Strength training for cyclists conflicting protocols

I guess the takeaway is do the minimum effective dose to gain strength with least amount of mass gain and maintain enough freshness to hit your cycling training rides/workout numbers. I do find the deadlift to be a bit fatiguing even at 3x3 3x a week especially if done the day before a high intensity workout sweet spot or above.

After a month of this I also have a ramp test next week. After making very minimal ftp gains but much higher repeatability from base phase it will be interesting to see if gain much ftp.

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Absolutely I started lifting when I was 15 but it’s been very on and off over the last 15 years :joy:

Looked at the templates and I’m tempted to pull the trigger on them to save me the time of trying to build my own program. I just had a few questions and I’ll try to keep them general so it’s not just an FAQ on your template.

  1. The program lists plyometrics like box jumps. Is this something that you recommend for year round or more as you approach competition? And what would be some good alternatives to those sorts of jumping exercises as I have a home gym in my basement with all the necessary weights but the 7ft ceiling prevents me from doing a lot of jumps.

  2. For the same reason as above (low ceiling), are the oly movements full lifts to overhead or do you think most of the benefits of those would be the triple extension from a clean/snatch pull (or maybe power clean). I spent several years in college training weightlifting so it would be fun to be able to incorporate those but I can’t do jerks, snatches, or push press.

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FWIW the ScientificTriathlon plan is 19 weeks and designed to be used 1 or 2 days/week by triathletes. If you haven’t listened to the podcast, the head coach interviews some of the top coaches and scientists. Its a great plan. Plyometrics are included in some days, thoughout the 19 weeks. For example here is a sample day that includes plyo:

Part1: Warmup

  • 5 min cardio (rowing, jogging, jumping jacks, …)
  • Hip flexor and quad mobility
  • Knee bands
  • Shoulder mobility

Part2: Resistance

  • Barbell squat
  • Barbell row
  • Leg press

Part3: Plyo (this example) or Core Strength or Stability/Rotation/Balance

  • Pogo
  • Rocket jump
  • Scissor jump
  • Fast skipping
  • Ankle bounding

Part 3 rotates thru core strength, stability/rotation/balance, and plyo.

The plan is well done, evidence based, roughly $50 (39 euros), comes with a 97 page PDF, and you own it and can use it over and over again.

Just a happy customer, and I think ScientificTriathlon is the best podcast on the Internet.

EDIT:

You can buy for $49 from TrainingPeaks, lots of info including additional workout examples here: Strength Training for Triathlon - 19 weeks - Intermediate and Advanced | Training Plan | TrainingPeaks

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@bbarrera Thank you for sharing another option. Good to know there are other intelligent folks out there offering serious lower-frequency strength training for endurance athletes.

Do they really put the plyos after squats and leg press? If so, I’d recommend reversing that order, or at least put plyos in the middle. You’ll have more left in your legs for them and reduce injury risk.

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Year-round for sure. If anything farther from competition. Off-season is a great time to hit weights and/or plyos with a bit more emphasis, if it’s an area that lags for you.

Specific recommendation for the programs I wrote: use phase 1 & 2, alternating, in the offseason, and then as you start to go in-season rotate through all three, and eventually only 2 & 3.

A 10 phase cycle (50 weeks, roughly) might look like:
Phase order: 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 2, 3.

I’d go outside. Or choose a jump variant that uses your stairwell. (Stair jumps are one of the many variants listed). Even jumping in place, outside, instead of box jumps would be beneficial. Just make sure that you’re landing safely, since there’s a boatload more impact on landing from a jump in place, by comparison to stair jump or box jump.

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That is 1 of 38 workouts and I’m sure we could get a room / ZoomCall of coaches and have a debate over any program :roll_eyes:

Plyo is optional and has a high risk of injury, as explained here:

My experience with that plan - the plyo work was ‘easy’ (and optional), the core plan is built around the warmup + resistance training. I’m older and if had been born with better genetics and/or been training for 20 years would be competing in masters 55+. But that age group milestone happened about the time I started training. This past season my coach had me doing plyo, but NOT on the same day as heavy lifting because closing out my fifties I don’t recover as well, and because my body isn’t ready (and may never be!).

Totally understand and support your point about injury, and would take it a step farther and say play it safe and skip plyo unless you really know what you are doing. And second, hire a strength and conditioning coach if you haven’t been properly trained in resistance training.

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Can anyone here address the number of days per week for lifting? I, just barely have time to do 1x a week and 2x is a luxury (don’t have a home gym aside from a few kettle bells), compound that with riding as the main priority and just don’t see the purpose of what some here suggest a 3x per week schedule. Especially if we are not in a true build phase and just maintaining.
If you do any of the hotly debated combinations of what was suggested above, 1x a week combined with a full riding schedule of at least 6-10 hours its not like your muscles are going to atrophy.

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Great question Mack. I will be honest, I don’t personally love 1x/week because — as discussed on the TR podcast from this week — at that rate each time you lift will be a novel stimulus for your body, and DOMS will start to become a bit more of a factor. Not to mention whether or not 1x/week is actually effective in developing strength given each person’s current baseline.

As noted far too many times than people probably would like (haha!), when it comes to frequency, it depends…

First deciding factor is what you are actually capable of sustaining. During 2020, I did 3x 2-3 hour rides per week and rested from the bike in between. I also lifted 4x/week — but I was working entirely remotely. My baseline for strength-training was really high, and my work schedule was 100% flexible, so it worked for me. I really did not see too much of a reduction in strength from my pre-structured riding days at that point.

But, as I wanted to invest more time into my riding and I went back to working 100% in person again, I had to increase the riding frequency to be able to make it fit in my schedule; between work, the dog, and life overall, I just don’t have more than 60-90 minutes at any given time to invest into training. So, when I wanted to do 6 hours on the bike per week with a normal working schedule, I had to do 4-6 rides of 60-90 mins per week, and therefore could only really manage 3 lifts per week at 45-60 mins per.

Fast-forward to now: I want to invest 8-12 hours per week on the bike, so I have needed to peel back to 2 lifts per week due to time constraints, and those have now dwindled down to just 30-45 mins per bout at most because I physically can’t handle much more. I just get the ’meat and potatoes’ knocked over and call it a day (i.e. my power and strength stimulus are prioritized, and the fluff is removed).

Next you have to factor in your baseline. If you are doing 0-1x/week in the weight room/gym, 2 sessions per week is plenty enough jump to see improvement, especially if you work to incrementally progress the workload within those sessions (intensity or volume) over the long haul. If however, like me, you are going from 4x/week to 3, to 2, well… you can’t expect to maintain the same level of strength. But that is the cost of focusing on other, somewhat conflicting physiological adaptations (those that we chase in our intervals and long rides). But, the beauty is that the sport’s demands dictate what is important: I may not be able to RDL 350 lbs or bench press 275 lbs (at 150 lbs BW) anymore, but marginal improvements in strength probably yield even more marginal gains in cycling performance since the sport does not directly demand strength in the same sense that we train in the weight room. Now, if you are an O-Lineman in American Football, a Shot-Putter, etc, you may want to think hard about when and how much strength you are willing to lose at any given time during the year.

It is a lot like the discussions on the amount of hours per week spent on the bike: a 10+ hour week sounds nice, but it just isn’t for everyone (for both lifestyle and athletic reasons). Ultimately, striving for a schedule and physical workload that you can tolerate, while conservatively striving to develop your strength is (in my semi-experiential opinion [I work with team-based, power-sport athletes, not endurance athletes]) is probably the safest bet.

Hope this long-winded answer helps some!

And for what it is worth, here is a blog post I wrote on my site diving into strength-training frequency as relates to cycling! The 4 Pillars of Strength-Training for Cyclists – Part I: Frequency

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great comprehensive write ray thx.

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Completely agree. I see a lot of folks wanting to jump into a 3d/wk program from 0 or 1 day per week. It’s almost always unnecessary for endurance sport performance enhancement for those folks. In the case of folks who have co-primary goals of muscle growth / physique improvement, then it’s probably warranted to lift 3-4d/wk. Other than that, 1-2 day/week tends to be optimal for most folks. And it’s worth doing!

I suspect there are a fair number of folks who decide to forgo lifting because they think there’s not much benefit if they’re not lifting 3d/wk. Totally not true. There are diminishing returns the more days per week you lift. That rate of diminishment is really fast for cyclists and triathletes.

There is substantial strength benefit by lifting once per week, even among folks who are doing endurance training >10 hrs per week. I didn’t listen to the podcast but am surprised if there was much argument against 1d/wk training, other than the “novel stimulus” tradeoff.

Or perhaps you’re referring to folks like yourself (and me) with substantial strength training background, moving to a lower-frequency training program?

Fun related anecdote: I haven’t lifted seriously since retirement from bobsled in 2017 and I can get stronger session by session with ridiculous newbie-like gains. The same tends to be true for any formerly-very-strong person who has subsequently taken substantial time off lifting, and makes even a very modest return to it. My wife and a couple of my clients fall into this camp as well.

Lesson: what was once had, is much easier to return to, than an attribute never attained. If you’re not as strong as you like, laying the groundwork now (or soon) is wise. It might not take very many days per week to do it, either.

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Re Deadlifts. What do you think about trap bar vs trad deadlifts?

Trap bar deadlifts are a slightly safer alternative to trad deadlifts. Why not do RDLs? Excellent for training the posterior chain and very safe.

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:+1:

How does a kettlebell DL figure in?

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I don’t like trap bar deadlifts as much as traditional or sumo deadlifts just because…hey…that’s the way I like to do them. I competed at the deadlift, so that’s what is fun for me. Even in odd lift meets I’ve never contested a trap bar deadlift.

In terms of strength training for cycling I would pick neither! Except in some very specific circumstances where cyclists were going to be doing very low rpm high torque in competition…think standing start track sprints, for instance. Otherwise I think there are other exercises that provide similar benefit with much less risk of injury. And I would opt for more bilateral exercise selection.

Strength training improves cycling performance in a few different ways…not all related to how many pounds you can lift off the floor. Muscle elasticity (just reducing hysteresis loss) and fiber recruitment improvements can increase cycling performance without a big concomitant increase in the weight lifted. For sure, moving a bigger weight in the deadlift can improve some aspects of cycling…but one thing that analyzing orthogonal strain gauge array power meters has taught me: it doesn’t take many pounds of force at the end of a ~7 inch lever (your crank arm) to generate triple digit increases in Watts output. If you can jam 5 more pounds on the end of a pedal you’re going to be overjoyed at the resulting power increase. Even 2.5lbs will make you super excited.

So the injury risk associated with deadlifting 50lbs more is just not worth it, IMO. Think of your ftp as a five thousand five hundred rep max. How well does that translate to deadlifting?

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For mere mortals what think about other bilateral exercises particularly for that elusive explosive start. Looking for suggestions. I am at single sissy squat level and have tried steps ups and sorta single leg lunges with trap bar but where do you think most bang resides?

For me at home it was dumbbell step ups (instead of leg press) and goblet squats.

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Makes sense.