Episode 27 – Sebastian Weber- Dialing in your training to develop your energy systems more precisely

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. Now, your host, world leading strength coach for cyclists and triathletes, Menachem Brodie.

Menachem Brodie:

Hi everyone and welcome to this episode, number 27 of the Strong, Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete Podcast. Today, we’re going to talk with Sebastian Weber of Inscyd.com, I-N-S-C-Y-D dot com. Sebastian is a contrarian, and somebody who literally blew my UCI regulation socks off my feet when he was presenting at the 2018 USA Cycling Coaching Summit in the first five minutes. Sebastian’s a fantastic mind, he’s a scientist, a physiologist. I think he’s a physiologist. He’s definitely a scientist. He is just absolutely amazing. The presentation he gave just blew me away in the first five minutes. It answered something that had been bothering me since I first started as a coach, and that is why is everybody relying so heavily on the FTP testing? There’s a number of other energy systems in the body, that the FTP test doesn’t give us a good glance at.

He has developed inside testing that you can do at home, you just need a power meter, an accurate and precise power meter. But you need a power meter at home, you can also do it in a lab somewhere if you want, VO lactate. It’s developed to help you be able to hone in your training for all of the energy systems, not just taking a wild guess based off of an FTP test. I’ve seen results with my own field testing variations that I’ve done and developed over the years to be able to test my athletes’ energy systems. I can tell you that Inscyd is pretty cool and I really like it.

So have a number of other cyclists, you may have heard of them. Tony Martin, that’s just one of the names you might kind of recognize. If not, you’re probably living under a rock here in 2020. Andre Greipel’s another name, that’s another one. If you know that one. If you don’t know that one, well, you should know them. You should be paying attention. If you want to see them in person, and you want to learn from Sebastian during his master class at the 2020 Science in Cycling conference, you can see them, all of them, including Sebastian, which I highly recommend. By the way, I’m not getting paid for this, but this is how much I just really enjoy learning from Sebastian in person, and being able to pick his brain a little bit.

He’s presenting at the 2020 Science in Cycling Conference, which happens in Nice, France, before the Tour de France here in 2020. So I strongly recommend you do that. Again, I don’t get anything, except for satisfaction of knowing that you have gone and learned from one of the great minds of our time now. Now the best part about this is, my UCI regulation socks were knocked off when I saw him in person. But when I went home, and I was wearing my non-UCI regulation Shaq and Anthony Hardaway, those are basketball players, socks, totally not UCI regulation, those were knocked off as well, once I got onto the website and started really digging into some of the white papers on there.

Sebastian’s a fantastic mind, we’re going to get into a lot of details today, we’re going to talk about post-ride strength training, why and how the FTP is not the end all, be all. However, it is important. You do need to keep it. Don’t worry, you’re still going to suffer for 20 minutes on the trainer or wherever you need to, unless you’re doing mine, which is a special testing. Which you can learn about if you decide to show up for my strength training for cycling certification. Which by the way, was released at 7:30am your local time, cool stuff with the interwebs, right? 7:30am your time, local time, it was released. It’s in your inbox. If you’re not on the HVT newsletter list, I’m sorry but you’re not going to get in often for first dibs and a special pricing for the Strength Training for Cycling Certification.

Now, that being said, I would like to thank a number of you. Because at 7:28, I was online, and then at 7:31, 7:32 I hit the refresh button, just to make sure the email went out, everything was working, no anxiety, kind of a big freaking deal. I’ve been working on this thing for two years. A number of you had already purchased within the first two minutes of it being in your inbox. I didn’t even tell you when the email was going out. So thank you. The reason why we’re doing this for the HVT newsletter is because a number of you have been on that newsletter for about 15 years. From the bottom of my heart, and I hope you can hear in my voice, it really means a lot to me that you’ve been a part of the family, and helped the family grow, and helped me become a better professional. And also contributed a ton to that course. Thank you each.

If you’ve not on the HVT newsletter but you would like to get first dibs on the course, you can sign up for the HVT newsletter, this special pricing is only for the HVT newsletter. There are a specific number of emails that are going to go out. The sequence is already set. It’s not going to be changed. It’s 10 days, 11:59:59pm on Sunday December 1st, this pricing, this offer disappears forever. It is a very special thank you to those in the HVT family who have been here for so many years. If you want to get in on it, go over to the Human Vortex Training, our new website, new and updated, by the way, you’ll notice a brand new look. We’re still tinkering here, on November 21st. If you notice any typos, or anything that needs to be reorganized, please let me know. We wanted to go live before the certification. It’s completely reorganized, much easier to go through, and lots of other different tools on there.

Without much further ado though, I don’t want to get lost in the certification, because today’s guest, Sebastian, we’re going to get into some fantastic stuff. Without much further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Sebastian Weber. Sebastian, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day. I’m really excited to be able to pick your brain here.

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah, thanks for having me. Thank you.

Menachem Brodie:

Just, there’s so much that we can talk about, and I know we were going back and forth here before we started recording. But a lot of training for cyclists is so focused on just getting on the bike and riding. But really, there’s so many more layers. Your presentation at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit was very revealing. I happened to catch the end of it after one of my breakout sessions. You just have this massive amount of knowledge. The first question is a little bit of a tough one, I guess. What would you say is the thing that most average riders, category two, three racers in the US and those who race amateur, are missing in their training that can help them the most?

Sebastian Weber:

That’s a tough question to put one single thing on top of the list, I’d say. I would say in general, and it’s a little bit of culture thing, and it’s a little bit more pronounced, I feel, than in Europe, is to be obsessed with threshold power or how it’s called these days, FTP power. Basically this threshold, or FTP, develop from being, “Yeah, that’s a nice metric to have, and there are some things we can do with that.” To, this is the one and only thing people are interested in and looking at, and misuse it for everything from setting up training programs to monitoring performance development, and things like that. Yeah, again, that’s, I think, a little bit of a problem. Because you start focusing on something, which is rather complex, and not directly linked to any specific physiological marker.

You don’t even know which physiological system, which part of your body, so to speak, you’re talking about when you talk about FTP. It avoids, I feel, for people being able really to pay attention to other metrics and other parts that compose and dictate a certain performance on the bike. It’s quite interesting that the old anaerobic threshold, so to speak, which comes out of lactate testing, and some countries in Europe, it has never been used, for example, to set up training programs. It has only been used as a benchmark, as marker, for endurance performance. There are very known scientists in countries like Italy, for example, where it has been primarily used only to monitor the development. But people said, “Yeah, it’s good for that, and being able to do certain things, but it’s not allowing us … it doesn’t make sense, so to speak, to create a training program based on that.”

It’s right to do things like that, but again, I think there’s a too big focus on a metric like anaerobic threshold, which is, by the way, actually never used in a bike race. You’ll rarely ever ride at threshold power. That would be kind of, being top of my list.

Menachem Brodie:

It’s really interesting to hear that, because when I started coaching back in 2006, 2007, everybody was obsessed with FTP. I looked at it from an exercise physiologist standpoint, I was just finishing my degree, I was like, “What are the other energy systems doing? We have no idea. It’s one test, it tells you the aerobic capacity. Even then, the estimation, and I’m not knocking the [inaudible 00:09:46] system at all. Because it’s very complex. I do think it’s robust and has its place. But now we’re seeing, I have a blog post that’ll go up here, or has gone up in April, that is FTP dead? I think it should’ve never been the end all, be all to begin with. It sounds like a lot of people high up for years have not been using it as a staple. Is that correct?

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah. I totally agree to that point, that question, it’s a nice marketing thing, I guess. Especially in the US, is FTP dead? It can’t be dead, because it’s a substitute, it’s a practical substitute for anaerobic threshold, which is well documented and proven physiological metric, right? It is a physiological phenomenon, so to speak, happening in the body at a certain exercise intensity. Therefore, it can’t be dead, right? It’s like saying, “Our body temperature is dead.” No, it just doesn’t make any sense. I think it’s really to the point, there’s a lot of things in all different aspects of science or of business or whatever, that when you become too focused and too obsessed, looking at one thing, basically, you might end up in the situation where all of a sudden, it all kind of flips around into the other extreme, so to speak. Going from one extreme to the other, maybe.

In cycling, especially, it is something that happened, basically because of the evolution and spreading of power meters. So to speak a little bit from the point of saying, “Now I have a power meter, now I have to get the maximum out of it.” And maybe at some point, you’re taking it too far by thinking that we can overuse power tricks play in training, I always like the statements to say, “Basically what it is, a power meter records what you are doing, so it tells you how you are training. But a power meter is not telling you how to train.” This is a big thing that, I think, is misunderstood, that people think the power numbers tell them how they need to train.

Menachem Brodie:

I could not agree more with you. It’s an uphill battle, isn’t it? What do you think, but the power, but the power, but the power? Let’s get into that. For everybody here, you had a fantastic episode of Fast Talk. It was number 67 with Chris and Trevor, where you guys talked about VLa and how to increase performance. Let’s jump into what are some considerations that the listener and anybody, it’s not just cyclists, it’s also runners and triathletes, even. Runners now with the stride power meter. What are some things that they should be paying attention to, outside of the power meter to help them train smarter and not harder?

Sebastian Weber:

Well, first, I think, where this came from on the high level, so to speak, is from, again, going back to that, you’re focusing, everybody’s a lot focused. It’s not only cycling in the US, right? It’s the same in Europe and running for a long time. Everybody’s very much focused on threshold power, speed, or intensity, or performance threshold, whatever you want to call that. That left to the problem that nobody’s really asking, okay, why is this threshold what it is? How is it composed? Okay, we can measure it, we can benchmark it. But what does effect it? This is absolutely paradoxical, ironic, so to speak, that thousands, or I don’t know how many millions of people are trying to change their threshold power and invest a lot of time and possibly money and resources and energy in doing this.

The mechanism, how to change it, is not taking into account. I find this very, very impressing, actually, and very fascinating, this can happen. It would most likely not happen in any other industry, right? If you are trying to cure a certain disease, you would not invest hundreds of hours without understanding the mechanism, how to cure it. You know what I’m saying? That’s absolutely crazy, and especially in endurance sports, especially in cycling and in triathlon.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s, one of my triathletes is currently going through that. She’s a half Ironman, and she expected lots of long distance. The first thing we did was we worked on her cardiac power. One minute, ATP, 15 second hard push, ATP-CP energy system, then really going after the glycolytic energy system. But more so focusing on the left ventricle, size and strength, to be able to push out stuff. She’s like, “You’re going to burn me out.” I’m like, “Well actually, we’re working on the metabolic systems, we’re also working on the cardiac respiratory systems so you can actually get the work done.” She’s seen, I think 16%, or 13 or 16% increase in three months. What is it?

I think triathletes are a little bit worse than cyclists, to be honest. Because they’re so focused on the FTP, because I need to go for X amount of time on the time trial bike for this long. What is it? Is it that FTP is easily compared? Whereas, when we talk about the glycolytic energy systems, and the VO2 max, the ability to actually bring the oxygen and deliver it. There’s way more, we’re talking about substrates and so many different things. Is it just because the FTP is kind of the easy, shiny object to grasp, and you can hold it in your hand, kind of like a new set of wheels? And say, “Look, my FTP is this.” And everybody goes, “I know I can beat you. Or I know you’re going to beat me.”

Sebastian Weber:

Well I think partly after, I think partly it is because it’s relatively easy to measure or estimate, right? With some certain kind of tests. We can argue that the classic 20 minutes, 95% is not very accurate. But then you can still do a power duration curve or something, and have a very good grasp on your FTP power. That’s one part. It’s easy to get, so to speak. Because of the terms, FTP, it’s easier than anaerobic threshold, or maximum lactate steady state. FTP is just, you don’t really need to understand what it is. It’s easier. So it’s different things here, in terms of communication. But then, also historically, it’s not coming out of nowhere, right? It’s basically the substitute, again, for the anaerobic threshold or maximum lactate steady state. FTP for functional threshold power.

It has been popular for decades. The reason, and it’s important, don’t get me wrong. So to speak, it is this one stop shop, simplified performance benchmarking. Because your FTP power or intensity running speed or whatever, correlates. It correlates with your 5k running performance, with your 10k running performance, it correlates with your marathon, half marathon, right? It nicely correlates. There’s a lot of different disciplines, with a lot of different distances, durations.

But that’s one part. For that, it has its right to be. But just because it correlates, it’s not meaning that it is the same, right? It can correlate very nicely, but there can be variations of 10 or 15% within people, and again, just because it correlates, it doesn’t tell you, there’s no explanation on why it correlates, or what you need to do to improve it, so to speak. Right? Again, it has its right. It is one, single, important performance metric. You could say, “If I just have one metric to look at, which one should I look at?” Yeah, maybe that’s FTP. Maybe that’s, for a lot of people, the most valid one. But again, it’s simplified, really, a lot of things.

Menachem Brodie:

It comes back to the old scientific paradigm of correlation does not equal causation.

Sebastian Weber:

Exactly. That’s what it is. That’s exactly what it is. Yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

What are some things that the listeners and anybody looking to get serious about their training should be considering? What are the metrics that they should be looking at to help guide their training? And not just simply tell them, “You’re going this fast.” Essentially.

Sebastian Weber:

Right. I think it’s very simple. I think if you step back only one step, and look at this from a little bit higher level, and you just said you have a lot of listeners on here who are triathletes, if you are a triathlon coach and I come to you and I say, “Hey look, I want to improve my triathlon performance.” You will either ask me or one of my first statements would be, “Okay, I’m doing whatever, Ironman in 12 hours or whatever.” Right? My goal is to do Ironman in whatever, 11 hours or 10 hours or whatever. One of the first questions you will ask as a triathlon coach, you will ask, “Okay, what are your split times? How much time do you spend on the swim? How much time do you spend on the run? How much time do you spend on the bike?”

Because you obviously want to understand, right? You want to dissect this overall time, and understand where am I performing very well? And where might be some room for improvement? Again, that’s a very common thing. It’s a very common thing to say … And cyclists know that. Cyclists know that they can either, whatever, lose body weight or increase their power output to increase their climbing performance, in terms of what per kilogram of body weight. A marathon runner would know that, right? Say, “Yeah, I can easily, whatever, lose a little bit of body weight, that probably makes me faster in the marathon.” And so on and so forth. That’s basically what you are doing everywhere. Aerodynamics on the bike, you think about, okay, I can easily train more, I can be more aerodynamic.

It’s always trying to understand, how is the time, how is my performance composed? Then to look at the single pillars of it, so to speak, and look at, okay, where is the most room for improvement? Again, this is not happening with this FTP or with some things, like you mentioned that the triathlete you coached, to improve her cardiovascular system, right? Cardiovascular system is one part, for example, of the VO2 max, and therefore it is one part where you can maybe have a lot of room for improvement to increase your overall performance. The only thing you are doing, like in every other part of your sport, is start to understand, how is my performance composed? What do I need to do to improve it?

Menachem Brodie:

I think that’s really important. I made a video, actually, because there was one that was put out by someone who’s popular. I think this also comes down to meeting what people can connect with. This individual made a really, he came from a good place in trying to attempt to explain how your fitness develops over time. It was actually very misunderstood, what he was trying to explain. Essentially, it pushed me to make a 20 minute video of me sitting in front of the camera saying, “There’s four pillars for your advancement as an athlete. Cardio respiratory, neuromuscular, metabolic, and hormonal.” Those are the four things. It seems that so many athletes just want to latch on to one thing. If I do this, the brain is trying to simplify, just FTP, my watts per kilo, and we’ll use this to pivot onto the strength training topic.

If I lose body weight and increase my power, but we know that that’s not necessarily true now. Sometimes, or oftentimes, for most amateur riders, if we can maintain your body weight, but give you more strength, or more inter- and intramuscular coordination, we can actually see you put more power down to the pedals, and we can also boost performance. You mentioned this in your Fast Talk episode, number 67, about how you can improve the performance if you’re decreasing the VLa. There’s a lot of different things in here. But that’s kind of, it’s a little bit chunky of a question. But let’s pivot and get into that, is losing body weight and increasing power really the best way? Or can we use strength training in a way to help us beyond just getting stronger?

Sebastian Weber:

Well I think, yeah, as you said, that’s a big question. Let us divide that into some chunks here. First, decreasing body weight to increase watts per kilogram can work to a certain extent. Often, or not often, but in some cases, going there might actually decrease your performance. I would say it’s a highly individual question. Talking about the VLa max and how it is influencing your endurance performance, I think it’s very easy to understand basically, you said, FTP, it’s a term, it’s a substitute for anaerobic threshold or maximum lactate steady state. What it basically is, your VLa, why this is important and why this has been successfully used in the past decade by some of the most successful coaches, not only in cycling but also in other sports.

For example, in swimming, it has been widely used in the most successful federations. It is because in endurance sports, like triathlon, for example, if your VLa max is higher, basically it’s saying that your glycolytic energy production is higher. If your glycolytic energy production is higher, that means that you are producing more lactate. If you produce more lactate, easy to understand. Your threshold power is lower. It also decreases your fat combustion and increases your carbohydrate combustion. That’s the mechanism here, of why people should look at it. It is, for example, if you compare, it’s something we did 15 years ago already when you compare the performance threshold of professionals versus amateurs, there’s only a 20% difference in VO2 max, 20 to 25%. There is like a two-fold different in VLa max. This is really the differentiator between professionals, and therefore, then it comes to FTP power, right?

Therefore, yeah, it shouldn’t be neglected. That’s the second part of this response. The third part, sort of for the long answer, is yeah, we can and we should talk about how we can use things like VLa max or strength training to actually improve cycling performance. Because it is not only about FTP. Because the most or only decisive moments in a race are not happening at FTP. You actually never ride, really, at FTP in a race. You decide a race with a sprint, with an attack, with a breakaway, or whatever. And that’s never FTP, that’s always above. It always includes anaerobic metabolism and thinking about breaking away and about sprinting, it always includes a significant amount of strength and force.

Menachem Brodie:

I think that that’s a great segue into how to use strength training beyond just looking at it like … And this is not a slight to Arnold, because he is a hell of an athlete, he still is, at 50 plus years old. We’re talking about, a lot of strength athletes look at cyclists and runners and say, “You don’t belong here.” Because they’re using lower relative weight to their body weight. Most cyclists and triathletes look at, and runners look at, now the general gym-goer and say, “You’re too bulky for me.” Seriously, that’s what it is.

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

Right, they’re like I can’t have this …

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

Now of course, there’s always exceptions. Track cyclists, as we see Robert Forstemann, he’s just a massive human being, but he fried toast with his legs, literally. But when we’re talking about the average cyclist out there, we have the extremes. Track sprinter for the pursuit, and we have a climber for the Tour de France or the Grand Tours. But in the middle are most of us. Strength training offers us such a huge boost to our abilities. What are some important factors that we should be considering when we look to add strength training and how they’re going to positively affect our abilities on the bike.

Sebastian Weber:

I would first like to divide some strength training or the gym training, and when you’re really focused on your cycling muscles, like doing squats, for example, for your quads, and then there’s another part, which I think it’s really important, really interesting, but it’s more like the core stability or core performance, or this kind of gym training, so to speak, when I take it this way. About the classic gym training, when you train your cycling active muscles, so to speak, so your leg muscles mainly. It is kind of a two-sided sword. You really need to know what you’re doing. Because you can increase strength, you can increase force, and force production. You can increase your power output, and you can increase, for example, your acceleration on the bike, and your ability to break away, and also your ability to sustain a certain high power output.

But there’s also a risk that you might increase VLa max, and therefore drop endurance performance. In some cases, this might be okay. Like you would say, “Okay, the benefits I get from the strength trainings are bigger than what I might lose from maybe increasing my VLa max a little bit. And as an athlete, it might be the opposite. It is something that needs to be really monitored, and you really want to assess that, to make sure that it’s not … Of course, it depends on a lot of how you are doing your strength training, right? That’s something that we maybe can address here.

Menachem Brodie:

I think that’s where I’d like to start, actually. Because that’s something, okay. We know we have to get into the gym. That’s becoming much more commonly accepted. But how you train, the sets and the rest periods, the amount of loading that you have, the demand you’re placing on the neuromuscular system, and the metabolic systems. Let’s get a little bit onto how one should be look at, okay, I know that I need to go into the gym, and I want to go into the gym for a standard training. We’re not talking about core, not transverse abdominis and internal and external obliques. But squats and dead lifts and kettle bell swings. What would be some considerations that they should look at when they’re putting together their set, repetition, and rest time schemes?

Sebastian Weber:

I can maybe share some insights, how I did it in the professionals with working with some of the most successful sprinters out there. For me, it starts looking at … Because you are a cyclist, right? Basically you want this transverse to the performance on your bike. We would start with what performance on the bike you’re looking at. For example, how many repetitions do you have in a bunch sprint? Typically, a bunch sprint is like 12 to 15 repetitions, that’s it. If it’s longer, you will lose a lot of power output. This could already be a good starting point to inform how many reps you want to do in the gym, and how fast, especially, these reps need to be done. How many reps per second, so to speak.

That’s one part. It might also help you to inform how much weight you want to use, right? Because you can measure, basically, how much force or how much torque you’re producing, how much power you’re producing in the downstroke. I’m not talking about the power that you read on your head unit. Because this is for full pedal revolution, talking about really the downstroke of one leg, and the peak can be up to three times higher than your average, right? It might be a lot of power, actually, that’s going out there. This can be a good starting point. If you, for example, want to improve your sprint, I would not really consider you doing these old school 35, 40, 45, or even 25 reps or whatever at the lower weight. Right?

Maybe to start with, and to get used to the exercises, and to not harm or injure yourself. But as a goal, and where you want to be, where you want to go, it would definitely be looking at higher weights, looking at less repetitions, so to speak. Minimum, like six. Really more like the neuromuscular coordination kind of work. Especially when you want to avoid lactate accumulation and you want to avoid triggering your glycolytic system, with the risk of increasing VLa max. You want to have those rather short. Again, higher weight, and faster movement, right? Because this is what you wanted to see on the bike. There is a right, and there is maybe a time to do slow movement and really concentrate on the force.

When I coach with the riders, I most likely alternate this, a couple of weeks more force orientated. A couple of weeks more power orientated. So same weight but faster movement. Then it comes a lot down to how many reps per second. Because for example, if you really want to dive into this aspect, I don’t want to go into the gym because I risk increasing my VLa max, and this will drop my endurance performance. It really depends on the power output over 10, 15 seconds. If you are doing just one repetition, even if you do it fast, and then you have a gap to the next one, only if it’s one or two seconds, or three seconds or whatever, you have rather a long time per repetition, so to speak, then most of the energy you need to push this high weight, even if you push it fast, comes out from your creatinine phosphate system.

You really only trigger your glycolytic system when you have continuous fast, high power movement. When you talk about energy metabolism, it is about the energy flux rate. It’s about how much power over a certain amount of time? It’s not about the force. You can do slow movement, high weights, produce a lot of force, produce a lot of torque, and still not trigger your glycolytic system and therefore don’t risk to increase your VLa max, so to speak.

Menachem Brodie:

For most of the listeners out there, I know this is really high level stuff. But these are all the considerations that come together. I want to pull out one thing in particular that you mentioned, Sebastian, at the beginning. It depends on where the athlete is. You said there’s certainly a time for high force production, hypertrophy, essentially. That’s early on. But you have to train the energy systems as well. This is where my power lifting coach, and I just saw it come up again, he used to tell me, “All right, you’re doing cardio today.” We’d have the bar loaded, I’m like, “I’m doing front squats.” He’s like, “Yeah, you’re doing sets of 10, because anything over three, you’re really struggling to keep the pressure, energy systems have to change.”

This is where I think a lot of well-meaning cyclists go into the gym. They try and do either kettlebell swings, or hang cleans, or cleans off the floor. Hopefully not. While they mean well, trying to train the energy systems, we also have to think about the structures. When you’re looking at an athlete and you’re saying, wow, they’re very glycolytic and they just don’t have the ability to execute this move technically, what would you look at as far as adjusting their strength training program? Is it taking them back to lighter weight, or maybe heavier weights for shorter sets? Looking at that force production, like a three second eccentric, one second pause, three second concentric? Or do you have to completely step back and question, is strength training even the right thing for this athlete?

Sebastian Weber:

No, I think when you decided, when you are sure that strength training is important for the athlete, then you need to find a way to make it happen. I can tell you, I have the similar situations you’re talking about with a world class rider, with a world class time trialist, who needed to go to the gym, we identified gym training and strength training as an important part of his training program. We were opting for squats with free weights, and we couldn’t basically have the speed of movement and the force and the number of repetitions per time, as he wanted, because it was an unusual movement, and with leg stability, there was a risk to injure the athlete. Basically what we opted for is to have it parallel. To basically, in this case, go into the leg press, to train the power and the torque and your energy system like you want to train them. Because it’s a guided movement, there’s not so much you can do wrong.

Then parallel to that, keep working on the free squatting, in order to build this ability and train this ability to one day be able to do exactly what we wanted to do, which is a certain weight or certain speed, a certain force production on the free squats. Yeah. I would be happy to divide and split up what you are trying to achieve in your strength training, and then maybe have parallel, two different kind of exercises to work on. Don’t compromise what you want to work on just because you have trouble or issues completing the exercise exactly like you wish for. Try to find a way to work around that.

Menachem Brodie:

It’s kind of like trying to cram yourself onto a 54 when you’re a 58 because you like, it’s a Colnago C60. It’s like, it’ll fit, I promise, it’ll fit. I just need the 180 stem. It’s so pro. I think we’re talking at a high level, and more towards those who are really experienced. It doesn’t necessarily mean a professional cyclist, but it could also be someone who’s been intelligently training for the last 8 or 10 years. What about those who are looking to develop their energy systems? They’ve been riding for three or four years, competitive recreational, meaning they’re riding four to five days a week, five to six days a week. They have a job, but they’re looking to be as fast as possible and as strong as possible. Do they need to be as concerned with the energy systems in the gym and how they are executing their lifts? Or should they focus more on technique and building that intra- and intermuscular coordination?

Sebastian Weber:

I would say, I think the letter is time wise the first one to focus on. Focus on the technique, and focus on the coordination, they bring, to my experience, the fastest improvement in the shortest amount of time. I would really opt for that. Then in terms of energy systems, maybe not so much. Because these athletes usually the majority of them, not all, but maybe 60 to 70%, so there’s still a fair amount in there who is different. But a bigger part of that population would have a considerably high VLa max and might benefit from decreasing it. I would definitely recommend a strength training program which focuses on only a few repetitions, a total of less than 10 seconds or maximum 10 seconds per set.

If you can do six reps in 10 seconds, great. If you can do seven or eight, better. If you can only do four, it’s four. But it’s finish after 10 seconds. Anything to not trigger, or to not risk to improve your VLa max. This would be my high level recommendational idea here. Of course, if you really want to know, then you would need to measure VLa max, go measure glycolytic power, and really understand, is there something which actually needs to be improved or decreased? Then you understand, do I want to go into the weights, and to actively train my energy systems in the gym? Which can be something. That can be something, that has been something that we have been using in professional cycling. Sorry to come back to that. But that’s a vast amount of my experience here.

We have done that. That’s something very common, to use gym training to increase your VLa max and increase your glycolytic system.

Menachem Brodie:

I think that’s important. I actually was going to try and tie it back, and thank you for doing that. Because it’s a trickle down effect, right? We have to know what’s happening at the top end, then we can figure out, what’s the extrapolation for this. Standard deviations from that. Most cyclists do need regular strength training. But bringing it back to how it effects your riding on the bike, when you’re doing the strength training, you also need to be really careful about what you’re doing on the bike. Because we want to complement what we’re doing, we want it to boost our on-bike. I always like to tell my athletes, when we get into the max power phase, where we’re doing two to four repetitions, usually it’s three or four. Very few athletes are actually doing double.

The work time tends to be around 8 to 10 seconds. But they look at me, when I tell them, “Look, no sweet spot. You’re either doing lactate threshold or you’re doing over geared work.” I like Carmichael tempo, where we’re doing 70, 75 cadence, power’s inconsequential but we’re getting that more muscular effort. Let’s talk into, what are some things that the listener needs to consider if you’re using strength training, what should you decrease on the bike to make sure you’re getting the desired effect and not really screwing yourself, essentially, for lack of a better term?

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah. I think there’s a lot of science going on in this direction, how you combine strength training, endurance training. I think what you want to be aware of is that in low trained athletes, or sedentary people, there’s an effect where some strength training can improve your endurance performance. In a higher trained, or the higher trained the athlete is, this basically can flip around where the strength training might inhibit some of the adaptations you want to see from your endurance training. Therefore, the first thing when you want to combine that and think about what to do and what not to do and what to leave out on your bike training is the first thing, I would say, think about how to depart those methods.

What can be, not necessarily have to be, but in most cases can be very difficult or not very productive because it’s not effective, would be to say, “I have three hours spare time for training, I go one hour to the gym, and then straight on the bike.” A lot of cases, depending on how you are doing the gym training and what you want to try to achieve on the bike training, the gym training might hamper and have a negative effect on the adaptations you want to see from your bike training. In a lot of cases, to be safe, you could say, “I don’t want to dive too deep into the details here, what my gym training is, what my bike training is.” Then the general guideline will be, okay, be parted by at least six hours, okay?

For example, what is really not beneficial, if you do a gym training, which is highly, highly using the glycolysis, so your typical 15, 20 reps, average speed of movement. So whatever, one set is maybe 30 seconds long, pretty high intensity, three series of 30 seconds. You activate your glycolysis, then you go on a fat burning ride. Guess what? It’s not happening.

Menachem Brodie:

I love that.

Sebastian Weber:

Right? Because yeah, basically because you just teach your muscle, you just brought your muscle into, it’s all glycolysis, right? Let’s use a lot of energy in the glycolysis, then you go back and think, “Just because I’m riding easy, I burn a lot of fat.” You can actually try this, people are actually feeling this. People feel like they easily run, they usually bonk, right? Usually you run on glycogen. Is that something you want to do? Lesson one, think about just the time gap in between those exercises. The second thing, which is often happening, is [inaudible 00:44:57]. People are used to whatever a 6, 8, 10 hours of riding on the bike, and a lot of that part is just low torque, low force. Now all of a sudden, you start adding high force, high torque with a lot of, let’s say, local load, right? Local stress on your muscles.

If you combine that then with whatever accelerations, or strength work on the climbs, like high torque, low RPM efforts, this might lead to, on a high level let’s call it an overload of your muscles, right? Cardiovascular and general training load, you feel fine. But locally, your muscles are getting really tired. This is the second thing where I would be careful and really think about, okay, if I go to the gym two, three times a week, there might not be one single day where I can effectively do a lot of accelerations, standing starts, or high torque, low RPM work.

Menachem Brodie:

That’s something I actually just finished a webinar for USA Cycling Coaches, and I spoke about that. Is that there are times when strength is first and strength is second. When we get into build, we’re starting to do max efforts, power development on the bike for those short, hard efforts, the strength training should be done, I prefer it in the morning, then have them get on the bike in the evening. Because it gives them that separation between enough. Although some riders, the only time they have in the morning, you have kids running around, so the bike is easier, you can go to the gym in the evening. But a lot of people misconstrue that to think that, well, the track cyclists are doing fast reps over on the leg press, right after them get on the bike. So I’m going to do a hard sprint workout and ride to the gym and then go do a gym workout.

It doesn’t necessarily work that way, because we have to think about substrate production, the metabolic effect, what you’re just talking about. You’re setting the table and telling the body, “Hey, for the next five to six hours, this is the energy system that’s going to be predominant.” How do we help people understand that training for track is not going to help your road cycling necessarily? Doing that type of training.

Sebastian Weber:

Well, they’re different sports, so to speak, right? In terms of what you need to be high performing in the sport is totally different. The road cyclists, they might do similar things, where they use their bike to ride to the gym and to ride back, and so on and so forth. It might also sum up being an hour of riding. Because it’s a nice warmup, and it’s a nice warm down. But it is not their main training session. They the go out and do another four or five hour ride a couple of hours later as their main training session. Or a lot of professional cyclists do it the other way around. They go riding their bike in the morning, then some of them, which is becoming very popular actually in professional cycling, is using a single set kind of gym training approach in the evening. Really short. Really more focused on maintaining a certain level of strength.

This is why they do it in the evening. Focus on hormonal responses, focus on growth hormone and getting another testosterone boost in the evening, combined with some special nutrition, basically. That has become very popular as well. But again, then there’s, so to speak, this is maybe a good takeaway. There’s always one main session. There’s always one main session. You said, “Okay, today the main session is gym, and we do all the high quality whatever, squatting exercises, which mimic your power or torque from the sprint or whatever.” Then the bike training is just easy spinning. Or, it’s the main focus is on the bike, and then the gym training is just some additional add-on where you go, “I just go, I just have some, whatever, bar in my basement where I can just do some squatting, and it takes me 15 minutes, then I’m back up with my family.”

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah.

Sebastian Weber:

This kind of setup.

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah. That’s what I prefer. When we get into build one and build two, I try to encourage my athletes, when you get off the bike, twice a week. I call them volume sessions, but essentially they’re … Now, it sounds like this may not be the best. But we’re working on their weaknesses. I do want those muscles to be challenged a little bit more. Maybe I’m thinking of this wrong, but in the glycolytic set point, I’m looking at 15 to 20 repetitions with about 20 to 40% of their weight that they’re using for their working sets of two and three. About 35, 40% of their estimated 1RM. Just one or two sets, and they get off the bike, usually foam roll, thoracic extension, lats, quadriceps, the tight points, the ones that are more closed down.

Then we’ll go through kettle bell dead lifts. Inchworms, where they’re using their shoulders and their core, which we’ll talk about in a second. And that’s it. It’s on the bike, the bike is the main thing, but we’re working the backside of the body. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, looking at it from a standpoint. But every athlete is different and I think that having a coach who’s familiar with the Inscyd testing, which we can now find on your website, Inscyd, I-N-S-C-Y-D dot com, can be a huge boost because it helps the coach take a peek inside of how the athlete’s energy systems actually work. Now, of course, it depends. We know that.

I’m curious, and I’m going to put you halfsies on the spot here. Because I know the answer is, “It depends.” One of the things that I prefer with my amateur racers is when they get off the bike, about twice a week in the build one, build two phase, putting them into a strength training regimen for about 15 to 20 minutes, they get off the bike, foam roller, or trigger point their chest, their quads, as well as thoracic extension, opening up the upper back. Then we’ll go one to two sets of 15 to 25 repetitions at 20 to 40% of their sets of two, sets of three weights. Roughly 30 to 40% of their estimated 1RM.

The question is, and of course, it depends, it this something that I should be looking at changing? Because I’m now putting them into a more glycolytic setting at the end of their main thing at the day? Or in your opinion, just in general, at this point with what we know, it’s not really doing any harm?

Sebastian Weber:

Will I would say from a metabolic point of view, I would not be really concerned. Because yeah, you might add some glycolytic activities there, but I mean then, so what? If you have some riding before, you maybe have used up a significant amount of glycogen, and maybe your glycolytic energy production rate is therefore reduced anyway a little bit. Again, it’s just at the end of the ride anyway. I’m not really seeing that energy-wise it does a lot. In general, it sounds like the loads, intensity is rather low. It’s not really a super hard training.

The only thing where I might be a little bit concerned about it time-wise, how close and the weight training is to the bike training. There is no answer to that. Basically you will not find that out, because again, there’s a lot of science going on. But it’s still a field which is rather new, and so there is not just one answer to that. If you look at some studies you might say, “Maybe I’m kind of simplifying it, overriding a part of my endurance training stimulus.” I’d say, maybe, or maybe on a higher level, it could be partly hampering the benefit or the adaptation you want to see from your endurance training.

Why? The science is not crystal clear there, this, then, depends on lot on, like I said, on your athlete. Especially on what level of athlete you are talking about. Basically, how big is this endurance training stimulus, and how weight, or a strength training stimulus, maybe a little bit in some terms fighting against the endurance training, or it’s in competition so to speak, with the endurance training stimulus. But bottom line, really, sorry for the long answer again, is it sounded to me like there is a mild weight or strength training problem. I don’t think it does a lot of harm, really, here.

Menachem Brodie:

No, and the long answers I love. Because that’s part of the process, is understanding there’s so much that goes into answering, or trying to figure out, because we never really answer the question, right? We always take a guess, and we formulate a hypothesis, and we try it. Then one athlete responds well and another one doesn’t respond at all, or it goes opposite what we think. Everybody’s a study of one, is what I like to say.

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

It’s so true, because you’re like, “Here’s my philosophy.” You’re a first year coach, “Here’s my philosophy, and it worked for this first rider.” You get a second and third rider, it kind of works pretty good but not as well, then you get your fourth rider and it completely bombs. You’re like, “Crap, do I even belong here? Should I quit?” It’s like constant refining. Well let’s bring it back full circle. Now, you mentioned at the beginning that it depends on the type of strength training you’re doing, and there’s a difference between core training and what we consider standard gym training. Do you mind getting into that a little bit and why that’s important for the listeners to understand?

Sebastian Weber:

Of course. I think it is very important. I think it is going back a little bit to the beginning of our talk here, saying you focus so much on FTP, or you focus so much on power output. I think it is something which is massively overlooked, in cycling. Whatever you call that, call it performance, or I call it stability or [inaudible 00:55:42] counter force on the bike. You actually may want to go to YouTube or to Google and look for some years, I think sometime in the ’80s or something, there was a Trek Pursuit team who actually put some belt around their lower back, just to [inaudible 00:56:03] their hips, so to speak.

Then attached this belt to their frame. So it helped them pressing into the bike. It got immediately bent by the use. Because the performance enhancing effect is huge. Here’s what I would like you and everybody else out there to think about. If you’re doing a hard bike training, you have your Sunday group ride or whatever, and afterwards at home or somewhere else, you have to walk up some stairs. You most likely, everybody’s familiar with the feelings that your quads hurt, right?

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah.

Sebastian Weber:

Exactly. Right? Why is that? Why is that? Because you’re doing a very similar movement you’ve done the last hours before your same in your group ride, using the same muscles. You have fatigued quadriceps, and therefore it hurts. You’re doing more or less the same movement. You’re doing knee extensions, right? You want to extend your leg. The funniest thing is that it is the same movement. It is the same movement, when you walk upstairs, you’re performing this movement and you anticipate that this movement, will lift your body mass up to the next stair. When you do the very same movement on the bike, you anticipate and you expect your pedal to go down. It’s a truth test, your pedal goes down, but you’re also lifting yourself up from the saddle.

This is something which is a lot of, because everybody is thinking, if you just talked about it for several minutes, how to increase the strength of your quadriceps. That basically implies that we are thinking about increasing the power, the force production, whatever. Increasing the performance of your quadriceps. Then we talk about FTP, it’s also the same thing. Everybody’s thinking about improving your quadriceps. How about just losing less force by being more stable on the bike? When you press down the pedal and the downstroke, and you have a force of let’s say 30 or 40 kilograms, which you can measure on the pedal, so to speak, with your power meter, with your strain [inaudible 00:58:26] there.

You have 40 kilograms, what is actually produced by the quadriceps is most cases more than double of that. The rest is basically used to lift your body weight out of the saddle, okay? That example should make quite clear is that you could do either, right? You could just improve or increase the force production, the torque production of your quadriceps, and still lose 60%, so to speak. Or you could make sure that you lose less force and less torque, right? And just have a better stability and a better counterforce [inaudible 00:59:10] on the bike.

Now if you think a little bit further, when you want to improve the strength of your legs, it may come to the cost of what we talked about, right? You now need to consider increasing your VLa max, and maybe you don’t want that, because it hampers endurance performance. You may be considered about, you said hypertrophy. I don’t want to be so [inaudible 00:59:37]. Whatever. Then you just are more stable on the bike, and lose less of the force you’re producing in your legs, you don’t have to worry about these things. I think it’s massively overlooked, long story short.

Menachem Brodie:

Yes, incredibly so. That actually goes back to our second episode, before we started having any guests, and that was force creates motion, but stiffness controls motion. Especially proximal stiffness. So many people overlook that, and the bird dog exercise, I see it all the time, done incorrectly where they’re flexing the spine in and out of the flexion extension. It’s meant to be a buffering exercise, where we’re learning how to buttress the spine. Especially in the cycling position, that’s why the UCI also outlawed having your saddle pointed down so much, is because then you’re pushing down and back.

Sebastian Weber:

Exactly. Yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

I see people for bike fits, not anymore, I focus more on the strength training and there’s only so many hours in the day. But I saw a couple people, I brought their seat up because they wanted to do a time trial for USA Cycling. I’m like, “They’re not going to allow your bike.” “Why not?” They’re like, “My power went down.” Of course it went down and you look like a wet noodle on the bike now. You have no stiffness.

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah, that’s what it is. That’s exactly what it is. Some people may know the story of Tony Martin, has his grip tape on the saddle which basically ripped off his cycling shorts. That’s all about stability. It’s trying to be more stable, we have used everything. We have used spray glue. You know, you use spray glue on your seat and spray glue on your shorts, and therefore you’re more stable, you’re more stable on the bike. You could also measure that, by the way. In 2008, I started working with a company called GebioMized. If you’re getting a bike fit somewhere on this planet, there’s a fair chance that you end up getting some pressure mapping, and then it’s most likely coming from the product of GebioMized, they do pressure mapping on the saddle so they can measure the force on the saddle and in the insoles, right? In your shoes. And for the time trialists, by the way, also in the armrest pits.

Basically what they created for us back in the day, like 11 years ago, was like an HTC [inaudible 01:02:05], was a prototype where basically the force measurement on the saddle was time wise synchronized with the force measurements in your insoles. We would remotely, like with telemetry, get the live data into the car following the riders, and be able to see whenever the rider pushes down, how much he unloads himself on the saddle. What is the actual force that comes out of the leg, so to speak? And how much is actually get lost, of this force, by lifting itself out of the saddle?

Menachem Brodie:

That’s fantastic.

Sebastian Weber:

It’s something that people know, by the way. If you have pain sitting in the saddle for several hours, you know that. Just think about it, you have a four hour ride, and after three hours, sorry, your butt starts to hurt. Right?

Menachem Brodie:

Yes, yes.

Sebastian Weber:

You have sitting problems. Now, you ride up a climb and your cadence drops. 70, 65, maybe 60rpm. Your pain is gone.

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah.

Sebastian Weber:

That’s not because of some magic things, that’s not because the air is better uphill or something. That is because your torque is higher, your force is higher, and you’re lifting yourself, you’re unloading yourself out of the saddle. As soon as you descend, it changes. Okay? You can try that. You can easily try that. Just try to sit on your bike for 10 minutes without pedaling. It will get uncomfortable most likely, because then there’s no lifting out of the saddle, right? Yeah. I just wanted to bring this anecdote, that what we developed to measure that.

By the way, then we had, just to complete this story, we have off bike trainers. We had coaches on the team, one of them, Dasi Norman, who had a beautiful career, has had a beautiful career in soccer now. Who were utilizing this data to create special off-bike training programs, to basically really improve this performance of the athletes to be more stable on the bike, yeah, get more out of the force they’re producing in the legs.

Menachem Brodie:

Love it. I seriously could sit here and talk for another day about this, because it’s stuff that nobody … It’s hard to find somebody else who gets it. You’re at the front of it and I’m like, “Hey, let’s talk about the forces on a seat.” The biggest eye roll in history, just do it from 20, 24. Lord. We just use different muscles climbing uphill. No, it’s the torque you’re producing. You’re changing your dynamics on the saddle.

Sebastian Weber:

Yes, yes, that’s what it is. Yeah.

Menachem Brodie:

Unfortunately, I think we’re out of time for today, Sebastian. But we definitely have to have you back. There’s so much more that we can go down here. I have five and a half pages of notes. I know that on the website, you have a section for free webinars. You also have the master class before the Tour de France. You have a number of learning opportunities in Europe. Where can people find you? What’s the best way to get in touch with you? And how do they find a coach who is able to help them with the Inscyd software?

Sebastian Weber:

Yeah. As you said, we do have webinars, we do have workshops. We did some workshop tours in the US in the last year. I’m not sure this is happening 2019. Instead, we have webinars, as you said. That’s not only from me, that’s also from other coaches. You can listen to webinars from, say, if you’re a triathlete, you can listen to a webinar of the coach of Jan Frodeno, or last year we had a presentation from the coach of Peter Sagal. I think there’s some valid, some really high value information out there that we offer to athletes and coaches. Then as an athlete, you often get asked, “Yeah, how can I use this?” Basically our product, at the moment, it’s only for coaches.

Because as it is right now, it’s no offense against athletes, but it’s a very complex tool which allows you to do a lot of things, and when you get it as a coach, you don’t only get the software, you also get the training with it. There’s a learning process involved, and it’s a teaching and a consulting process involved. Therefore, we don’t think at the moment it’s the right thing for athletes, maybe. If you are an athlete, and you’re interested, for example, in getting your VLa max figured out, because you want to really know how you need to do your gym training of your strength training, or if you say, “Hey by the way, it’s a good point, I never thought about really why my FTP is what it is and what I need to do to change it.” Or my fat max or something like that.

Then you can find coaches and labs and universities or whoever you want to look for, who is using our software and could help you out, assessing your performance. It is not necessary it has to be somebody close by, there’s a remote texting protocol, currently the cycling only, but maybe later on, also with this running, with utilizing running power. You could actually get your numbers, even if you’re not coached by a coach who utilizes Inscyd. Yeah. Go to our page, sorry, giving you a little bit of a sales pitch here. Go to our page, look at it, find a coach or just consume the content there. I think and I hope there’s a lot of valuable information for you.

Menachem Brodie:

Yeah. I’m a big fan of having people on and wealth of knowledge here, and I strongly encourage everybody. The blog that they have up, attending the master class before the Tour de France, treat yourself, go learn from one of the best in the industry, if not the best, Sebastian Weber. Thank you so much for joining us today. I really, really learned a lot and really loved having you. We’ll have to have you back.

Sebastian Weber:

Thank you again. It was a pleasure. It was really enjoyed it. It would be a pleasure to be back sometime.

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, @HVTraining. 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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