and lift heavy weights and then tell me, “Oh, I put on three kilos and it knocked my cycling.” No shit!

You went home, lifted heavy weights, you have nothing to do with strength training for cycling, man. You don’t need a 1-RM. You don’t even need a 3-RM. The number of people that I’ve had as cyclists and triathletes do 3-RM even, I can count on two hands. Seven, seven people. You know why they did that? Because they came from a strength training background and they enjoyed it. And they knew they were carrying a little bit of extra weight, but they felt psychologically better when they were able to lift that stuff. Most other people doing are eight and 5-RMS, and even then, that’s maybe 60% of the people I’m working with. You don’t need it, leave it alone.

And the things I see on YouTube, are you kidding me? It’s just an ego fest, all. “I deadlifted 230 kilos.” Nobody cares, bro. That doesn’t carry over. “I’m a sprinter, that’s where I need to lift the heavyweights.” Your speed off the ground was crap on your technique was crap. Get out of here. All right. Geez! Man, telling you. Now, when it comes to what you actually need from max strength, it’s sets of three to five. The other thing people get as they rest, “Oh, I need only rest 30 to 60 seconds.” Not if you’re actually after maximum strength.

If you actually want to get what you need to out of strength training for cycling, make those rest periods appropriate so you can get the speed off the ground that you need and learn how to coordinate intra and intermuscularly so that you can have the technique great. That’s the other thing that really gets me pissed off, is people picking up heavyweight with crappy technique, and then they have 45,000 followers on Instagram saying, “Aah, you’re amazing!” You’re going to break your back and you’re showing people how to do it incorrectly. And in fact, that is a problem we have on Instagram and on YouTube.

There are a number of lawsuits out there against Instagram stars who really don’t know what they’re doing who are genetically gifted. The females have it worse than the males in my opinion. There’s a number of females who have glutes that are naturally gifted to them, they didn’t do anything to earn them necessarily. Yeah, they hit the gym a little bit, but looking up the amount of weight they’re moving and what they’re doing and never having met them, I’m looking at this, I’m like, “The chances that your strength training routine or what you call a booty routine has actually given you that but is 10%.”

Then you see a picture of them with their sisters or cousins and you’re like, “That is genetics, man.” So when it comes to these people on Instagram and YouTube, you need to take a step back and think, what actual experience do they have in this world and how many people are getting hurt on their programs? And there are a number of lawsuits out there for people who have no right, no right, to strength training programs and disseminate them and who are making money off of it and they are going into lawsuits because they’re idiots, because they’re like, “Oh, this is what I do. This is what worked for me.” That’s not what a good coach is, man.

I teach people based off of sound, fundamental principles, the art of coaching, seeing what actually works out there, trying stuff on my own, and also working with other athletes and letting them know, “Hey, we’re going to try something new.” But you never take a person to a point where they’re at mechanical failure for a cyclist and triathlete. No. That’s not what you need. Technical failure at best, man. So if you have a set of five written down and you get your third repetition and you’re doing a Sumo deadlift when you’ve worked on your technique, maybe it’s not as far as other people are, like, “Oh, you’re barely doing a Sumo. It doesn’t count.”

It doesn’t matter what they think, that’s Sumo for you. Most of us as cyclist have weak adductors, adductors, inner thigh muscles, and our abductors aren’t really working as well, so our Sumo stance isn’t going to be as good as it “should be”. We’re not competitively powerlifting. You also shouldn’t be picking stuff up off the ground for deadlift heavy stuff. No, bring it up, bring it up six to 12 inches… sorry, six to eight inches. It should be mid-shin rack pulls will get you the same benefit you need based off of the movement than you will for deadlifts off the floor. You got to be smart, man. The reason I’m going off right here is because the max strength is the highest likelihood.

If you follow the steps up until now, a lot of people think, max strength, singles, doubles, powerlifting. The thing we want is we want repetitive speed. If you listened to the episode with Dean Somerset, he talks about that. I have some experimental stuff going on here that we’re working with a company to work on measuring bar speed and coming up with a number of parameters to help cyclists from around the world be able to lift better. But that’s what we were looking after. It doesn’t matter the weight on the bar, it matters how quickly you can move the bar with great technique and how that carries over to the bike.

And this is where the max strength, the reason it’s in base, is because we’re now training to… Essentially, it’s conjugate method. We’re training endurance on the bike and we’re getting something else in the weight room. So we’re challenging your endurance. And a lot of people say, “Oh, during base period, I do sets of 30 and 40 repetitions.” You are hammering your body into the ground and you’re asking for an overuse injury, because you’re doing the same thing over and over again. You have to balance it. This is where the conjugate method is fantastic. And anybody who’s participated in a program with me knows that I use that.

Why are we doing some jumping? I’m not a basketball player. No, you’re not, but you still got to have to master your coordination to be able to do that and learn how to deal with those forces on top of the fact it’s going to get you to be able to recruit these muscles to work together even better. And yet, a lot of cyclists say, “Oh, I’m going to do tons of plyometrics. I’m doing 300 or 500 or 800 different touches a day.” Oh my Lord! You are not in a impact sport. You’re going to have tendonitis. And a lot of cyclists get this in the early spring when they go through these plyometric programs where they’re doing massive amounts of box jumps.

And not only doing sets of 30, 40, 50 box jumps to boxes that are way too high and you hear [inaudible 00:39:53], because they’re landing with their feet so hard instead of landing [inaudible 00:39:57]. They’re not learning how to dissipate the forces, so their tendons and their joints are taking a pounding. And again, they’re saying, “Whoa! The strength training ruined me for cycling.” No, it didn’t, you don’t understand the principles. The number of touches you need in plyometrics for a basketball player is going to be between 350 and 500 at the high school level. But these are players who have been playing for the last three, four years.

And if they haven’t, they’re still going out and running let’s say between 15 and 20,000 steps a day or three or four days a week because they’re playing and running and jumping. You’re on a bike, man. You got to give the tissues time to adapt. Dr. McGill talked about this as well. It takes time for those anatomical adaptations to take place. That three to eight weeks isn’t magical. The bones or knock of your spine, the tissues of the spine are not going to be able to deal with heavy deadlifts and squats after three to eight weeks of anatomical adaptation, nor after you do… I don’t know, the six to 12 weeks or eight to 12 weeks of muscular hypertrophy. It takes years to get that.

If you want to learn about how long it takes to have these adaptations, pick up the Gift of Injury by Brian McCarroll and Dr. McGill, because they really go through it. Brian McCarroll is once again a world-class power lifter. He had what most perceived as a career-ending back injury. He went to Dr. McGill, he said, “I will do whatever you tell me, get me out of pain.” Dr. McGill said, “Well, maybe I can get you out of pain and back to doing what you love. Are you willing to do everything I say? You got to follow it to a tee.” And Brian McCarroll being the incredible athlete that he is and always looking to learn said yes.

It took him, I think, nine months. It was supposed to take a year. It took a long time. You read the book and it’s fascinating. They did five days of increasing load, very careful. They did a lot of measurements, make sure everything was okay, we didn’t push too far, and then five days completely off. Most of us as endurance athletes suck at recovery. And we’ll have another episode about that here. But the max strength is where you can go through that stage in base, the end of base, at the beginning of build, and you can see fantastic results if you do it right and you listen to your body and you’re smart about it.

So what are the things that I got hot under the collar about that you should not be doing? Number one is 1-RM, never, ever, ever, ever. You don’t need it, unless you’re a powerlifter or a basketball… No, not even a basketball player. Unless you are a powerlifter or an Olympic weightlifter, competitive, who is using cycling to help your cardiorespiratory fitness. In that case, go for it, man, have at it, that’s your main sport; Olympic lifting and powerlifting. Chances are you’re listening to this Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast which means that’s probably not you, which means, if you really want to do a rep max, go for five or eight and stop when your technique sucks.

And if your technique isn’t very good, don’t do it, work on mastering that technique. It’s that simple. So, we have anatomical adaptations, three to eight weeks. We have muscular hypertrophy which you have to go through, which is at least… well, I’m going to say eight to 12 weeks, six to 10 weeks we’ll go with, okay. Then we have max strength, which is going to be eight to 12 weeks. Now, once we go through the max strength, we’re going to go to the transition to sport-specific strength. This is where we’re getting into build two at the beginning of the competitive season or build one depending on how long your season is.

And this is where we get into more explosive stuff. We’ll do some jumping at the beginning, but the sets and repetitions are low. So if you keep an eye out, I have a piece coming out on PezCycling News. There’s a series that’s going to come out here in the fall of 2019. So if you’re listening to this in 2020, 2021, or in the future, look back at the PezCycling toolbox for September, October, November, 2019. There’s a series of articles there that are going to explain to you how many jumps. So the first one comes out here in September and you’re going to have three sets of four. That’s it, four jumps.

And the number one complainant is, “Coach, I can do more. I did 12. I did 20.” No, we’re looking for a neuromuscular connection and to get that explosiveness. We’re not looking for the number of repetitions until you get tired, we’re looking for technique. We want to concentrate, we want to have you fully focused and get those muscles moving the way they need to move, get the joints moving the way they need to move. So it’s very low repetitions. Then after that, we might even do an Olympic lift, or a part of an Olympic lift. For the record, I pretty much don’t have anybody do snatches. That’s where you have a wide grip on the bar if you’re a cyclist or triathlete. Your shoulders usually aren’t that strong.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some rare exceptions out there, but most of you, a clean or a hang power clean where it’s a part of an Olympic lift is going to be beneficial for you. And this is where you want to go out and find a experienced coach to help coach you through these. So most of the individuals I work with over the internet, kettlebell swings, kettlebell snatches are fine. And the kettlebell snatch is very rare, but it’s something I can coach distally and we can also find usually somebody who can coach that. Whereas finding a good Olympic coach, not just someone who has the CrossFit basics certification, but someone who actually is a USA Olympic weightlifting coach, is a little bit more challenging.

But if you have one at your disposal, go for it, but let them know, “My main sport is not Olympic weightlifting. I just need to learn the basics and get better at the basics.” And if they’re a great coach, they’re going to tell you, “That’s all I do all day, every day. Regardless of what level you’re at, is we just work on the basics.” But let them know that your volume and load doesn’t need to be that high. But if you can, it’s worth it to pay a really, really good coach. And when I say a really good coach, I’m not talking about the one whose individuals are doing these crazy things.

I’m talking about the one who cues their athletes, who listens to them, who has conversations, who during the set doesn’t really talk, or they give them one, maybe two cues at most during the set, and then they give them feedback after. That is a big nugget I just gave you. That’s the hope diamond of coaching. You do not want someone who’s sitting there talking at you or with you while you’re doing your set. And this is the thing that the interns here at HVT have noticed with me, is that at the beginning, I tend to talk a little bit during the sets. I want to try and see what the athlete’s doing without overthinking it, if they’re type of athlete, so I engage them a little bit more.

Then after a while, the talking happens between sets, and usually it’s to take up the rest periods, because when we’re doing max strength, we need between three and five minutes of rest between that exercise, three and five minutes. So I want to distract the athlete and not have them watch the clock and go, “Oh, it’s been 45 seconds. I feel great. I want to go again.” The neuromuscular system takes time to refresh. So if you’re really doing max strength, if you’re really doing max strength, you’re resting at least three to five minutes between that main exercise.

So let’s say we’re doing a compound set, or a superset if you will, so in the Vortex method, we’ll do, let’s say front squats, three quarter front squats to box with a pause and explode up and max strength. And we’ll do, let’s say three sets of four, and then we’ll do something like a sideline windmill. So the clock for that recovery starts for that athlete when they’ve racked the bar from the front squats. So by the time they’re done with their set of five, let’s say sideline windmills, they only have a minute, minute and a half, left of recovery, which is enough time to take a sip of water, look at their phone and check their technique from their video or talk with me and get a corrective cue or a cue that they need, or just stand there and wait until that time goes off.

So it doesn’t end after you finish your second exercise, it’s after the first one. So it actually goes a little bit faster. But this is really important because the neuromuscular system takes time to recover. And there’s a number of tools I talk about in the Strength Training for Cycling Success and Strength Training for Triathlon Success course that you can use to help you gauge your neuromuscular recovery. And also in this upcoming Strength Training for Cycling Certification I have, we also talk at length about the different tools that you can use to help measure the athlete’s recovery and readiness for that day.

We’re not going to get into that today because we’re only on stage number four, which is the transition to sport strength. The thing about this is, is everybody’s going to be a little bit different. There are some triathletes I have who are still lifting heavy at this point because that’s what they respond to. They’re very fast twitch or they need to be more fast twitch because they’re looking for speed on their run or speed on their bike. Whatever it may be, they need that heavy stimulus and they feel best. And there are also other athletes that are doing a little bit more endurance stuff, because now on the bike, they’re working on their sprint, they’re working on their threshold.

So we’re changing what we’re doing in the weight room not to mimic what they’re doing out on the bike, but to be opposite that unless we really have a weakness. Now, the last kind of thing we need to keep in mind, and this is a much higher level than 95% of you are going to need, but at the professional level, or someone who’s about to go pro, we need to think about the energy systems. This is where I use the inside testing, so we’ll see what the energy system contributions are for the athlete and then we’ll have to time the sets because for those who are sprinters, we don’t want to tap too much in the ATP-PC energy system in the weight room.

We don’t want to push them into glycolytic, rather, we want to stay in that ATP-PC energy system. So we’ll do it based off of time under the bar. So maybe I wrote a set of five, but they’re just not that fast today and they only get to three and that time’s up. They rack the bar, they’re done, because we don’t want to screw with those energy systems, we need to keep them sharp. But that’s a discussion for way, way in the future because we’ve got a lot more to cover before that. So, the transition to sport-specific strength, how do we do this? Is it big, over-geared climbing? Is it is big, over-geared riding? What do we do? It depends. What does the athlete need?

So sometimes, in order to get this strength to turn over to the bike, I’ve actually had athletes put on triple chain rings in the Northeast, specifically in Pennsylvania and Vermont… or rather Massachusetts rather, and have them use the small ring so they could spin up at 95 cadence plus every single client that they go over, minus a couple. And people make fun of them, like, “Dude, it’s race season, what are you doing? Why do you have a triple on?” Then these people go out, put on their standard chain rings, and just crush people in the race. They’re like, “What did you do? Tell me about that triple chain ring.”

It wasn’t the triple chain ring. It was now we’re taking those motor units from the max strength and the hypertrophy that we’ve done before this and the anatomical adaptations and we’re converting that strength over onto the bike into use of those motor units into how you need it in the sport. We brought your cadence up because you ride best at fast cadences and you need to climb high cadences. So this whole conversion to strength on the bike thing being big gears and putting on weight and riding with a backpack, it’s all BS! It’s a force-velocity thing, that’s what we’re looking at.

So if you’re going to train with those big gears, yeah, you’re going to tap a little bit into the motor units, but when you’re racing, you’re not racing at 40 to 50 cadence. You kidding me, man? I actually haven’t gotten to the point yet where I’ve had somebody use massive, massive gears to get this low, but we can also do hill climbing at a cadence of 35 to 40 as long as you can keep the bike upright. Usually, we do this on the spin bike, where we get the athlete to use the core strength to be able to maintain that, to push, and that’s very hormonal and metabolic and neuromuscular type of effort.

So those are pretty rare and far between for me to actually use, but we’ve used it once or twice here in the last decade and a half. Well, couple more times than that, but it’s very rare. So don’t think strength training is moving just heavy things. The time to move the heavy things is after anatomical adaptation, stage one, after muscular hypertrophy, yes, you read that right, stage two, and then after max strength. Then we need to convert you to specific strength on the bike. And guess what? Big, ringed work is not it, bro. It’s not it. Now, it isn’t to say that it isn’t important, I do use that during base.

So just as we have the triple chain ring slapped on and the athlete went out and just crushed people after… He really got ribbed. The first person who did it was Andy Sykes. Sorry to call you up by name, Andy, but I know you’re good about this. So he went out and he did extremely well and people were giving him crap, “Oh, you’ve got the baby, the grand gear on.” Then he came out and had has best season yet and people are like, “What the hell! Where did that come from?” Part of it is because he’s recovery, he’s intelligent, he’s always learning, he was a back and forth between coach and athlete.

And the second thing is because he listened to his body and he understood the process of what we were going through. And at that point, I think Andy was able to do between six and eight pull-ups, which a lot of people are also, “Oh, you’re fat. You’re too big as a cyclist.” His whole teammates gave him that, but he’s going out and crushing it. So it came from a place of love, but you know what? That wears on somebody. I know that if people called me fat, I’d be like, “Yeah, you’re right.” But other cyclists who are competitive would be like, “Oh man, I’m putting on too much muscle mass.” Look at your relative watts per kilo at your different power numbers.

And those should be going up, not the absolute necessarily. So there’s some athletes who we start strength training, they actually go down in weight, because they lose body fat, their body responds well to it, and their relative, their absolute watts per kilo… Or watts per kilo don’t go up. Rather, their absolute watts don’t go up, but their relative watts per kilo go up. So they’re like, “I don’t understand this. I’m lifting heavy things, I’m getting lighter, and I’m getting faster. How does that make sense?” And that’s usually the athletes who’ve been riding for a number of years who their body wants this muscle mass. It wants to have more muscle and to get rid of the excess fat.

Whereas the other side of things, you have the other athlete where they put on a little bit of weight, they get a little bit leaner, they look better in their kits, and they’re like, “Man, I’m climbing as good as ever and my numbers haven’t gone up, but I can go for an eight-minute climb instead of six minutes and maintain the same power.” That’s a win from strength training. And this is where a lot of people don’t get it. They’re like, “Oh, my watts per kilo didn’t go up.” Yeah, maybe not, but we got you metabolically and hormonally to be able to handle the rigors and recover better and be able to have more muscle mass tap into cross-section to be able to produce that power.

So your numbers didn’t go up, but you’re able to maintain that and recover faster… maintain that longer and recover faster. Now, that’s not going to happen just from strength training. Let me make that clear. You have to do the on-bike work and that is an absolute in order to see that progress. So there’s a lot there, right? And we still haven’t even talked about just a little bit of the maintenance, and this is where you’re getting into peak. And usually, for most of the athletes I work with here… Actually, there is no usually, it’s anywhere from three to five weeks. I have athletes who have done one really heavy day a week where they feel great and they move the weight.

They’re in and out in a half hour. People look at them like, “You did three sets of three for three exercises and you did like three other exercises that are range of motion and you’re crushing it. What’s going on?” It’s all the work that went on before that. Whereas I have other people at the other end of the spectrum where they’re doing five days a week of a five to eight-minute routine after their rides or before their rides; a couple kettlebell swings for example, and a yoga back extension, and chin tuck head lift. That’s all they’re doing. And McGill Crunch maybe. And that’s it. And people are like, “How are you so strong?” It’s a matter of finding what works for you.

But that maintenance, the key is, we don’t want to go too long. Six weeks is relatively long. I generally like to keep it between three and five. But the individuals who are going six, they’re more group riding, they’re looking at events over the course of July and August or August, September, and they want to stay in shape a little bit longer, which is fine, and we work on it. But that also means the anatomical adaptation is going to be a little bit shorter because we’ve gone through a decrease in volume and stress on the body and it also may mean that the anatomical adaptation may be longer. You’re thinking, “Well, you just contradicted yourself.” Well, it depends on the athlete and what they need.

So, that’s it for today’s episode. We covered a ton of information. I apologize for the phone call, but other than that, pretty much straight through because I want to share with you guys how things actually need to work. And the five stages; anatomical adaptation, number one, muscular hypertrophy, number two, max strength, number three, transition over to sport-specific strength, number four, and number five is that maintenance. These are important stages to go through every single year and should be planned out ahead of time.

You should have a rough idea and that will allow you to plan your work and work your plan and keep you from getting injured and experiencing all these negative things that people are saying about strength training, which really just isn’t true. So I hope you found today’s episode to be really useful and informative. If you have questions, feel free to email me, Brodie, B as in boy, R-O, D as in dog, I-E@humanvortextraining.com. You can also check out the HV Training website, humanvortextraining.com. Make sure you sign up for our newsletter, lots of great stuff coming up.

And as I mentioned, the PezCycling News, the toolbox pieces will be coming out here in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for those. You can also follow us on Instagram @hvtraining and the YouTube channel at HV Training, and Facebook, Human Vortex Training, or www.facebook.com/hvt412. So that’s it for today. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys again next week and to having our guest in the coming weeks because we’re going to go through a Qualify for Kona 2020 Series for Triathletes, helping you clean up your training, get the most out of what you need to this year, and plan for Kona qualification next year.

Now, it’s not a guarantee, but we’re going to give you as many expert tips and advice as possible to get you there. I just want to thank you guys once again for tuning in for today. So that’s it. Remember, until next time, train smarter, not harder, because it is all about you.

Speaker 1:

That’s it for this episode of the Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast with world-leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie. Don’t miss an episode, hit that subscribe button and give us a review. For more exclusive content, visit humanvortextraining.com, or get the latest expert videos from Coach Brodie on the HVT YouTube channel at HV Training. Until next time, remember to train smarter, not harder, because it is all about you.

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Menachem Brodie

Menachem Brodie

Coaching since 2000, Menachem Brodie has been working with athletes in a number of settings, and a broad variety of sports.

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