Strategies to help you best organize your training week for better performances
In Chapter 14 “Programming, What’s The Big Idea” of my best-selling book Strength Training For Cycling Performance I laid out the foundations of how to look at your training each week to help you figure out how to best arrange your strength training each week alongside your riding schedule.
However, there was no “hardline rule” of how to put together your training week.
This Addendum to the book, which I’m also posting as an article on the Human Vortex Training website, will help you better understand how to program your strength training, mostly by presenting the information from chapter 14 in more direct bullet points.
It all boils down to three sentences:
- It depends on you & your abilities to adapt to your trainings (both on-bike and off)
- I do not know the answer to your specific needs without working with you 1 on 1.
- There are a few “best practices” you can follow
Having been around the fitness and performance fields for over 25 years, I have read my fair share of books claiming to have the answers and giving me a workout plan to follow. While most of these books are written for beginners, and thus are able to give you solid, hardline training plans written week by week, day by day, when it comes to developing performance -FOR YOU- there are no hard guidelines, only general rules that must be followed.
Therein is where the knowledge, experience (see: successes and especially failures- or “not the best way to do things”) and eye of a highly experienced strength coach come into play.
Here are a few more guidelines to help you program your strength training week, using the principles discussed in Chapter 14 of Strength Training For Cycling Performance.
Managing Your Training Year
Best Practices for the training year:
- Make Strength Training a minimum of 2 days a week a year-round commitment- except your two to four week “peak”, where the rules and rhythm changes a little
- Follow RPE for each session (not weight or resistance level), as it will help you meet your body where it is on that day, at that time.
- Show up consistently. In order to reap rewards from your strength training, you must show up at minimum 70% of the time. If you’re serious about performance gains, 85%.
- Make it a habit to do the things that support your training: Get 8 hours of quality sleep with a regular bedtime, drink 8 glasses of water a day, eat 1.6-2.0g/kg of protein each day, have at least 8 servings of vegetables each day, floss regularly, have fun.
Base & Build Periods:
The vast majority of cyclists will get all the benefits of regular strength training by programming in three (3) strength training days a week:
One (1) Stimulation Session
One (1) Development Session
One (1) Recovery Session
The recovery day may be dropped if you have an unusually busy week, however these sessions, when done properly, have a huge turbo-booster effect on the adaptation process, and can really push your performances to new levels.
The vast majority of cyclists will get all the benefits of regular strength training by programming in two (2) to three (3) strength training days a week:
One (1) Stimulation Session
One (1) Development Session
One (1) Recovery Session
The Stimulation day may be dropped if you have an unusually busy week, however, be sure that the Development day is done by RPE, as you can easily over-do it if you’re looking at weight or resistance used only. The key is just enough to Develop… the minimal effective dose.
This often means that the strength session is much shorter in time, and that the working sets are limited. See the Workout programs in back of Strength Training for Cycling Performance for examples of how to properly do this.
Peak Season (MAXIMUM 4 weeks in length)
Peaking means the 2-4 weeks of the year that you are in your absolute best form and shape of the year!
For those cyclists who are aiming to be in “perma-peak” shape all year, this “Peak Season” we are about to discuss does NOT apply to you! Instead, you will continue to follow the “In-Season” guidelines.
When you are Peaking, all your energy is going to either riding or recovering!
For this period of time you should program in One (1) Recovery Session once every 7-10 days.
If you’ve found the Recovery Day Sessions to significantly help you recover and adapt through your Base, Build, and In-Season up until now (a very common occurrence), you can aim for two (2) to three (3) Recovery Sessions in a 7-10 day period.
Less is more.
We want the minimal effective dose.
Managing Your Training Week
These are GENERAL Guidelines on how to begin to think about planning your strength training week. Refer to the “Managing Your Training Year” segment above to help you dial these appropriately for the time of year you are in/will be in.
Best Practices for your Training Week:
- Never begin your strength training week with a Development Day, it will fry you and set your week on an negative path
- Listen to your body, if you complete the breathing + dynamic warmup and aren’t sure if you “have it” today, dial back your RPE one to two levels.
- Know the “Rule of 10” as shared by Tony Gentilcore on the Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast: Out of 10 day strength training, 8 will feel ‘Meh’, 1 will feel awful, and 1 you will feel like ‘Thor G-d of Thunder’
- When in doubt, go lighter. It never hurts to leave a little on the table, but you will pay for going over sooner or later
- If your energy is low, always at least give a shot of strength training. Do so starting with the breathing and dynamic warmup.
If your energy drops off while doing these exercises, go home. If your energy is about the same as you started or higher- keep going- but dial your effort level down (per rule #2).
If your energy is going up during or after the breathing + dynamic warmup, keep your workout as written!
- Less is more. Unlike on-bike training where often to see progress you need to get to the point you feel tired/exhausted/sore, with strength training that is not the case at all!
For strength training you only need to: give full focus and intent on how you perform the movement, and to show up regularly.
Strength Train at RPE’s of 5, 6, and 7’s consistently, and you WILL see progress in both your strength training and cycling performances.
Most cyclists take mondays off, as they’re ridden a lot of time or intensity (or both) over the weekends. However, Mondays are often the best days on which to do a Recovery Session in your strength training.
These sessions get you some breathing, dynamic movements, and work on movements and postures that can help you improve your recovery and adaptations to the weekends riding, and help you “unlock” or “unwind” your tight or weak spots (neck, shoulders, hip flexors, etc).
If you’re one that takes off Sundays, or perhaps Mondays are your first training rides of the week, pair a short Recovery Strength Session for after your ride. Just 10-15 minutes of breathing and dynamic movements can significantly boost your adaptations to your riding, and your riding performances.
If you use an HRV device, you’ll often find that properly executed Recovery Sessions have a significant positive effect on your recovery score. Yay technology for helping us understand that strength training can have a powerful recovery and adaptation effect for your riding!
No Strength on Monday?
Today is either a Recovery Workout, or a Stimulation Day. We want to get the body moving again, but not nail it to the wall.
If Tuesday’s are usually an interval day for you, and a harder one at that, you have two options:
- Do a Stimulation Strength workout on the same day
- Take the day off from Strength Training.
Whether you should strength train before or after your ride will come down to two main decisions:
Does my schedule give me flexibility to choose which one to do first?
What is my main focus- to gain strength, or to ride faster?
For many of us “normal cyclists” we have day jobs, families, and other commitments that make it hard to fit both a ride and a strength session into our schedules in the morning, so we have to choose one.
If you decide to perform strength on the same day as this harder ride, make sure to follow the RPE rule and forget about the weight you did last week. Due to the physiological fatigue from the ride, your “strength” may vary a bit as far as the actual weight or resistance used. But by following the RPE you will be able to strain your body in the same amount week in and week out, allowing you to keep on track.
And remember, when you’re unsure, go with the lighter weight or resistance. It’s far better to leave a little in the tank, than to do too much.
If you or your coach are on a training program with back to back riding days, I’d recommend taking today off from the strength program, so you can give your body the energy availability it needs to recover from your riding, and the first strength session of the week.
No Strength On Tuesday?
-Today’s your Development day for Strength! Follow the RPE guide, but your job is to get that work in, especially if you have a ride today.
No Strength On Wednesday?
-Today’s your Development day for Strength! Follow the RPE guide, but your job is to get that work in!
If Thursday is your off day from riding and you did not lift yesterday, then today is your Development day for strength.
This is often an off day from strength training for cyclists, however, if you haven’t gotten in your 2nd strength training session for whatever reason, it’s better to do it today, than to skip it.
If you are in-season and are concerned about being sore or tired for your weekend rides or events, dial down the volume (less total repetitions), by either eliminating one (1) working set, or decreasing the repetitions by 20-25% (so if you have 2 sets of 5, do one set of 5 and one set of 3, at the prescribed RPE, without going up in weight for the second set.
SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS
Usually riding takes all our time, however if you can get in a post-ride Recovery Session one of these days, it can be really helpful in the adaptation process. For most, this Recovery session would be considered an EXTRA session, and as such should be kept short. 15-20 minutes is plenty.
No, foam rolling does not count, however foam rolling may be included in this session if done right before the Breathing Exercise.
If you do want to do this, then foam roll/trigger point only for 20-30 seconds each spot, with a maximum of 3-5 minutes TOTAL for this.
The REAL Answer? It Depends.
To be blunt about it, dear reader, I do not have all the answers you are looking for. But that is exactly the path one must follow when building a strength training program for performance.
Each and every one of you brings with you a different lifestyle, life rhythm, movement patterns, training capabilities, and a whole bunch of other things which will greatly influence and affect your training abilities on a day to day basis.
The answer to “How do I build my training week?” will always be “It Depends.”.
This is why my book could not be any shorter- there are a lot of considerations and pieces which must be taken into account and understood- at least at the most basic levels, if you are going to be able to build a strength training program for performance.
But if you follow the principles and information from the book, the outline from Chapter 14 of Strength Training for Cycling Performance, and use this article as a “Quick-Start Guide” to plan your weeks, I am certain that you will find the rhythm and consistency that will lead you to successes and wins.
If you are interested in learning about how to appropriately and best apply strength training for cycling performance, and want to learn how to assess your rider on and off the bike, how to build a strength training program, cycling-specific progressions and regressions for exercises, as well as how and when to program each kind of strength training block, the Strength Training for Cyclists Certification is currently open for enrollment.
Since 2019 this industry-leading course has helped coaches, personal trainers, and strength coaches from around the world to improve the cycling results of their clients and athletes. But spots are limited.
As always, if you have any questions or, if you’d like to work with my 1 on 1, or in a small group to see the difference a weightlifting program built for you towards your performance makes, you can email me at Brodie@HumanVortexTraining.com.