Strength training for me has always been an exciting part of training. Previously coming from a sprint background, you could guarantee that if you asked what training I had on that day, I would most likely respond with ‘gym!’. But I always get asked what’s the best way to integrate strength training with a hard cycling program.
For a sprinter, training in the gym often revolves around three specific training stimuli throughout the year; Strength, Power and Speed. These would be focused and combined with training on the bike and then adjusted for competitions later on in the year.
For endurance training, there will also be these specific training stimuli to focus on throughout the year, however, they are slightly different to that of a sprinter! This involves the types of lifts planned as well as the progression in weights. Training is monitored with the help of a structured programme and breaking the programme down with periodisation.
Periodise Your Training
Periodisation is the splitting up of a training year into manageable blocks, with the goal of incorporating all aspects of training to bring the athlete to peak performance at the required time. If we break the training blocks down further, we get the macrocycle, mesocycles and microcycles.
For example, if a rider is targeting a National Championships, we as S&C coaches would look to see where and how is best to incorporate the required training. This training year (the macrocycle) to focus on the National Championships would be broken down into blocks of training (the mesocycles). This could be one mesocycle lasting 4 weeks and from this, we break it down further and introduce the microcycles which are where the specific training and exercises come in.
To expand on this, a rider may want to have a block of strength that lasts 4 weeks before going into power and then speed to prepare for race day. The individual training sessions within these blocks would be classed as the mesocycles. Planning sessions around training on the bike is easier to do when looking at the different phases that are being used.
The three main ones used are Competition Phase, Preparation Phase and Transition Phase. With this, it helps to identify other important aspects of the year and other goals the athlete may have. It will also allow us to identify where we would be able to keep pressure on with the S&C side of things, getting the rider to train through some races and in other cases find where things need to be taken back to allow appropriate rest and recovery to ensure they are in good condition for their main goals.
The competition phase is exactly as it seems – full of competitions and where the rider will want to be feeling their best. For this time of the year, it would be important to adhere to strength training with this in mind, ideally keeping the intensity high but volume low.
The preparation phase is where the majority of gains are made – the winter training (for cyclists as the race season is through the spring/summer).
This phase is usually from November to February, depending on the competitions and when they start. Having a decent block of strength training will really help with the summer months of racing and is a good time to discover how strong you can really get.
The transition phase is another term for the off-season. It is a time to really recover from a hard year of racing and training and to get ready for it to all start over again.
Recovery is one of the most important times of training, so taking 3-4 weeks off the bike and from the gym completely will help to let the body and mind reset and refresh.
The priority lies with training on the bike, looking at how best to schedule S&C training, to ensure correct adaptations occur and to make sure the rider is not overtraining. Knowing how much S&C training to plan into your training will take some trial and error, which can be done through the preparation phase, to allow you to play around with weights and different exercises that you may not have tried before!