Failing workouts after taking up weight training

Greetings all,

I have recently started weight training to strengthen/tone my upper body, I am not looking to add much size/weight so only medium weight high repetition lifting. I am alternating my days on the trainer and in the garage lifting weights. Before I started on the weights I very rarely failed a cycling workout but I have failed two workouts in the last ten days, it just feels like the energy is not there like it usually is.

My question is, how can I combat this issue? do I just accept I will need to focus on one or the other disciplines and not both at the same time? The only thing I have recently changed in my diet is I have a protein shake after each workout each day (I didn’t drink protein shakes at all before I started the weight training) apart from that I am eating/drinking the same amount, do I need to eat more and keep a close eye on my weight?

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Greater total stress for the body with increased training stimulus. Have you added in more recovery? More sleep? More kcal?

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Lots of things to consider here.

  1. How many days are you lifting?
  2. How much lifting volume are you doing per week?
  3. How is your week structured? Can you change this to allow yourself more recovery after lifting before riding, or even do both on the same day to increase total rest days per week?

See here for lots of info:



I get these e-mails from a coach, not mine. Check out the bold bit, Not looked at the science.

In this email, we’ll be looking at some of the best means of improving your lactate threshold, which when viewed in relation to your aerobic capacity or VO2max (which we’ll be providing tips on in the next email) is arguably the largest single performance determinant for most cyclists.

So, here are some of our key pieces of advice for raising your threshold:
• Firstly, volume is king when it comes to improving the lactate threshold. There’s really no better way to cause consistent and sustainable improvements in your lactate threshold than ensuring you get a good volume of low-intensity aerobic endurance riding (Zone 2, and low Zone 3). That’s because the lactate threshold is a balance between how much lactate you produce and how quickly you can clear it. Long, aerobic endurance rides work on both sides of that equation by improving things like the mitochondrial content and enzyme activity in muscles, which helps reduce lactate production and more effectively clear any lactate that is produced. Unlike interval and threshold work, where there’s an upper limit to how much you can tolerate, the volume of low-intensity rides can also be safely increased year-on-year to see continual improvements in the lactate threshold, provided this is done in a conservative way.

Next, if you’re looking for a way to really reduce lactate production and boost your lactate threshold, fasted or carbohydrate restricted training is an extra tool you can combine with long aerobic endurance rides to boost their effectiveness. Try doing 1-2 endurance rides per week in the morning, without consuming any carbohydrates beforehand. Remember, this includes milk and sugar in your tea/coffee. If you’re planning to do something more than 1.5-2 hours, we’d recommend taking some food with you, so you can eat if you start to feel energy levels dropping. We’ve got a full article on practical tips for carbohydrate restricted training here.

Include some sessions (up to 2 per week) working at or near the lactate threshold. These types of sessions work on your ability to ‘shuttle’ (i.e. move) lactate away from the working muscles, to other parts of the body, where it can be converted into energy. One of the most effective lactate shuttling sessions is one that alternates between just above your lactate threshold (e.g. ~2 mins @ 105-110% FTP), and just below your lactate threshold (e.g. ~1-min @ 85-95% FTP). You can play around with the work/rest ratios and intensities, but should generally feel lactate building in the ‘over’ portions, and then clearing slowly in the ‘under’ portions. Start out with something like 3x 9-min blocks, and work up from there.

Skip the anaerobic training and explosive strength work (e.g. plyometrics and fast movement weight training). These types of sessions act to increase the rate of lactate production, and so will tend to drive down your lactate threshold. You need to find the right balance between your lactate threshold and your anaerobic capacity, and we’ll be including some tips on this in a later email.

Finally, try to not neglect your aerobic capacity (or ‘VO2max’). This presents a ceiling on how high you can increase your lactate threshold. If you’re not seeing any improvements in your lactate threshold despite following the tips above, it might be that you need to spend some time working on your aerobic capacity. Fortunately, our next email will give some advice on how to do that!

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My N=1 experience is that your body will adapt to the extra training load relatively quickly, and you’ll get that energy back. Especially if you’re only doing upper body lifting so it really is just the energy that’s short, you’re not trashing your legs.

If the goal is to get stronger without putting on much mass, then I think heavier weights and lower repetitions would be a better way to go. Takes up less time as well! Other tip is to lift in the evening of the same day as your cycling workouts instead of on alternate days, if your schedule can accommodate that. That way you’ll have ~36 hours of recovery instead of ~24. Can definitely focus on both disciplines at the same time, just need to be clear what the priority is. I.e. if the priority is cycling then you make sure you’re as fresh as possible for the cycling workouts, and you hold back a little on the weights rather than pushing to failure on every set.


I just started weightlifting again after a 2 year hiatus (was really into crossfit). Decided I would do Starting Strength but 2 times a week and build myself back to the #'s in Chads recommendations for a sprinter.

My timing couldn’t have been worst, it lined up with my final week of SSB2 LV. I failed all 3 workouts in the week, Spenser +2, Lamarck, Leconte, making it about halfway through before being completely decimated. It’s so disappointing to fail a workout and it’s safe to say I wasn’t too happy that week with my performance.

After reading around a bit and thinking it over I’ve convinced myself that I have to accept a lower FTP for the moment. There is a new adaption period and eventually it will go beyond my current FTP but it’s not realistic to believe that you can tax. I want to be as fast as possible all the time, but more importantly I want to be healthy and in great overall shape so temporarily dropping my FTP is fine by me.


Thank you all for the help/advice, The info from C10oky is very interesting because it did very much seem like my lactate threshold was lower during the failed workouts than it usually is.

I am going to up my kcal intake and keep an eye on my weight over the next couple of weeks and see what happens with the energy levels. Fingers crossed my body will adapt to the additional stress I am putting it through.

You could any of the following:

Prioritize cycling - Do your TR workout when you are fresh - weight lift later the same day. This puts all your “intensity” on one day. The day after will probably be a recovery or easy endurance day. Weight lifting won’t be optimal as you have already done a TR workout.

Do less structured workouts. If TR wants you to do 3 or 4 per week, you could cut that down to 1 or 2 per week plus weight lifting. The rest of your riding will be easy endurance.

Prioritize weight lifting - do weight lifting and then just do endurance rides. No hard intervals on the bike.


Have you considered just stopping lifting?

Outside of that, you could drop the protein shake. Unless you’re protein-deficient, it’s not helpful over the long run, and may be displacing the carbohydrates you need to support endurance exercise.

Only problem with that rationale is that the OP isn’t doing any leg work.

Well cycling is my first love but I would like to keep my upper body strong so my goal is to do both, balancing both activities as best I can is what I am aiming for.

The protein shake is just there to supposedly help with recovery however it may not be required as I tend to stick to a healthy diet. I am conscious of not putting myself into a calorie deficit and as my weight is stable at this time as it was before I starting the weight training, adding a protein shake may be beneficial given I am adding additional load to my body.

This sounds interesting. Would you mind expanding?

You could always make weight training your priority until you hit your weight training goal. Then, once you achieve it switch to lifting only once per week. Once per week is enough to maintain weight training gains

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It’s an open secret in the scientific community. Millions of $$ have been spent studying the effects of acute protein/amino acid supplementation on muscle protein synthesis, cell signaling, etc., using highly-sophisticated methods. Indeed, some individuals have essentially built their entire careers around such studies. As it turns out, however, the acute responses are not predictive of chronic adaptations, something that the aforementioned individuals are loathe to discuss.

It is well-established that both resistance and endurance exercise increase chronic protein requirements over those of untrained individuals. Most people, though, already consume adequate amounts of protein in their normal diet to meet even these elevated demands. Supplementation is therefore generally unnecessary, and in fact is largely ineffective.

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perfect thanks. I’ve heard this from other sources too so I’m keen to learn more

Don’t go on like this without a rest day.

For your weight training exercises…cut the volume to a third. Go like that for a week. Re-assess.

You don’t need to crush to get material benefits if your are relatively untrained in the weightroom. Eventually you’ll be able to work your way back up to the volume you want…but not this week or next week. Walk down the hill…walk down the hill.

I lift weights and use TR, here is what works for me.

I currently lift weights / perform plyometric exercises 3x a week. I go to an olympic style gym and my lifting coach trains track racers. He understands I am into crits and short TT’s, so my volume isn’t as intense, but it’s still heavy.

I perform my lifts on the same day as my TR interval days, so that is T, R, and Sat. I do my TR workouts on my lunch break (WFH) and lift in the evening after work. This gives me Wednesday to do an active recovery day and Sunday to do low stress but a long ride. Monday and Fridays are completely off. I use the low volume plan, and insert rides of my choosing for Wednesday and Sunday (outside preferably). This works out to be about 85-100 miles / week. So think of it this way: 3 hard days, 2 easy riding days, 2 days completely off, per week.

I have no problem completing my workouts and I feel very strong on the bike, with no pain. Since most of my work is leg, glute, core focused, you would stand to believe it would be too much, but having real recovery days / rest days is absolutely how you do this. Diet plays a big role and I suggest you keep a food journal as well. More so during the build phase, where after ride nutrition is really important.

Upper body workouts shouldn’t be crushing your performance on the bike unless your diet is way out of whack.


I’m also facing similar dilemma here: I’m not sure whether to start a ride when my legs are super sore following a weight day.

Reading all the comments here, am I right to conclude that combining weight training with TR workouts requires scheduling full recovery days in between workout days, instead of simply interchanging weight days and TR days?

Is such full recovery day only necessary when you have sore legs or every other day regardless?

That’s not necessary at all imo. I was (am) a bodybuilder before becoming a cyclist, so my n=1 will be different from someone new to lifting, BUT… provided you adjust your diet (MORE FOOD!!) and rest (sleep) accordingly you don’t need to juggle things that much.

I’m on the bike 4-6 days a week and lift 4-5 days a week without issue (caveat: I’ve been lifting for 20 years). If it’s a hard day on the bike, I try to give at least 4 hours between the two. If that’s not possible, the bike gets done first. Unless it’s a Z2 day… that I can do whenever. The podcast crew were advocating for gym sessions the same days as your hard days on the bike, and keeping your easy days easy, which I’d agree with for most people.

As for dealing with leg DOMS and riding, I would try to do your lower body work the day before your rest day(s) or easy Z2 day on the bike. I find that DOMS isn’t a problem at all if I’m doing Z2 on the trainer or just riding unstructured outside. I wouldn’t really want to start a SST or threshold workout with sore legs, but could physically do it. Mentally, probably not most days.

Nutrition really is the key. Just so, so important when it comes to lifting if your goals include either getting stronger or bigger (idk why you’d bother if you didn’t want at least one of those). Doubly so if you don’t want to negatively impact your training on the bike. Just listen to your body… don’t fry your CNS. You likely need to do a lot less volume in the gym than you think.

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From my N=1, no it’s not. I lift twice a week and ride 6-7 days a week, the lifting has little to no impact on my TR workouts unless I’m really pushing it in terms of both timing and how hard the workouts are. E.g. doing a lifting session in the evening where I increase weight/reps, and then trying to do a “stretch” TR workout before work the next morning is a bad idea. But doing that weights session followed by an endurance or recovery ride would be fine, or maybe even an “achievable” ride with more high intensity. And doing more of a maintenance strength session and then a hard ride the next morning would also be fine. Ideally I prefer to lift in the evening of a day when I’ve done a harder workout, with an easier Z2 or recovery day the next day. “Ideal” isn’t always possible though, and doing a dialled down strength workout that doesn’t interfere with a hard ride the next day is better than not doing it at all!

Sleep and nutrition is key to being able to do both. And there’s also an adaptation period. If I haven’t lifted in a while then it certainly takes a few weeks for my body to adapt to the lifting training load before I can start increasing cycling training load again. And I guess if I was totally new to lifting or hadn’t done it for a long time then that adaptation could be months not weeks. But absolutely worth doing it.

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