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:
- Get stronger and/or
- 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.
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]
For further information check the ever -increasing Reading List
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