You can use the structure of your periodized cycling training plan to guide the progression of your strength training. This approach can help you reach strength-specific goals while preserving your cycling workouts.


Key Takeaways:

  • Approaching strength training with the principles of periodization in mind can help athletes preserve the integrity of their training plan while still progressing relevant strength based abilities. 
  • The off-season is a good time to experiment with strength training and build a foundation in the gym. 
  • With lower overall training stress, the base phase is the best time in a cycling season to add heavier weights, increase reps, and build strength specific capabilities. 
  • During the Build and Specialty phase athletes can maintain the strength they’ve built in Base with a regular strength maintenance routine. 

The Basics of Periodized Training

Maintaining the functionality of your strength training can be achieved with a strength training plan that compliments the goals and structure of your cycling plan. For cyclists following a periodized training plan this can be as simple as aligning your strength training with the progression of your periodized cycling training plan.

If you’re following a TrainerRoad training plan your training has a periodized and progresive structure. Simply put, periodization is the manipulation and management of training stress through cycles to obtain peak fitness at a desired time.

The Meso, Macro, and Micro Cycle

Periodized training plans are organized into three types of cycles — the macro cycle, the meso cycle, and the micro cycle. The macro cycle is your season-long training progression. The macro cycle includes the Base, Build, Specialty progression. This cycle brings fitness from broad to specific with an increase in specificity and training stress. The meso cycles are the training blocks within your season-long plan. In a typical four week block, the first three weeks progressively overload your body, while the fourth week focuses on recovery. Micro cycles are the individual weeks within the meso cycles. Micro cycles also include a small stress overload followed by recovery.

As the weeks progress the training stimulus grows increasingly progressive and specific.  As the specificity increases so does the intensity and overall physical demand of the individual workouts. By the time you reach the Build and Specialty phase managing TSS and ensuring proper recovery becomes all the more crucial. For a strength training plan to complement a periodized cycling progression, the stress imposed by strength training should be inverse to the training stress in each cycle. 

Build Strength in Base and Maintain in Build and Specialty 

Cyclists can do this by progressing their strength based abilities during the base season and then shifting to a maintenance routine during Specialty and Build. Athletes can further align their strength training with their periodized cycling training by backing off during the recovery weeks in each meso-cycle and aligning strength workouts with cycling days in each macro cycle. To get an idea of what this might look like, here’s a few simple steps you can follow when planning out your strength training.

Set Strength-Based Goals

The overall lower intensity and training stress during base makes it the best time to add on strength training stress and experiment with harder workouts and heavier lifts. Before you plan any workouts during Base though, you should consider your overarching goal with strength training. Are you aiming to establish a baseline fitness with a body-weight strength routine? Or do you hope to eventually add weight lifting to your routine? If you aren’t sure where to start, Chad’s Strength Training Benchmarks and the strength training calculator can be used to set specific weight and rep goals. 

Set Strength Days in Your Calendar

Like your periodized cycling training plan, to achieve your strength-based goals you need to maintain a basic amount of consistency and progression. Luckily, it only takes a few days in the gym each week to progress your abilities. During the base season, two to three days of weight training is sufficient enough to promote physical adaptations and grow stronger. To keep your strength training aligned with your training plan we recommend setting strength days on the same days as your cycling workouts to ensure you still have dedicated recovery days. For a comprehensive explanation of how to time your workouts and what days to train on check out this complete guide: Strength Training and Cycling – How to Time Your Workouts

Start Small and Take it Slow

When you’re planning out workouts in your Calendar, plan a slow and steady progression. Body weight exercises are a great place to start for all cyclists. When your form is solid you might consider beginning to add weight and increasing repetitions. Continue to maintain a slow and steady progression as you add weight and repetitions from one strength day to the next.

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If you don’t have access to gym equipment or you’re hesitant to use weights, stick to a body-weight based training routine. Body-weight exercises are plenty productive and can be great for maintaining base level fitness. You can continue to challenge yourself with body weight exercises by incrementally adding time or repetitions to your workouts.

Follow the Structure of your Cycling Weeks

When you reach a scheduled recovery week your strength training should be substantially easier too. If you’re feeling especially fatigued you may want to consider reducing your strength training entirely and using that time to focus on mobility work and form. Keeping your strength training in line with your structured training maintains a general periodized structure.

Like your cycling training, you also can’t repeat the same exact workout over and over and expect to continue to improve. Diversify your training with a variety of lifts and intentions while progressively adding weights and repetitions to continue challenging your system. 

Plan Ahead

Using your Calendar, plan strength training workouts along with your TrainerRoad training plan. Your strength workouts should follow the same logical progression that your TrainerRoad training plan does. There should be weeks that build your fitness and challenge your current abilities, and there should be recovery weeks that offer a complete opportunity to rest and recover. If you find yourself at the end of one week feeling totally spent, dial it back when you plan out your next week.

Adjust for Build and Specialty 

When you move into the Build and Specialty phase, the goal of your strength training will likely no longer be to progressively challenge your strength based abilities. Instead, strength training is incorporated to maintain as much strength as possible with little stress.

You can maintain strength with relatively minimal effort by integrating just one or two days of strength training each week. These workouts don’t have to be anything strenuous, either. Your routine will vary depending on your abilities and schedule, but a circuit with a few basic exercises can be all you need to maintain the rewards until the end of the season. 

Moving Forward With Strength

This approach to strength training should ultimately allow you to sustainably progress your abilities while preserving the progression of your cycling training plan. If you find that your demand for strength training exceeds this approach then you may want to consider working one on one with a cycling-specific strength training coach. A comprehensive strength training plan built by someone who knows how to maximize the effects of strength training in relation to a cycling training plan can help you take the next step in your strength training progression.



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Meghan Kelley

Meghan Kelley is a writer, XC MTB racer, and an all-around fan of trails, rocks, dirt, and the desert. She's passionate about helping cyclists get faster and finding the best mid-ride snacks.