How should I train to increase muscular strength - combination of TR and outside rides

Hey guys,

I’m going to try to give you as much information as I can to give you an understanding of my current situation.

I am not training towards any events or races, I just ride for/by myself and/or with friends, I just want to get quicker, especially on climbs. No sprinting required whatsoever.
So, I guess that would translate to simply increasing FTP and boom I’ll be able to hold more power for longer, right?

I live in Bavaria where we have quite steep climbs, often 10-15% average for about 30 - 60 minute duration. I have super slim legs, there’s just not much muscle mass there so often I’m purely struggling to turn the pedals even in the smallest gear.
My FTP is around 240, but on those climbs 240W will not turn the pedals - I NEED to put in 280W or more at 40-60 RPM in order to not fall of the bike.

I’ve been training with TR for quite a while - in November I started with Base phase, then when Plan Builder came out I think I moved on to Build, and I’m not quite sure which phase I’m in now - not sure how to get that info.

However, since about February I haven’t been following the plans very strictly since I now ride about 2-4 times per week outside due to nice weather. So basically I now ride indoors with TR on days with bad weather. I’d like to utilize those to get the most benefit in terms of getting better at those steep climbs where often my legs aren’t strong enough. For the past 3 weeks I’d just take the scheduled workouts with longer threshhold/near FTP intervals and do those with a slower cadence, between 60 - 70. Does that make sense?

At the moment the plan just keeps progressing in the background while I actually just ride mostly outdoors, and on bad weather days I’ll just hop on the Kickr and do whatever workout TR has planned for me on that day. But that most likely isn’t the best approach.

As you can tell, I’m not super performanced focussed towards a specific date, I value riding outdoors for fun more than anything else - but I’d still like to have a sensible approach to getting better at it, especially on bad weather days where I’ll ride indoors.

Do you have suggestions for me how to tackle this?

Edit:
Btw, I’m running these gearing ratios:
Gravel Bike: 36/34
Aero Bike: 36/30

I think the gears on the gravel bike should be sufficient - on the Aero bike I’d also like to leave them as they are since the climbs I’m doing with the road bike aren’t AS bad (usually short 15% ramps max) and I’ll also benefit from stronger legs there.

I’d say yes, but don’t overdo it. If you go at a too slow a cadence I think you might be wearing out your muscles before you’ve got the aerobic adaptations that will help increase your FTP.

Don’t worry too much about “muscular strength”. The force required to turn a pedal at 280 watts at even 40rpm is waaaaaay lower than the maximum leg press you can do, even with your super slim legs. That’s not to say that strength training is a bad idea - it’s definitely worth doing - but it’s that higher FTP that’s the magic bullet.

You might not have a lot of muscle mass, but you can make that muscle mass work better for you. And that’s done with a consistent training plan that taxes the correct energy systems and provides progressive overload. It really is as simple as that.

(I would personally consider changing your chainrings from mid-compact to compact. But recognise that this is quite an investment.)

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Thanks for your thoughts!
I’m not sure I understand correctly - how would you then tackle the combination of my usual outside rides with TR workouts on bad weather days?
Should I just pick whatever workout the plan has scheduled for me that day or should I rather choose specific workouts?

As above, it’s more muscular endurance or strength endurance that you’re after, than just muscular strength. Though if you’re really on the slim side it’s worth looking at https://blog.trainerroad.com/coach-chads-strength-training-recommendations-for-cyclists/ and if you can’t at least hit the recommended Level One/Climber numbers then you should probably consider adding some strength training to your regime.

And to your question - stick to the TR plan as much as possible both indoors and outdoors. It’s a good idea to do some of the indoor work or intervals at a deliberately lower cadence to help improve your muscular endurance and ability to apply force at low cadence. Just don’t overdo it to the extent that muscular fatigue is causing you to fail or skip workouts. If you can’t follow the TR plans outdoors because sticking to the power targets means your cadence is ridiculously low, then you either need to pick a different route (if that’s possible), ride the gravel bike, or change your gearing.

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I agree generally with everything @cartsman said. Default is stick to the plan, and try to make your outdoor rides match whatever TR workout you were scheduled as closely as possible.

One thing I’d add is that “bad weather days” are not your problem. Bad weather days mean you can stay indoors and do whatever TR workout is scheduled, at whatever cadence is best.

Your problem is actually good weather days - when you can ride outdoors, but this might mean that you need to do lots of hard efforts to get up climbs when your TR plan is telling you to do a steady zone 2 ride. So 3 options in this scenario:

  1. Stay indoors and do the steady zone 2 ride on the turbo
  2. Go outdoors but find yourself a loop with no or minimal climbing so you’re being more faithful to the plan
  3. Swap this day with a harder day on your TR plan.
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Thanks so much guys, that helps - I’ll just continue with the plans on the bad weather days and do whatever workout is scheduled with a focus on lower RPM (muscular endurance).

Today I’d be starting with Specialty phase - would you recommend I just continue with this, or should I rather do more Build (or even Base) workouts?

If you’re not actually following the plans is there much point in being on one? You might end up doing rides which aren’t focused on what you need, which isn’t super helpful.

If you really want to keep riding exclusively outdoors until there’s bad weather, could you do the outside versions on a plan to make them structured rides?