Strength Training, Heart Rate and Testing, Elevation & More – Ask a Cycling Coach 208

Team Clif Bar Racing’s Pete Morris joins us again as we go over Coach Chad’s strength training plan, how to gain weight and get faster, what your heart rate data means during a ramp test, and much more in Episode 208 of the Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast. Join us live tomorrow morning at 8:00am Pacific!

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Oooh interested to see what you guys say about hr during the ramp test. I’ve found that once mine hits a certain level it’s only a matter of time before I stop pedalling. What does feeling HR limited on a ramp test indicate for what system I should focus on training?


Dear TR team,

I love the podcast and always look forward to my weekly dose. This is the first time however I am asking a question for the podcast.

The topic is not necessarily related to this weeks topics but maybe a question you could discuss in the Q&A section. On the ramp test on the trainer my FTP was estimated at approx 300 watts. I have been using this power for indoor sessions and it seems reasonable. For outside sessions I did a 20 min test and approximated 1 hour power with 95%. This method has worked fairly well with me in the past as last year the formula gave the exact power I could hold over 1 hour (tested both 20 min and 1 hour within the same week). The test was performed outside on a climb and gave me an FTP of 320 watts. I have been using this power number to race and do my intervalls outside. This has worked fairly well: I am able to complete Sweetspot and Threashold workouts without any issues (intensity feels right). However, I have now twice failed Dade +6 when done outside. I tried to hold approx. 370 watts for the 3.5mins with 3.5mins recovery. The intensity just feels insanely high. Do you know what the issue could be? Is the workout this tough? Can the inside % of FTP number for VO2 Max intervals not be transferred as easily to outside as the other percentages of FTP, e.g. for sweets spot / threashold workouts? Or is VO2 Max simply my week spot (I definitely think this is the case, as I am rather the climber type with 65kg)? If it is my weakness, how can I improve if I cannot hit the target, simply lower target to e.g. 360 watts?

Thanks for your response and keep up the great work!



A couple of weeks ago I did back to back group rides on the weekend, Saturday was a fast group, rode 75ish miles and had 235tss where I hang on for dear life, Sunday was a more casual endurance group, where I did a lot of pace setting up front, 85 miles, 207tss. I’d say the fast group is better for my fitness, not so much for my ego.

I don’t ride with groups enough and I really pay for it by dangling off the back. Just last weekend I did a 20mph ride (in the Boston area with rolling terrain, that’s a fast non-race pace), and kept losing wheels, and so I’m toiling to try and latch back on. I really need to get my action cam on to learn where I’m going wrong. I think especially when the road kicks up a little and I try to ramp up my power, it’s still like I’m standing still compared to guys who just roll away from me. I know it’s not all about the equipment, but I can’t help but feel like all the guys with aero wheels have a slight edge over me and my box section wheels (I know that’s not true!)

You might look at how you are geared going into those climbs. It’s pretty common for people to not adjust gearing until they feel like they need to, at which point it’s too late in some of these scenarios. You generally want to be geared for a climb a little bit before the climb starts. It kind of works like the death spiral in erg mode. Downshifting prior to the climb requires you to spin faster to hold wheels going into the climb, but you’ll be better able to match any accelerations that happen if you’re not hunting gears while they ride away.

On this topic, it would be great to hear perspectives on if training should differ between a cardio-constrained vs muscular-constrained athlete.

For clarity, I’m using the following definitions:

  1. Cardio constrained: heart rate reaches max (or close to it) during ramp test, legs feel OK, but reaching max HR is what causes the rider to stop

  2. Muscular constrained: legs can’t keep up with the increasing power demand during ramp test - either burning, or just don’t have the energy. Cardio OK, with HR not reaching max.


I’m not sure if it’s a matter of gearing (it could be, but there are times when I’m not shifting at all and just increasing power). I’ve seen myself doing 400w and still losing wheels. But I’m sure there are at least a few guys with lower ftp and w/kg who hang in there just fine. I just need to keep showing up and try to stick on those wheels

Maybe I just need to drop these last 5lbs lol

The other thing is I was doing a fast ride a day after I had done a solo 60 mile ride at 185tss, so I’m sure I had some residual fatigue and couldn’t dig very deep, but I want to work up to be able to do similar long rides on weekends routinely.

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Had to search a couple times to find Ember, if anyone else is interested here is the link:


Regarding the person training in the heat, portable air conditioners can be used in smaller spaces to help cool down the room.

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@hubcyclist . A big element of staying with a group is being relaxed and smoothly moving within the group. This takes confidence, but your description of dangling off the back describes the opposite. I’d suggest you spend a few weeks riding with just one or two others and relax whilst riding chewing the breeze. Then retry the group ride but with the premise that you are comfortable riding in the wheels. Don’t worry about equipment, unless you’re going up 10km climbs at 10+ percentages. Good luck.

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It was great to hear Ali Khan’s input on the “numb teeth” question from 2015. It’s a great compliment to the TR crew that people are getting a lot out of the older episodes; it is perhaps also a great compliment that the guy who asked that question in 2015 (me) is still listening to each episode all these years later!


hey @Jonathan

Regarding the topic where you discuss doing a TT up (I think Mt.Washington), with ~8% incline and up to 20% hairpins, I’d like to suggest a tune to your gearing recommendations:

  1. use for gearing selection. “Sheldon Brown” site is awesome, but this particular one is superbly interactive and you can configure the gearing you want, virtually.

  2. Then, iteratively, go see what options such as Miche offer (i.e. on Miche Primato 11 Speed Shimano/SRAM Cassettes 11T-14T start and 23T-29 | The Cycle Clinic) where you could order gears with progressions such as 13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25-27-29-32T — I, for example, find the jump from 32 to 28, and vice versa to be too much of a difference, so I really prefer the more gradual 32 to 29 to 27 for fine tuning my cadence under % pressure.

  3. For even more -ahem- spinning capacity up such inclines, you can also consider sub-compact chainrings (compatible with 105/ultegra cranksets, or not) such as 48/32 or 46/30 (i.e.

For example, with my setup (30-46 up front and 11-32 11 cog in the back) I can “do” 4,5 mph @60 cadence (here’s the setup I use Bicycle Gear Calculator).

It was a good insight of yours to bring up the gearing capacity by the way, because -as you know better than I do- cadence is a limiting factor. I am positing that there is a lower “threshold” of sorts for everyone, and at different fitness/specificity levels, and am quite sure our efficiency degrades rapidly no matter what below 60-65 RPM.

Thanks by the way!

ps. take the hairpins on the ascent wide :slight_smile:


We were listening to the podcast on the way to our club TT Championship. Really interesting conversation regarding whether the effort limit was in muscles or the mind.
I came 2nd female last year, with a time of 27.11 (first female was 6 seconds faster).
Mid TT I asked myself honestly whether the pain that was screaming at me was mind or muscles. I was really surprised to realise my muscles were ok and could do more. Intermittently, I calmed my breathing and mind down and asked a little bit more from my legs.
I won the championship !!! It was only by 3seconds, but 24 seconds faster than last year (I only do this course once a year).
My partner also got a PB and won the Club Championship !!
I wouldn’t have got the result without being able to ask a bit more from my legs.
Thanks for the insights guys :smiley:


Hi, just looked at the new strength training on the blog and there is no mention of sets? Can anyone enlighten me?

Thanks :+1:

I was wondering the same thing!

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The strength training that Chad set out wasn’t ever going to be a full training plan with reps and sets but simply strength benchmarks.

It definitely wasn’t always totally clear when they talked about it in the shows. But they are simply goals for different strength movements for you to aim to achieve depending on your cycling discipline.

After reading further posts and replies from Chad I see now what he was talking about. He set out goals for various levels. How one gets there is up to you. Still great info!! Thanks coach Chad!

It was mentioned that when time trialing up a big mountain that you should bring your power down as the elevation increases. This makes sense when you are on the limit of sustainable power and oxygen uptake is limiting your performance. What about for lower intensities? In Tucson, AZ many of us ride Mount Lemmon on a regular basis to get out of the heat. These are usually endurance focused days for me and I simply ride tempo for a couple hours. I ride it by feel and occasionally check my power and I don’t really struggle until I’m about 1.5 hrs in (~6500ft) at which point the fatigue becomes noticable. What is hard to know is: am I feeling the fatigue due to the elevation or simply because I’ve burned ~1300 calories riding tempo for an hour and a half? For context I do fuel pretty religiously eating 1/2 cup of oatmeal and banana ~45min before the ride and then ~400 cal/hr while on the bike.

Ultimately I’m curious if I should be backing off as the elevation increases if it’s an endurance focused training ride? My heart rate doesn’t really drift up all that much (3-5bpm) so if I’m able to hit the power targets do I just keep the power steady regardless of the elevation?

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I put one in my garage. Biggest difference I see is the humidity gets pulled out. May not be cool enough but w very low humidity I can bang out intervals. Indiana here so we have similar weather.

Turn it on the night before. I put my fan in front of it so the cold air gets blown on me.

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Dade +6 is a very difficult VO2 workout so if you are able to complete all other workouts, your FTP is likely correct. As you pointed out, VO2 is not your strength (yet), so you have to build up to the hardest VO2 workouts. Typically you work your way up to a workout like Dade +6 by following a training plan with progressively more difficult VO2 max workouts.

Dade +3 is a similar workout (90 minutes) with the intervals broken up into more bite-size pieces at a slightly lower intensity. I would give that a try :slight_smile: