Back-to-back bike workouts and single-set strength training

Guten Abend.

Has anyone tried doing single-set heavy weight training back-to-back after their bike workouts? How did that work for you?

Here’s the background: the back end of last year has been pretty exciting: we bought a house in September and got a baby in November. Even before we moved and the baby arrived, my training suffered - primarily from emotional stress and life changes related anxiety. My primary (training-related) problem now is that I can no longer do double-days with strength work and bike workouts. It’s just too much. Now, I tried switching to a low volume masters plan and organised my week like this:

Tue - off
Wed - bike hard
Thu - strength full body (15 work sets + core work)
Fri - off
Sat - bike hard
Sun - bike endurance
Mon - strength full body

This is me trying to be sensible - it didn’t feel good: a) I felt like my bike training didn’t progress b) I missed the stress release I get from riding (I like lifting, but it’s simply not the same). Also I’m gaining/retaining weight if I don’t change the amount of food I had consumed on a higher volume plan… Some of the weight visibly is muscle mass, but there is also some belly fat that wasn’t there before.

So, what I want to try now is doing single-set weight training in combination with a mid-volume training plan. My impression is that single-set training does not have a huge toll in terms of muscle soreness and fatigue on me (I’m not telling anyone to do this). The training effect is hard to gauge though. I looked for articles on single-set training, and they were promising in terms of the effects of single-set training on strength gain and muscle-growth. The problem is that these articles did not focus on athletes and certainly not on the back-to-back combination with bike workouts. Still, I think this is worth running a little trial on myself.
The plan now looks like:

Mon off
Tue bike hard + strength I (5-10 reps squats, 5-10 reps deadlift, twist with rotation)
Wed bike easy + strength II (dips and chin-ups to exhaustion (ridiculously low), standing twist)
Thu bike hard + strength I
Fri off
Sat bike hard + strength III (TRX push-ups, TRX row wide, cycle crunches)
Sun bike endurance

The heavy lifting, squats and deadlift, is done till proper form cannot be maintained (let’s call it failure). My trainer lives next to my squat cage - so no additional time is invested in going to the gym etc

I want to monitor the following:

  1. long term maintainability
  2. on-the-bike performance
  3. will I effectively stop lifting altogether when I do “very hard” and “all out” workouts and have to skip strength training? (I’m only in base now)
  4. will it be possible to maintain the current level of strength?
  5. (how) will my motivation to train change?
  6. body composition

If any of you have tried something similar, I’d be interested to hear what your experiences have been.

I’d be interested in this too, as my strength sessions have fallen off the weekly calendar since I got injured at Christmas.

First thought is that a single set of a strength exercise wouldn’t be enough. How long does the strength set take, almost feels like it’s 5-10mins max if you go a couple of types of exercise and to me that just doesn’t seem enough to cause adaptation - or especially after the first week or two.

I’d be looking to periodise your calendar and prioritise riding for a period of weeks (or months) and then prioritise strength for a period. And if that doesn’t do it for you mentally, then you have to work out whats most important. Something might have to give :slight_smile:

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FWIW i did the Jeff nippard 3x week minimalist program this fall. It has very low set counts, mostly one set and sometimes with a drop set.
Compared to my previous experiences with lifting, I was pleasantly surprised by how little doms I felt.
I’m saw progress in the weights, and felt I was able to balance it with my riding (Hv plan)

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Yes, that sounds about right. I wouldn’t expect much in terms of improvement (adaptation) either, but the question is if and for how long this might be sufficient to maintain strength. I did a strength block in December prior to shifting towards bike training in January.

Anyway, I think this might be a better approach than having only one longer strength session per week. On Tuesday, I did 6 squats after Coy and on Thursday 8 after Geiger (same weight). I’ll simply have to see if I can maintain weight and reps.

I think it’s important to note here that the majority of the research done on ‘minimalist’ training also often gets conflated with significant increases in intensity. Even if you listen to nippard etc al to get a filtered view, he talks about his sets being to absolute failure. Absolute failure in weights can have it’s own risks.

The reality is I think twofold.

Yes, you probably don’t need as much volume as you think to get the bulk of your gains that are applicable to cycling.

Stress is stress. Unless you’re relatively untrained, single set training at an intensity that does not impact same-day training is not going to be a revelation.

This resonates with my personal experience doing something similar.

When I tried same-day heavy leg training (eg vo2 AM, heavy squats / deads PM) i just simply couldnt get the quality in my weight training. There is no way I am repping 140kg for 5 reps of back squat after 30/15s, and if I try I will hurt myself. The opposite is less risky, but there is no way I am doing 30/15s at 550w after squats, no matter how much I eat.

That said, the majority of what you appear to be proposing is upper body / vanity / core work, so practically your main limiter here will just be calorie intake and general fatigue.

My honest advice is that I think of heavy lifting and hard bike work as ‘intensity’. I know that I cannot manage more than 3 days of ‘intensity’ a week. This means that when I lift heavy twice, I do one day of hard bike work. When I need to do two hard bike days, I drop to a strength program that enables maintainance and do it once a week. If I need more bike volume, I combine strength with shorter, easier z2 later in the day.

Best of luck.

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So you don’t think the aerobic cycling exercise will mute the adaptions or maintenance the strength reps are trying to achieve? I know theres so much stuff on strength sessions and aerobic cycling sessions opposing each other so far as the adaptations they’re trying to achieve, which is why I try to keep strength and cycling separate by at least a few hours.

What’s your baseline strength like? When I do no strength work during summer, I can still go back to it in winter and hit the kind of numbers that that Trainerroad article on benchmarks for the different riders types proposes. When I get into strength I do like doing it, but I don’t think my riding actually suffers when I don’t.

Is there a reason you’re trying to keep strength in your training? What’s the overall goal?

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How so? I only do body weight exercises for the upper body - that’s more stability training than anything else and I don’t see that interfere with my bike training.

General health and well-being I’d say.

People saying to Make sure you get your cycling in before weights are really rolling the dice in my opinion - what you said is true about trying to lift on a tired body and increased risk of injury

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strength II (dips and chin-ups to exhaustion (ridiculously low), standing twist)

Vanity / General Health

strength III (TRX push-ups, TRX row wide, cycle crunches)

Vanity / General Health

This is totally fine.

Vanity is a totally acceptable reason for lifting. I’m not gatekeeping. I’m making the point that you are not talking about work that is mutually exclusive, so the impact on mTOR or signalling or whatever is mostly going to be null and your only limiter will be time and nutrition on those days.

Best of luck with the rest of it but basically the science says you shouldn’t do what you’re proposing due to the interference effect.

Should Cyclists Ride and Lift Weights on the Same Day? - CTS (trainright.com)

This is a relatively old article but it’s one of the better simplifications of how to understand the interference effect observed in studies.

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Yeah I mean I think if I was doing this again I wouldn’t squat or deadlift heavy, especially not at the intensity required to profit from a single set (95+% of 5RM).

When fatigued I would absolutely counsel anyone to swap them out for heavy single leg work like a leg press -very similar training impulse with much less risk.

Obviously, this depends on you wanting to lift simply for leg strength - I lift because it keeps my core and back in good health, so I trend towards things like, say, an overhead squat, step up, or barbell front rack reverse lunge.

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You might consider doing super slow to failure single set type work as outlined in Body By Science by Dr. Doug McGuff. Its more suited to machines than free weights, but seems to be effective in terms of stressing the muscles, with minimal time investment.

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This is what I have found too. Two hard bike workouts, one heavy leg day and one “pump” leg day are the max I can get away with.

With three hard biking days, you probably don’t also need two heavy lifting days. Why not run an upper/lower/upper split for the lifting and instead of taking two days off from training entirely per week, take just one day off entirely? For days you do both the bike and the strength work, I’d pair upper body work with the hard biking days and lower body work with an endurance biking day.

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I’d like to thank everyone for their answers. You’re right and while I think I could pull the training-lift brick off recovery-wise, it’s probably got limited merits in terms of fitness gains and the injury risk is not worth it. So, I’ll go back to what I found disappointing in terms of training progress and will accept that at the moment double-days simply aren’t possible.

Mon off
Tue bike hard
Wed bike easy
Thu bike hard
Fri off
Sat full strength session (+ bike easy later the day if time permits)
Sun soul ride: moderate mountain bike, long endurance, café ride…

Perhaps, I’ll throw in some core and stability stuff during the week, but I’ll make that decision on a day-to-day basis.

Thanks again :smiley:

Here’s an article related to the topic of this thread, in case anyone is still reading:

Behm et al 2024: Minimalist Training: Is Lower Dosage or Intensity Resistance Training Effective to Improve Physical Fitness? A Narrative Review
Sports Medicine (2024) 54:289–302

It is not presently known whether such minimalist RT
programs can positively impact the overall health of an
individual. However, 2–3 months of a minimalist program
has the potential to improve muscle strength in individuals
with little RT experience

Surprise surprise - nothing is free.

Are you doing heavy squat or deadlift on Saturdays? I tried to do endurace rides after these heavy days and felt really wrecked

Yes. For me, it depends on the number of reps. If I do up to about 5 per set, it works. However, I’ve done double days for years. Strength in the morning and bike in the evening.

This is probably a big deal. We unfortunately don’t have that in common :sweat_smile: