The Training Hours

Weight Training Periodization for Cycling (and Endurance Sports)

Home » The Training Hours » Weight Training Periodization for Cycling (and Endurance Sports)

Weight Training Periodization for Cycling (and Endurance Sports. Why?

One of the reasons for having a training plan is to predict and tailor your fitness so that you at your peak physical condition for important events/races. In an overly simplifying manner – doing well in any competition requires you to be able to do high intensity efforts.  Whether it is accelerating out of the last corner in a criterium, bridging the gap to a breakaway, being able to go with pace surges of the peloton or sprinting for the finish line, it all requires explosive power or the ability to produce the maximum amount of force in the shortest possible time.

Some information to illustrate what are the components of explosive power. If you break it down

Power (P) = Force (F) x Velocity (V)

To get more power you need to:

  1. Get stronger and/or
  2. Get faster

Therefore if you work on and improve each component separately you will improve your explosive power.

How to Periodize?

The first and foremost purpose of any weight training program is to develop strength. Especially if you are new to weight training you can benefit a LOT! Do not believe the common weight lifting and cycling myths! By starting a weight training program, together with proper instruction you can reap huge benefits.

Period 1: Introduction

I suggest starting with an introductory core strength/stability and weight lifting program to get your body accustomed to working with weights and learning to do all the motions correctly! Correct execution is of paramount importance, not how heavy you can go!!! Such an introduction is a good idea even if you are familiar with weight lifting and have been on a long (off-season) break from the gym. Keep in mind that your joints, ligaments and tendons take longer to recover than your muscles so you need to start slowly to avoid injuries later on.

Period 2: Strength

After getting accustomed to training with weights (and recovering from all the soreness =) ) you are ready to start developing strength. The best middle ground is by doing 3-4sets of 6-10 repetitions each. It should feel tough on the last couple of repetitions, however, your form shouldn’t suffer. My Cycling Strength Series 2 is a good example.

Period 3: Speed

Now that you have developed strength, you should address the second part speed. How do you do that?

An example to visualize it. Burning a pound of coal releases much more energy than does detonating a pound of TNT, HOWEVER,  since the TNT reaction releases the energy much much quicker it delivers more (explosive) POWER.

You want to be like the TNT at all times not like the coal.

So when you do a Back Squat with Big Weights (BW) in a smooth controlled fashion for say 4 seconds your muscles work hard (think lots of energy/KJ required). If you do the squat with Smaller Weight (SW) but much quicker (1-2s) your muscles will produce more power. As you increase the weight, you will also perform the motion a touch slower. The power will still be greater than if you did the BW slow. You want to be like the TNT at all times not like the coal. Coal cannot explode, meaning do not do Big Weights BW fast, you will injure yourself! Yes as you get stronger you will be able to push heavier weights faster. Take your time, progress will come.

REMEMBER: It is how you perform the exercise (fast), rather than how much weight you put on.

It involves some fiddling to find at which weight you really cannot make your muscles contract very explosively.  Right under that point is the weight at which you can produce maximum power – go from there. Remember TNT, rather than coal.

For this period 4-6 sets of 6-8 repetitions should do the job. Take appropriate rest in between sets. You have to keep it fast an explosive, I cannot emphasize this enough.

Period 4: Before A-Priority Events

Just like you train less on the bike in order to recover and “supercompensate” you should do lighter weights, do half the number of sets, etc. The closer you get to the competition the more your energy and motivation levels will skyrocket. Do NOT waste them by training harder, you can only do damage there. You will be glad you have all that energy come race day!

Why Should you Work on Strength First than Speed?

To understand this let’s look at the muscle fibers themselves; again I am simplifying here. There are two types of muscle fibers.

  • Slow twitch (endurance, very easily recruited, small motor units)
  • Fast twitch (power, not readily recruited, larger/thicker motor units)

Explosive power and high-intensity efforts require the engagement of the fast twitch fibers. Therefore the more you have developed them by weight training, the better, right? Yes, however, you should also teach your body how to recruit them since they are not the body’s first choice. You can’t teach your body to use something that is not there.

In addition, by working on speed you increase the frequency at which nerve impulses  reach the large motor units. Once activated, the same motor unit can be reactivated very quickly instead of your body having to recruit another free motor unit. Muscle contractions become more efficient!

How to incorporate it in your training/racing calendar?

Introduction and Strength Build should be ideally a part of your off-season/beginning of season training (Base period). The closer you get towards racing (Build period), the emphasis should be towards speed so that you peak your explosive power since you will be needing it.

In my case I finished a 7 week strength build in mid March. Afterwards I started a 6 week block focused on explosive power which would overlap with all the early season races and it would finish with my first priority race of the calendar – The TijdrijdersCup (40km/25mi TT) on 14 April 2013.

Take a look at all my posts under Strength Series to get an idea of how I periodise between strength build and speed. Also take a look at my Weekly Summaries to see how I combine the weight training with my cycling.

If you have any questions do not hesitate to post in the comments section below.

Further Education

Tudor Bompa – [easyazon_link identifier=”1450469434″ locale=”US” tag=”thetalcyc-20″]Periodization Training for Sports[/easyazon_link]

Michael Boyle – [easyazon_link identifier=”1931046018″ locale=”US” tag=”thetalcyc-20″]Advances in Functional Training[/easyazon_link]

Gray Cook – [easyazon_link identifier=”0736042288″ locale=”US” tag=”thetalcyc-20″]Athletic Body in Balance[/easyazon_link]


Like TheTallCyclist on Facebook and Subscribe via RSS or Email for future updates.

For further information check the ever -increasing Reading List

Image source: here

A drop of support means an ocean of gratitude.

If you find motivation and value in the content of TheTallCyclist, consider making a donation.

Home » The Training Hours » Weight Training Periodization for Cycling (and Endurance Sports)

2 replies on “Weight Training Periodization for Cycling (and Endurance Sports)”

I am new to the cycling scene but have been an athlete all my life (competitive skier, baseball, football, track, marathon, triathlon, etc…). I am trying to implement weight training into my offseason this year to increase power. I have learned through painful experience that I am more your basic sprinter and being such I want to really be able to increase my explosive power. My FTP is about 260W. I race in the collegiate season (March-May) as well as the usual summer season so my offseason will be shorter than most. I have been lifting for a few months now so I think my intro phase can be shortened. I would like to follow your examples here but I have a few questions. 1) Should I continue to weight train during the season (SW explosive) or not lift at all? 2) If I should stop, how close to the start of the season should I do that? 3) How do I incorporate base building and cycle workouts during the various weight training phases? Should they mirror each other? 4) what weight (% 1RM) should we be lifting or is it just by feel?

Really, any help will be appreciated, I just feel very overwhelmed with all this info and I just had a new baby and a lot more responsibility dropped on me at work. I am taking these next 2 weeks off the bike and out of the weight room (just doing core work) and I am trying to develop a detailed training plan for the off season Aug-March


Hi David,

You ask a number of questions, that’s ok so I will answer them in order.

A couple of comments first. If you are the true sprinter, I would also focus on improving your other limiters. You can always fall back on what you are good at (sprinting), however, you need to be in a situation where you can use it. With more information about your race experiences I can advise you further on this (in short usually it is the types of workouts you REALLY hate doing or just ask your riding mates, they will gladly tell you what you are not so good at=) ). Also August-March is actually not a short off-season. Around here races start in February (with the bulk starting in April) and go all the way to October so off season is a touch shorter. It’s perfectly OK to take some weeks off the bike, while staying somewhat active (ie not a total couch potato).

On to your questions. You mention you are experienced athlete and have already been lifting for some time already. The idea behind the introductory weight training program is to get your body accustomed to working with weights, to learn the correct technique or as I would like to call it – develop muscle memory. Therefore I would suggest to do at least 1-2 weeks since this program includes basic exercises that are used later on. I emphasise that technique is paramount, not weight.

How long to lift and should you do it during season?
Since days are short and/or weather is pretty bad, one day at the gym during the off-season is nice to break things up and combined with core work it improves your functional fitness as well(posture, etc.). Once season starts and you can ride more outside it depends on your time availability. If you have limited time to train, spend it riding rather than at the gym, it’s bike racing after all=), and do core exercises as a minimum since they are good for your functionality off the bike as well. I personally stop weight training around February/March when daylight savings kicks in, we used to do the same when I was rowing. If you can squeeze it in, as you correctly observed keep it short, intense and fast. You can do weight training pretty much all the way up to the weeks where you have races where you want to do well. Weight training is considered a ‘hard’ workout, similar to an interval training so for best recovery it is advised to not do anything intense the day after (ie racing)

How to incorporate weight training with your base and cycling workouts?
Use this article and my posts tagged under ‘cycling strength series’ as a start. If you have more specific questions about organising your cycling workouts, let me know and I can point you in the right direction.

What weight?
You should keep it challenging. The other reason behind the introductory period is to get a feel for it. Once are past the introductory phase the best way to describe it is that the last couple of reps should be challenging but not impossible (i think that is about 60-80% or 1RM). Keep a diary and increase the weight slowly as the weeks go so you keep the training stress, forcing your body to keep super compensating/adapting.

I do agree the information overload is significant when you are just starting, however, it is a process so as you get more understanding you can modify things in the go. Also the off-season is the perfect time to plan and to start to educate yourself. Try to learn a little every day/week it it would all start to make sense to you.

Good luck with your cycling endeavours and respond to this thread if you have further questions.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.