Episode 20 – Building your Aerobic engine through high-power/ high-intensity intervals (One doesn’t even feel like high intensity)

The strong savvy cyclist & triathlete podcast

While it’s officially “Base time” for many cyclists in the Northern Hemisphere, many are not getting 50% (or more) of what they can (or should) out of their time on the road building their Aerobic Energy System. LSD (Long Slow Distance) is still the mantra for many, and while these kinds of rides ARE necessary, they should NOT be the only kind of training that you do to help improve your riding or triathloning (if that is even a word, lol).

If you’re looking to build a bigger, STRONGER engine on which to ride, race, or compete, you can & MUST use STRENGTH TRAINING, along with in-sport training, to MASSIVELY increase your Wattage.

Perhaps the best part of using this approach, is you get BETTER results, for a fraction of the amount of time (and boredom) it takes you when doing only Long Slow Distance training!

Yet NOBODY talks about this!

But only doing Long Slow Distances leaves us only challenging 2 of the 3 Pillars we need to build in order to increase our aerobic capacity. Don’t get me wrong, you DO need long rides, runs, and swims, but when and HOW you execute them, as well as your ability to Recover & Adapt to them, play key roles.

In todays episode we discuss 2 Training approaches- 1 which can be done with strength training or riding/running, and another which is often abused and misused on the bike, in order to not only boost your Aerobic Capacity, but also your Aerobic Power- an incredibly frequently neglected part of the energy system, which leaves so much potential on the table for endurance athletes.

Yes, Strength Training for Cyclists & Strength Training for Triathletes need to be done differently, and this is one of the many ways in which we need to change the thinking!

Don’t forget to Like & Share this episode, and to Subscribe for more content and information, from the World-Leading Strength Coach for Cyclists & Triathletes!

Strength Training for Triathlon Success Course (Training Peaks University)

4 Pillars of Athletic Development (Exercise Science: How Your Fitness Progresses Over Time)

HRV4 Training Blog post on Training Monotony






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. 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. Today, we are going to get into part two of improving or increasing your aerobic horsepower through use of strength training. That is correct. You can improve your aerobic horsepower. So you already have horsepower in your engine, in your body already as it is that we can tap into by using strength training to get you adaptations that you need in order to see results on the bike.

Now, part two of today, the second half of today’s lesson we’ll call it or podcast, we’re going to talk about muscle recruitment intervals on the bike. This is an area that I see very neglected, not neglected, abused. I see a lot of coaches not using it quite right. Remember, before we start putting a big ring work in or over-geared work, we really need to make sure that the athlete has a nice, stable platform with which they are able to perform. This is something that I’ve been working on for the last number of years.

What we’re going to talk about here today in part one is what I call cardiac power intervals. Some of the HVT athletes out there listening especially the triathletes are going to sit there and go, “Oh wow. He’s going to talk about these? Whoo, you guys have no idea what you’re in for. Bringing the pain.” They are very fun in a weird twisted kind of way. Only fun because of the results you’re going to see from them. There are fantastic results when we go through cardiac power intervals.

But those of you listening, triathletes in particular that I’ve coached and some of the cyclists I’ve coached, we are going to talk about how to do these in the strength training room. Then, we’ll talk about how to do them on the bike. You can also do them on the run. The thing is here and that’s I guess my key phrase if I made a t-shirt, it would be train smarter, not harder around the back.

The thing is it depends. Those would be the three t-shirts we’d make. The thing is here is that we’re going to talk about this, but you need to keep in mind that the basics still apply Don’t discard other stuff in the last episode, episode 19, of The Strong Savvy Cyclists and Triathlete Podcast, and just run into doing the two we’re going to talk about today. They are in this order for a reason. If you’re listening to episode 20 because someone liked or shared it on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter or whatever it is that they posted it and you found it, don’t jump into these first.

Maybe, it’s even better to go back two episodes to episode 18 where we talk about the five stages of strength adaptations in the body, but make sure you’re going through these in order. They’re in this order for a reason because I’m trying to give you real actionable advice you can go out and see fantastic results, not do it for two and a half months or two and a half weeks see some results and then, get injured. Please, make sure you’re doing this in order.

Before we get into that today, what I do want to talk about just a little bit is something I’ve been working on. Some of you have noticed that the podcast went on a hiatus from about May until August of 2019 here. The reason that happened, and I apologize to those of you who subscribed and followed us and the couple emails I got saying I really enjoyed it, are you done with the podcast, are you going to continue it, there’s a lot of great stuff there.

The reason we took a break from it is because for the last 19 months, over a year and a half, I have been working on my strength training for cycling certification course. This is something I’m taking the 15-plus years I’ve been in the field specifically 15 years with cyclists and triathletes, but almost a quarter century that I’ve been involved in health and fitness and wellness and learning and being curious and helping others for the last 15 years, is all going to be into this course.

Now, this is an actual certification. If you’ve taken either of my training peaks courses, strength training for cycling success or strength training for triathlon success, this is a completely different course. This is not the same. There’s more detail. We get into more of the programming. We really do a deep dive into why and how. We have a whole section on breath work and how to write your programming.

There is a ton of information in there. However, there is going to be a special offer for a very limited time for those of you on the humanvortextraining.com newsletter. If you’d like to get a special offer and a special deal, it’s a one-time thing. If you’re listening to this after the late fall or early winter of 2019, I’m sorry, but that time has passed. You should still sign up for the newsletter, but we’re only going to run this special to the list, the Human Vortex Training list of newsletter signups for a very limited time. Make sure you get on that because it’s a one-time deal. Those who know me know I’m not kidding when I say that.

Okay. Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get into cardiac power intervals. These are some of my favorite. Why is it called cardiac power? Well Coach Brodie, isn’t cardiac power, shouldn’t that be involved in build two or peak? No. Actually, this week’s episode is being delayed a little bit. We’re releasing this on Thursday which as the world has it works out extremely well for you, guys, because what we’re going to talk about here is how a lot of you are doing your base training long and that you’re doing too much of mono-training. You’re doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Base miles, thankfully, since day one as an exercise scientist, I didn’t buy into the whole long and slow for five months out of the year and then, you go fast. Now, certainly, you need to build a base. However, from day one at Human Vortex Training and even before I opened Human Vortex Training, I had many, if not all, of the cyclists and triathletes that I work with from day one doing high intensity work in their base period.

I can tell you there were exactly three coaches who shoved the fingers in my chest or wagged them in my face and said, “You’re ruining their career before it even starts. You’re destroying these athletes. You don’t deserve to be a coach. You’re an idiot. I can’t believe you’re doing that.” Well, now we see that it was actually the right thing to do both from the results those athletes were able to attain. I don’t say this to brag. I just say this to mean that, as a sport, we have been incredibly closed-minded as to how and what our athletes need. That includes strength training. These coaches were wrong. I knew they were wrong because I had seen the results in other sports that required some endurance as well as I was coming up.

We need training variability. You cannot do the same thing over and over and over and over and over again for weeks on end and expect the body to adapt because you’re stressing the body in the same ways. That leads to overreaching and possibly over training if you think you’re a hard man or woman and just try and plow through.

We all know somebody who’s done that. I got to the point where I overreached. I thought I was over trained, but thankfully I was not. I overreached, and I didn’t even want to look at my bike for about three months after that. I lost all the fitness I had. That was about the second year that I was cycling, but I was good at then. We did a couple hundred milers. I did, I think, three century rides in something like four weeks or something at decent paces with stronger riders and then everything [inaudible 00:07:48]

I don’t want you to do that. There’s actually a blog post by HRV For Training which I’ll link to in the show notes that actually talks about what they determine mono-training. That’s a new feature they’ve released on HRV for Training. This is one of the apps along with Morpheus that. I used to train with HRV for athletes around the world. A great coach out of Las Vegas, Greg Choat, introduced me to the HRV for Training back in the fall of 2018 when I was presenting at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit on strength training for cyclists and doing those breakout sessions.

I met Greg a number of years ago, and Greg is an excellent coach. If you’re in or around Las Vegas, you need to look him up, fantastically knowledgeable guy, really down to earth, always curious. He is a fantastic coach. I know I’m supposed to plug myself here, but I can’t help it. I just want you guys and ladies out there to find a really great coach near you. Greg is definitely one of them. He’s also a bike fitter. Check him out. He also coaches badminton players, just a fantastic mind.

Check him out. Greg Choat is his name, C-H-O-A-T. He’s from the underside of the world on New Zealand if I’m not mistaken. Greg, if I got that wrong, please forgive me. I’m 99% positive it’s New Zealand.

Anyhow as for today, we want a mix-up in your training. That doesn’t mean you should do this muscle confusion or a little bit of this, a little bit of that. We clearly need a structured periodized approach to your training, but during our base period, we need to increase the aerobic engine. That’s what we’re talking about. This is where these coaches were jabbing literally. It hurt. I’m pretty sure I had to bruise the next day after one of them jabbed his finger into my chest repeatedly and really unkind and did not take lightly to that at all.

But I’d let him yell at me. I’m like, “Okay. I’m new, whatever. If you have a thing with it, all right, man, we’ll find out. Maybe, I am wrong. Maybe, I’m wrong.” That’s one of the things, is maybe I am wrong. Maybe, in five years, 10 years from now on 2025, we’ll find out I’m wrong. That’s part of coaching. It’s the art and science of coaching.

Yes, some of you have heard me go off in the past about how if you’re coaching only based off of research that’s printed and out there, you’re easily five to 10 years behind what the best coaches are doing. I stand by that because I was one of those coaches who went only based off of research for the first five years. Then, I realized thankfully to some great coaching mentors and reading a ton and my own experiences that the best coaches out there are doing stuff that’s way before the researchers have the chance to go and find what they’re doing and then get through IRB, the Internal Review Board to clear it and then to do the research and everything else and the funding.

Yes, I’m not saying that as a knock to research-based coaching. It still works. I’m just saying some of us are curious and tinkerers. We try and look for what works for that athlete. Then, that becomes a little bit popular and guys like Greg and I talk, and Greg and other great coaches talk, and Greg had other great coaches that coached him and he coached them. It’s all a huge mastermind, if you will.

For today, I know it was a little bit of a tangent, but bear with me here. It’s important. For today, when we’re talking about building your aerobic engine, part of that is we need to improve your oxygen supply at higher intensities and the ability of your heart to maintain those intensities. This is a common thing that I see in the spring time. And, again, people will contact me and say… This is March, let’s say and they’re in the northeast like, “Hey, I met you so many years ago in the [inaudible 00:11:22] or I heard about you from so and so. You used to coach or you are coaching. Hey I had a great base period. I just did my first race. I just can’t keep up the intensities. Can I hire you for three months to help me get my intensity so I can race really strong in June, July?”

Occasionally, I’ll take people on for this, but the whole point of today’s episode is to kind of curtail that. I want to give you the tools that you need in order to avoid sending me or another coach that email. Hopefully, it’s me because I provide enough value, but actually even more so than that, I hope that I give you the tools necessary and the knowledge you needed so you don’t even have to contact me. Instead, you’re going to contact me and say, “Hey, I just had my first race. Thanks for episodes 19 and 20. I just crushed everybody, and I really have better fitness.”

When people talk about the aerobic engine, they talk about cardiac output. They’re talking about at least the ability to push more oxygen, but a lot of people think you have to do that through long slow distances. While that may be true, that’s going to improve the eccentric or stretching strength of the heart. You’re going to get a bigger left ventricle. We also need to think about the ability of the heart to contract concentrically which is the shortening. That’s when it’s pushing the blood out. We have to think about that, and most people don’t.

Now, the thing that we need to keep in mind and I know it seems to be a catchphrase for today, and I’m sorry for saying that about 15 times, one of the things to keep in mind, there we go, we’ll find different variations of it, is we need to sprinkle in some intensities in an order that makes sense for us to be able to progress.

As we spoke about last week, we don’t want to go out and do the 3131 tempo lifts and the long endurance rides between 125 to 155 beats per minute and the cardiac power intervals we’re going to talk about and the MRIs all at the same time. You got to choose one or two to mix it up along with those long rides. Let’s be clear. I want to make sure it’s absolutely clear. You do need those long rides.

I generally like to build the athletes I work with up to about 10% to 15% longer than their goal distance race for the coming year or whatever their average is going to be for the year. Why do we do that? Because you want to have a little bit of a reserve, but you don’t need too much. There are a number of riders, they will all raise their hand or shake their head yes, that came to me and said, “Oh, I want to do five century rides by October 31st by Halloween. I want to do five century rides. ”

I’d say to them, “Well, you’re a category four racer. None of your rides were races. Even at category three next year are going to be more than 60 miles. Why do you need to do a hundred?” Well, I need a really strong base. Base period and base fitness includes far more than long so distance.

If you want to be a better cyclist, a better triathlete you need to add in and sprinkle in these methods we spoke about. The reason part one was the cardiac power… I’m sorry, excuse me. The reason part one rather was the 3131 tempo. We spoke about those long slow rides increasing the ability of the heart to push more blood out and making sure that you’re staying in that 125 to 155 heart rate range. That’s not magic, but we need to stay in the endurance range is because we’re setting the foundation. We’re setting you up to be able to go.

Now that we’ve done that for four to eight weeks, now we can move on to today. You have a little bit of intensity there. When you do those 3131 tempo lifts, you are getting lactate threshold increase. Now, it’s not like it is on the bike. Like we spoke about, you have to have those rest periods, six to 10 minutes in between, five to 10 minutes active recovery. Go do something else. Do another strength training exercise or two. Keep yourself moving. Then, come back. You’re building that intensity but in this strength training regimen in a different way than you would on the bike.

Now, you’re going to feel the burn like you would normally, but it’s going to be stressing the structures differently. You’re getting what you need for the bike, but you’re getting it somewhere else. Now that you’ve done that, so you’ve strengthened the stretching ability of the heart, the eccentric ability that you’ve made the left ventricle larger able to hold more volume so the Q volume is going to be greater that’s amount of blood with each stroke that goes out and you’ve now lowered your resting heart rate.

Let’s say you did what we talked about in part one for four to six weeks, four to eight weeks. Now, it’s time to introduce the cardiac power intervals and the muscle recruitment intervals. The cardiac power intervals, we’re going to talk about first how to apply it in the weight room. Now, most of my triathletes, we haven’t done this in the weight room for there’s a reason for that because we need only so much energy.

Remember, training is efficient when the least amount of energy and effort go in to producing the result that you’re after. That’s what we want, the least amount of stress and strain in order to get to that end goal, not crushing yourself.

The cardiac power intervals are extremely challenging. I tend to do these with either jump rope if you’re an intermediate or advanced strength training athlete. Remember, if you’ve been riding your bike for 10 years, 12 years but you’ve only been strength training for three months out of the year every year, your training age is 10 years divided by a quarter or a quarter of 10 years, so, two and a half years. You’re not intermediate or advanced because you haven’t had contiguous training throughout a year.

Intermediate and advanced strength training athletes are those who have been training with weight or strength resistance not just body weight for at least two years consistently with good technique and good positions. You can be training for two years, but have bad technique and bad positions where your shoulders are rounded forward. You have back pain. You have hip pain. You’re not an intermediate strength training athlete yet.

Follow what we talk about here on the Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast or in my courses, and you will get there. You’re intermediate. We will do jump rope. If you are a beginner, we may do something such as a prowler. A prowler is a sled that you push. We’re talking maximum intensity.

Now, that’s pretty much it for the beginners or intermediates. Why? Because there’s a lot of risk in a lot of other exercises. I don’t want you kettlebell swing for a minute although I’m a big proponent of kettlebells. There’s too many people whose technique breaks down. It gets risky. If you don’t have a sled or something that you can hook up and pull or push, then I don’t recommend doing cardiac power intervals in the gym.

If you have access to these, you do not need heavy weight because it needs to be a maximum output. You need to be going at a 100% for one minute, a 100% intensity. Now, you can easily understand how these transfer over to the bike. Here’s where most people mess it up. They go again too quickly. Doing one minute all outs on your bike, on one to two minutes of rest is not a cardiac power interval because you’re not getting enough rest time for the neuromuscular system or the cardiac system to recover unless, unless it depends, unless you are getting your heart rate able to get your heart rate down to about 125 beats per minute in that two minutes’ rest period.

Two to one rest period is for advanced athletes. That’s not going to be most of you out there. You need to wait to go again pedaling easy. That’s the other place people screw up is their activity, their recovery “pedaling” on the bike is way too hard. They’re going at endurance. When we say recovery, granny with the streamers and the Yorkshire Terriers or the Pomeranian on the jail trail or the bike trail rather, it’s called the Jail Trail in Pittsburgh because it goes past the county jail should pass you when you’re going through your recovery.

But then, you hit your one minute and you are flying. That is what we are after. That is exactly what we want here now this allows us to improve our oxygen supply at our higher intensities and also allows us to improve the ability of the heart to endure those higher efforts.

Now, the light bulb should be going off like, “Huh, I get it. Okay. I can see that.” Now, you can do this pushing and pulling a sled. You want to make sure that you have good posture, you have good bracing abilities at the midsection because we don’t want you to have knee pain or back pain when you do these. You have to have an iron core. We just closed our six-week group course here for online.

If you tried to sign up for that and missed it, I’m sorry, but we had a hard deadline. Wait for the next one which will open in a week or two. We’ll see what we’re going to do here, but you need to have an iron core. Why is this important? Because while we’re doing this interval, if you don’t have a good solid base, you’re doing maximum intensity. You can also do this sprinting by the way if you’re a triathlete. Just make sure you’re not sprinting on a flat treadmill.

Please, make sure you’re putting it up at least 2% up to 4% grade or so. We want to be kind to your knees. If you’re on a treadmill, don’t do it on flat or 0% grade. 2 to 4% grade is plenty. Some of you have bad knees. You may do one and a half, but you need to have it up.

The reason this is important because if you have a bad core, you’re going to set yourself up for injury. When I say core, I’m talking about everything between the knees, the elbows and the neck. I’m not just talking about the transverse abdominis, the six-pack muscle and your obliques.

I’m talking about the erector spinae, the lat, everything. Your rib cage and pelvis need to be able to lock together. Why is this important? Because as you go through these, you’re doing a maximum effort. In order to get what you need out of this which is to increase the mitochondria or if you don’t believe that you can increase the number of mitochondria, increase the efficiency of the mitochondria and to stimulate an increase in the strength of your heart to be able to contract, to concentrically contract to push the blood out.

When you’re doing the low intensity rides, you’re increasing the ability of the heart to stretch to fill. Now, we’re working on the opposite side, the contraction, to push that out. If you’re not doing the intensity enough you’re not going to get the adaptations that you need.

Now, the great thing about this is you don’t need tons and tons of reps. In fact, you shouldn’t. If you’re a beginner and you have good strength for your midsection, you have an iron core and you’re able to push, you only need between four and eight repetitions. And most of you are going to be at four. We want quality of repetitions. Quality. Quality, not quantity, going, “Oh, well I’m a cyclist or a triathlete. I’m going to HTF you, or I’m a hard man.” Rule nine, it doesn’t matter. That’s being an idiot That’s banging your head against the wall.

Be smart we want the highest quality maximum effort that you can do with your heart rate recovering down to about 120, 125 beats per minute in between. That means the rest period is going to be anywhere between two and six minutes. That is a really long rest period. Why does it need to be so long? Because we’re talking maximum intensity. You are going until your eyes are crossed for one minute as hard as you can.

Now, I love putting these in to the “shorter rides” that I use with some of the triathletes in particular. Then, I have them go do a five or 10-minute run after. This is fun because it really gets them used to having tired legs getting off the bike which we don’t want for their triathlon for their peak event, but training through it allows them to better gauge their efforts on the bike.

It would look something like this. Triathlete is going to need to increase their aerobic power. On week one, we already went through, we talked about in the previous episode, episode 19. We already did the 3131 tempo for strength training for eight weeks. We did the traditional long slow rides, and the long slow rides again, 10 to 15% more than what their goal race distance is.

If it’s a 70.3, they’re doing a decent amount of mileage on the bike. They’re going to get a 57… I’m sorry a 65 to 70-mile ride once a week at the end. We’re going to build up to that starting off at about 50 miles because they already have a base. We’re talking about someone who’s already done a number of 70.3s. Let’s say they’re an intermediate triathlete who’s done 70.3s before. This is their third or fourth event. We’re going to start off at 50 miles. We’re going long and slow, but we’re doing less.

Then, each week, we’re going to increase between about 15 to 20 minutes until we wind up roughly getting to that distance of about 70, 72 miles. Why is it time and not distance based? Because it depends on the terrain that they have especially in Pittsburgh.

If you do a four-hour ride, you can easily have a intensity factor of 0.73, 74 which is a little bit higher than we’d like for this with a power meter, but you’ve only covered 58 miles because it’s very hilly whereas if you’re living in Florida or somewhere flat, you can do the same amount of time and cover 60 miles because you just have to deal with a little bit of headwinds or a lot, but the intensity factor is now 0.68. Now, you’re getting what you need out of it.

I like to do it based off of time looking at it from an energy system standpoint as opposed to distance, but we want to roughly wind up in the distances especially if the terrain is matching with that which the athlete is going to race on eventually. They’ve already done that. Now, they’re going to come in. We’ve done eight weeks of those two different approaches. During the week, they’re going to have sprinkled in a little bit of lactate threshold work if we’ll call it that during that introduction those first eight weeks.

Now, we’re in week nine to 16 of base. What this would look like? Monday would be a recovery ride. When I say recovery ride, we’re talking 20 to 45 minutes and really short depending on your life stress, your work stress and what you need. We want you on the bike or you can do a run. We would go from there, but we want to work out a relatively light workout going into this.

We don’t want to do anything super crazy. Once you’ve done that on Monday, we have a recovery ride. We don’t want to do the cardiac powers after a complete rest day. It doesn’t bode well. We want to have a little bit of, I guess, you’d call it a recovery session the day before because we want the systems working a little bit. This is called the development workout.

What this means is we’re pushing your abilities. This would be on Tuesday. The other reason I like to do it on Tuesday is because Tuesday, at least in Pittsburgh where I grew up, that tends to be the [inaudible 00:25:52] and the women’s race although now I think it’s the juniors and season [inaudible 00:25:56]. That’s going to cover most triathletes out there as far as their abilities on the bike.

It’s also a day that a lot of people are used to doing hard workouts. That’s kind of where that comes from, but we definitely don’t want to do it on Monday after our weekend rides because we’re fatigued. We want to come in where we’ve done something the day before and we’re relatively fresh, but not sitting around doing nothing. The cardiac power interval will look like this. It’s going to be on Tuesday. It would be a 70-minute ride.

We would start off with a 10 to 15-minute general warm-up. You just get rolling. Maybe, you have a couple activation exercises or breathing exercises to do before. Do five to eight minutes of activation and breath work not in that order, breath work and then activation. Let me get on the bike. We’ll do five to 10 minutes or 10 to 15 minutes of a light warm up.

Then, we’ll do a couple fast pedals or spin ups depending on what they need. Working on the neuromuscular system, getting it to fire a little bit more. It’ll take a five minute nice and easy. Once we finish the five minute nice and easy, we’re going to take you into a 10-minute tempo effort. The tempo we’re going to do this based off of power.

We can do this also based off of perceived exertion. I have been known to do this for some of my triathletes as we’ll go, and cyclists will go perceive the exertion during the base because I don’t want them to focus so much on the power number because some days, you just don’t have it. We’ll do a tempo for about 10 minutes. Then, we’ll do four minutes, just four minutes, at endurance.

We’ve got a nice thorough warm-up. We had the breathing exercises to get you in better positions. We had the fast pedals to get you neurologically and neuromuscularly warmed up. Then, we did tempo to really get everything firing. We did a very short endurance pace four minutes. Then, we’re going to get into our cardiac power intervals.

On the bike, we’re going to go one minute as hard as you can. We don’t want to… drive it up and then… blow up and barely hold on. We want to maintain a solid effort through the whole minute. Take five to 10 seconds to ramp up. Then, you’re holding on for dear life as you go. You want to be able to maintain that power output all the way to the end because at the end of the one minute, we have between two and six minutes, focus on your breathing. Relax your body. Get your heart rate back down to 120 to 125.

Let you recover. We’re really, really light pedaling. Then, we hit it again. We’ll go between four and six times for beginners. Sometimes, we’ll even do three. They’ll recover up to six and a half minutes. If you recover more than six minutes your session is over. You soft pedal. You cool down. You’re done if you can recover in six minutes and 15 seconds, you’re done. So, six and a half minutes is like, “Okay. Now, I have a three and a half minute cool down,” because that’s it. You can’t do anymore.

Some of you, it’s t’s going to be three efforts. That’s okay. If we’re doing this for the weight training, it would look like this. We are going to start off the strength training day with our soft tissue work three to five minutes. Then, we’re going to get into a breathing exercise or two. Then, we’re going to get into our dynamic warm-up.

When you’re done with the dynamic warm-up, we are going to go through whatever the number one thing is you need to work on to get better strength, coordination or postures and positions. For many of you listening, that’s going to be a hinge or a squat motion. We’re going to do that first. That would be A1. Then, we’ll do complementary exercise A2. We’ll finish that. Then, we’ll go on to B1. B1 is going to be the second most important thing that you need to work on.

Then, B2 is going to be a corrective or a complementary exercise. Then, we’ll go C1 which is going to be something that’s going to tie everything together that you need. Then, C2 which is going to be a rotary stability exercise. Then, we’re going to get into our cardiac power efforts. Why are we doing it after everything? Because the weight for the sled is going to be relatively light. You’re going for a minute down and back, down and back, down and back, down and back.

We don’t want you to peter out and be exhausted after the two times down the back. The thing is that most people are going to look at you like you’re crazy. You’re doing a minute with the sled. Then, afterward, you want to recover. You have to have a heart rate monitor for this. Make sure you have one with you because you need to recover until your heart rate is between 120 and 125.

Some people make the mistake of going, “Oh, no. I feel like I can go again.” No. We need the heart and the neuromuscular system to fully recover from this so that you’re able to get the neurological and muscular responses that you need out of this. If you go too soon before that heart rate comes all the way back down, you’re not going to get what you need out of this.

I personally prefer that it’s what’s called an active recovery. You finish the minute. You’re like cross-eyed. You want to sit down. If you want to bend over and put your hands on your knees and take a couple deep breaths before you start walking around, that’s fine, but I generally tell people do something else that you can to stay up and moving instead of sitting down and waiting for the heart rate to drop back down.

Some beginners may need to sit down for the first minute or two because the heart rate is so high, and it was so hard. That’s okay. For those who are advanced, you may be able to do a light weight farmer carry, just 15 pounds of hand down and back. Then, set them down. Then, you’re doing something else.

Maybe, you’re doing a little bit of soft tissue work or something else. It depends on the athlete what will work for them if you tend to get really tight quads and your TFL tends to get cranky with those sled pushes. Okay, then we are going to take you and we’re going to do a little bit of foam rolling during this recovery period of two to six minutes to get your heart rate back down to 120 to 125. That’s it.

When you’re done with that, you’re going to do a cool down. I like to have my athletes walk as opposed to ride the bike because we’re already on the bike so much. Triathletes tend to appreciate that. That’s it. That’s the session. We’ve done a workout in the gym. We’ve done strength training. We’ve done roughly about 15 to 18 minutes of work on cardiac power intervals pushing the sled. We’ve now made your heart stronger and able to manage those intensities. That’s it. That’s all it is

It’s pretty simple but it’s simple and sinister. It doesn’t take much to get you what you need. It is downright dirty. When you do the first one after you do your workout, after you’ve gone through the previous eight weeks that we talked about last podcast, shoot me an email or better yet upload a video of you after this workout on Instagram and tag me in it because I want to see your faces after you do these and how you thought it was and how hard you thought it was going to be.

I want you to tell me in that video of you huffing and puffing and covered in sweat. This is how hard I thought it would be. I thought you were crazy, but holy cow, I can’t believe X, Y, and Z, or hey, you know what? I’m in really good shape. I did eight repetitions. I could still do more. What should I do? Just remember when you load up that sled, it doesn’t have to be that heavy.

We need maximum power for a minute and don’t cheat when you turn that sled around. You have to keep going. You can’t stop. You have to go finish one side immediately to the other. You need to keep that heart rate as high as you possibly can for that minute. Now, those of you who have not had a checkup or an EKG or a stress test in the last year, if not two years, you need to go and have one done. This is important for endurance athletes as much as it is the average person.

We need to make sure we’re keeping on top of our health, but that’s going to be a topic for another podcast. That’s it for part one. We talked about cardiac power intervals. I gave you a workout on the bike, a workout in the gym that you are able to do. If you’d like to learn more about this, you could sign up for the HVT newsletter and get a very special limited time offer here in the next couple of weeks that we’ll have for the HV Training newsletter. It’s humanvortextraining.com.

Just sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll get first dibs on the course a very special short-term offer. If you’re listening to this after, I don’t know October of 2019, still go over sign up for the newsletter because we’ve got great content coming up for you. We’ll be back in part two of today’s episode with muscle recruitment intervals.

I’m going to talk a little bit I’ll mention refer back to last week’s podcast as well with the 3131 tempo lifts, but just remember do not move on to today’s stuff until you’ve completed the first six to eight weeks of what we talked about in episode 19. We’ll be back after this short little break.


Want to learn more? Check out humanvortextraining.com for more on this topic from Coach Brodie and today’s guest.

Menachem Brodie:

Welcome back. Thank you for liking, sharing or reviewing the Strong Savvy Cyclists and Triathlete Podcast I really appreciate it. Now, getting into the second part, so we talked about strength training to build your aerobic engine, your aerobic horsepower. Again, this is part two of a two-part podcast episode.

Part one was episode 19 where we talked about the aerobic energy system and how we can use strength training. Now, we’re getting into the details. Now, we’re going to talk about something that I see neglected or not done properly. That is muscle recruitment intervals. Excuse me, a little bit of a tongue twister there.

Now, the thing is that there is a lot that can be done for this, but in order to get the most out of this, we need to have you on a bike where you’re able to hold a good position. I’ve seen a number of coaches give this to time trial cyclists who have very poor rotary stability abilities where their preferred movement patterns for cycling success are extremely poor like they are not able to hold posture on the bike, and they are really struggling. This is where the muscle recruitment interval you need to be very careful. You need to know your body, so we can get a lot out of the 3030 tempo approach.

We don’t have to go on the bike. In fact, I may have mentioned before. I think I mentioned earlier I generally like to use this once it turns cold in the northeast. Usually, we’ll use this more towards November, December, January when you’re starting to get onto the trainer. You want a little bit more mix up and be a little bit more mentally challenging. It’s a great way to challenge yourself to go through and hold positions and posture, learn breathing, good joint posture positions. I mentioned that already.

But it is a really great way to do that, or you can use it in the fall for a short cycle of two to four weeks and then, bring it back later on. When it comes to the muscle recruitment intervals, the thing is that it really is a high intensity interval. This is the second thing I see a lot of coaches mess up with this, is they treat the muscle recruitment intervals like, “Oh, it’s just a muscular effort,” and they give them out candy on Halloween.

That’s really bad because, essentially, you’re looking at pushing an athlete to do a cadence 40 to 50 RPM for a long period of time. And the heart rate can get up there. If you’re not careful and you go too hard, the athlete’s going to start to bob and weave side to side where we’ve all seen on the hard climbs in the Tour de France right before a rider’s about to crack.

Usually, we think of high intensity as being five seconds to two minutes. You have a five second sprint or you have a two minute all-out. That’s high intensity. Well, guess what? When you’re going through the muscle recruitment intervals, you’re going intentionally slow, and you’re using high resistance, but it is high intensity. And anybody who’s done these properly and hasn’t given themself, “Oh, just a quick break of two or three seconds, I just want to go down two or three gears easier and then, I’ll come right back,” that actually derails the results you’re going to see from this.

The thing is, it makes a huge difference for an athlete. When you get them to have the rotary stability that they need and they’re able to control that trunk pelvis roll and they’re able to lock the rib cage and pelvis together and they have good breathing patterns and good body awareness, adding in the muscle recruitment intervals at the right time can literally be launching a rocket into outer space where there’s just so much more power. The athlete just zips ahead two or three levels in their abilities for climbing, for time trialing.

They’re like, “I don’t understand. I haven’t done any “threshold work,” or VO2 max. Why am I so much stronger? It’s because we can use the muscle recruitment intervals to tie everything together. I’m not a huge fan of using this on the trainer unless you have a rock and roll trainer where the bike can move a little bit because it can really reinforce bad movement patterns for cyclists and triathletes if you’re not careful.

Don’t just jump on your bike and say, “Oh, I’m going to try that muscle recruitment thing that Coach Brodie was talking about today on the Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast.” No, no, no, no. This needs to be done after you built up positional awareness, resiliency for antirotary stability, anti-rotation.

But here’s how to do it. I like to do it on “recovery weeks” for our aerobic block. Every third to fifth week, during base or during an aerobic intensive, we’ll put in one to three sessions of muscle recruitment intervals. Here’s how it works. By the way, you don’t have to do it just on your bike. You can use the spin bike at the gym. Just make sure you’re setting it up very vanilla.

Don’t try and get into aero position on a spin bike. It’s not a THAT’S bike. You should be sitting upright. That will also help you get what you need out of these efforts. If you’re a time trial specialist, get on your road bike. If you’re a road cyclist with poor technique, get on a gravel bike. If you’re on a gravel bike and you still have poor stability, get onto a mountain bike.

Make sure you’re able to hold the positions that you need to, but you can do it on a bike like that, or you can also do it on a VersaClimber. That’s one of my favorite pieces of equipment and something I learned about when I was 13 when I was going through… I’m sorry, when I was 15 rather, going through my first really bad ankle sprain. The physical therapist needed to get me back into training shape or to competition shape for high school basketball because I had a really badly sprained ankle.

Grade two, I was on crutches. I couldn’t do anything for about three and a half four weeks. The injury happened on September 10th. Basketball season as you know starts in October. I had very little time to get there. We did high intensity VersaClimbing. We also did low intensity. These are a grind. They’re very hard. The VersaClimber is coming into vogue again.

I actually did a piece for my Fitness Pal blog back in 2017 or ’18 on the VersaClimber. You have a number of opportunities that you can do this or if you live somewhere like Pittsburgh where there’s lots of hills, you can also do lunges up a steep hill

You can do this like in Schenley Park if you’re familiar with Pittsburgh. You could do it in Schenley park over by the golf course or the ice skating rink. You do it. Essentially for cyclists, I like to start people at about five minutes. Why five minutes? That’s usually going to push the max of their ability to have good rotary stability.

We’re going to do five minutes RPM as low as you can. I’ve been known to have some riders who have big, big gears go as low as 35 to 45 RPM. It’s a little bit tough to keep the bike upright. Usually, most of you out there are going to wind up being around 45 to 55 RPM or 60 depending on your gear combinations.

But it needs to be consistent. You can’t do this in Pittsburgh on the undulating hills like you go up the hill, come downhill, go uphill, get down a hill like the oval. I used to go and do these at the oval in Pittsburgh if you’re familiar where it’s an enclosed a half-mile loop with a little hill in it, start, finish hill, but you’re able to keep those high cadences, but it is pretty mind-numbing, or you can do it on the trainer.

Like I said, don’t do it on the trainer if you don’t have that rotary stability, but pretty much what you’re going to do is beginners two to three, that’s it. Two to three five minutes at that low cadence keeping nice steady breathing. It’s very different again because it is high intensity. It doesn’t feel like it until the end, but it is high intensity.

It’s relatively high volume. You need to keep that in mind, but that’s why we’re going to do three to five repetitions of about five minutes. We’re going to take about 10 minutes easy spinning in between. I really like to do two to one, or one to two rather work to recovery. If you do five minutes of muscle recruitment interval, you’re going to do 10 minutes of easy spinning.

I say easy like you’re going you’re not really moving that far down the road. It’s truly endurance. It’s not recovery. It’s truly endurance. Your heart rate drops back down to 125 to 135. Your power is in the appropriate range. That’s it. You don’t need that many repetitions here. Three is a big number for beginners. We don’t want to get achy joints. We don’t want to have a sore back or painful hips the next morning. So, less is more.

Remember, training is efficient when the least amount of energy and time is put in to elicit to the desired response. We don’t have to be on the bike for thousands of hours. We just need to be on there just enough to get what we need. Now, for the intermediate individuals out there, cyclists and triathletes, if you have great rotary stability and you’re able to do, let’s say, the first time you should just do three sets of five, if you’re intermediate and you’ve done these before or advanced. Three sets of five minutes with 10 minutes easy spinning in between.

You can then step it up to two sets of 10 minutes with 20 minutes in between. You do 10 minutes’ muscle recruitment interval, cadence between 45 and 60 depending on what you’re able to maintain. It needs to be consistent, no ups and downs, not just going down a gear for a second. That’s part of it. If you notice that you’re losing technique, you’re losing the ability to maintain your trunk pelvic roll together and you’re starting to separate your ribcage from your pelvis, stop or go for another 30 seconds. Then, that’s your set.

Maybe, it’s three minutes. Just because you’re an intermediate or advanced cyclist doesn’t mean that you’re able to handle. This is a strength exercise. You may not be able to handle this. It’s not just sacrificing everything to get the 10 minutes. Listen to your body, but build it up.

As you go through, this is going to allow you to stimulate better oxygen use. This is going to allow us to increase the endurance of your fast twitch muscle fibers. This is why this is the second approach, not the first. The first one we had today was 3030 tempo for goblet squats, for remaining deadlifts. We can also do it for bench press or rows or body weight rows, for pull downs where we’re doing the eccentric from the chest up and we can also do rows as well like we talked about where we didn’t talk about like I mentioned.

When we get into this, this is for the fast twitch muscle fibers. The 3030 is for hypertrophy of the slow twitch muscle fibers. Then, we shift then we go to the oxygen use or utilization for the fast twitch muscle fiber. They’re becoming more endurance. This is a strength training regimen on the bike. You cannot just do the muscle recruitment intervals. Just doing that is not strength training on the bike.

What I mean by that is you’re going to change over or transition your strength gains on the bike and being able to do more on the bike by using your strength gains. That comes from proper technique. I really like these two. I think that it’s a great foundation for most of you out there. If you’re more advanced, you can do three by 10 minutes.

The muscle recruitment intervals we’re generally going to do no more than one or two sessions a week. I want to have at least 72 hours in between, so at least three days in between. Usually, it would be like something like an MRI on Tuesday, something else on Wednesday. Then, Friday would be our next MRI.

The only thing is that as you go through with this, as you advance, you really want to make sure that you’re focusing on your heart rate and not letting it get too high. Most of you out there, if you start to touch on the mid to upper 150s for heart rate, that’s going to mean that you’re at the upper limit. You might have to bring that cadence up to 60 where you still have that resistance or you need to cut down your time.

Again, listen to your body. It’s not just, “Oh, it’s written three by 10 minutes or two by 10 minutes. You get to minute eight. You notice in the mirror you are riding with the mirror next to you. You can see you’re bobbing and weaving or in front of you. You’re like, “Wow, I’m really bobbing and weaving.” Stop it where you are. Meet your body where it is. Then, go from there.

What I like to do with this is usually do after a strength training session, have people get onto their bike for this. I really like it a lot. I think that it can be really good after a long weekend. You have Monday recovery rider off. Then, Tuesday, this could be a nice strength training session. Then, this would be the session, like I said, Tuesday and Friday, but it is a very, very, very, very, very, very potent piece of equipment in your coaching or riding arsenal.

But t you do need to make sure that you’re using it right and not abusing it because if you go too much, you’re going to start to have achy joints. You’re going to start to have pain in places that you are not used to. You can just have bad technique on the bike. That is going to lead you down an overuse injury or over-reaching state which we don’t want.

Don’t abuse either of these, but these are two ways. There’s a bunch of others, but I just wanted to highlight these two. The first one because it’s not really well known. The second one because it really is neglected or rather abused, I should say rather than neglected. It’s not replacing the strength training we’re doing in the gym.

You still have to have that specific technique challenges in the gym because that’s going to allow you to be able to progress as an athlete, get you into better positions. If you want to learn more about this, you can check out the aforementioned strength training for triathlon success or strength training for cycling success courses on TrainingPeaks University or you can sign up for the newsletter and get that early bird special and first dibs on the Strength Training for Cycling certification which is going to come out here in the next couple of months, so late fall, early winter 2019.

What questions do you, guys and ladies, have for me? Please, do not hesitate to ask Brodie, B as in body, R-O-D as in dog, I-E@humanvortextraining.com. Follow us on social media at HV Training on Instagram and at YouTube. You can also find us on Facebook, facebook.com/hvt412 or just look for Human Vortex Training on Facebook or it’s HV training 400… I think it’s HVT412, but just look in your search bar on Facebook for Human Vortex Training, or you can connect with me on LinkedIn, Menachem Brodie. That’s it for today’s episode. We’re drawing up closer to an hour.

I am trying to keep these nice and compact, but there is a lot more we can get into. The next couple of weeks, we’re going to dive a little bit more into using strength training for aerobic development. We’ll talk about some things that you haven’t thought about for on-bike. We’re going to talk about breath work and why it’s important.

Then, in October, what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a series of interviews with experts, and it’s going to be called the Road to Kona 2020. Unfortunately, one of the athletes that I work with very, very talented, very strong from Japan, he actually broke his collarbone at the world championships for 70.3 in Nice.

He is not going to be competing in Kona for this year. That inspired. I was already kicking around the idea in my head of we’re going to do a series of Road to Kona 2020, things you should be doing or how you can get there being a smarter. It’s specifically geared towards the triathletes out there who maybe had an injury and are having to roll over their Kona slot or have to qualify next year or those who over-trained or overreached and are starting from scratch again.

Even if you’re a cyclist though, keep in mind this is going to be a really potent series. Even though it’s called Road to Kona, there’s going to be ton of actionable items. We’re going to have [Lee Tafton 00:49:38]. We’re going to have Dr. Lisa Lewis who is a mental performance specialist. She’s fantastic and a couple others, Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running joins us again to talk about running.

We have a lot of great guests coming up for that. Make sure you are liking and subscribing. Please review us. Give us a five-star review on iTunes or wherever you download this podcast from. Until next time. Remember, train smarter not harder because it is all about you. We’ll see you guys next week on the Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete. Thanks for listening. Send me your questions, your feedback. We’ll see you next time.


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.


Picture of 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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