Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Weight Training for Cycling: Part 2

Yesterday's post provides evidence that maximal strength training
(1) works;
(2) benefits, surprisingly, endurance efforts (rather than sprints);
(3) works best when combined with endurance training.

Previous posts provided evidence that plyometrics
(1) works;
(2) that it benefits your sprint and endurance performance through "improved exercise efficiency and anaerobic threshold"
(3) that its benefits tended to plateau after 8-12 training sessions;
(4) that it worked when combined with a specific cycling program which included on-the-bike interval training.

So you're convinced and you want to start on a program that incorporates the two types of training: what do you do?

Maximal strength training is strength training that aims at building your 1-rep max. Its focus is not only performance (rather than bodybuilding), but a specific kind of performance: being able to move the largest weight possible in a single effort: generating force.

Plyometrics is a type of exercise designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system, generally for the purpose of improving performance in sports. Where maximal strength training emphasizes force, ploymetrics emphasizes force + speed.

Training methods
Training programs for developing maximal strength are quite simple: heavy weights, few reps. In the cycling studies mentioned above, for example, subjects did 4 sets of 4 repetitions each. Throw around heavy, heavy weights. That's what powerlifters have been doing for a long time. I want to stress the difference between this kind of training and normal strength training. I am not aware of a single study that has shown normal strength training (10 reps / 3 sets) produces any benefits for cyclists. It does not make you faster. The studies I cite suggest that maximal strength training is different in practice, and in results. That difference, simply, can be expressed in two emphases: more pounds, fewer reps.

Of course, throwing around heavy weights is really dangerous, really painful, and really ugly. It's the opposite of what skinny, elegant cyclists are supposed to do, but maybe that's why it's so beneficial.

Training programs for plyometrics are all, pretty much, types of jumping. Plyometrics can be applied to any kind of movement that involves three phases:
(1) imagine jumping off a box down onto the ground and the flex in your legs as you absorb the impact--this is called the eccentric phase; (2) now imagine the pause between when you have absorbed the energy from the fall and are readying to jump back onto the box--this is called the amortization phase; (3) and now you jump on the box (the concentric phase). It sounds stupidly simply, but you can actually generate more force after absorbing a force (or a short stretch).

So, get out there are start throwing around cars? Fall from roofs, absorb the energy, then leap back up? Go right one less guy I've got to face this Spring.

The benefits of these studies are tied not only to WHAT the cyclists were doing, but WHEN they were doing it, and for HOW LONG. If you hope to achieve the same benefits from maximal strength training and ploymetrics as the test subjects, you need to mimic their timing, and achieve the results when you want them (probably sometime during the season, not in December).

Incorporating Maximal Strength Training and Plyometrics in your training calendar
In my next post, I'll address this key question: not if, but when you should do maximal strength training and plyometrics.


Tim Rugg said...

Preface: Opinion incorporating Periodization.

I think starting now is a perfect time to start based on some of this analysis. (If subject is hoping to peak first by April/May)

You have indicated that this max strength and plyometric training is best paired with endurance.

Pure endurance training will likely take between 2 1/2 to 3 months based on suggested training from Friel/periodizationalists, hah.

Assuming you have started endurance already and can only fit 2 lifting days into each week, it will take almost 2 months to get to the point where you plateau. This will also get you to your transition to where you are getting ready to start building strength specifically on the bike.

Now that you have "plateaued" on the tough weight lifting and have rested and transitioned into Build periods... you could shift into a Strength Maintenance mentality while optimizing the specificity that goes into on-the-bike strength training.

During Build periods you could scale back to once-a-week or every other week training that still leaves you fresh for bike building since by the studies reports, you would have reached maximum gain/plateau from the max strength/plyo training you were doing.

Endurance Period plus Max Strength:
2 1/2 months
(Plateaued Max benefits, limited possibility for injury while optimizing time to spend doing endurance - 2x a week max doing MAX strength)

Maintenance plus Bike Build Period:
2 1/2 months
(Optimizing on the bike strength building w/o too much lifting/cross training (2 full build and recovery periods = 2 months))

This with recovery and peak weeks considered would have you hitting it HARD in mid-late April/beginning of May.

I present as mostly an instantaneous thought. Maybe this will help present your suggestion or provide some criticism for mine. Thanks Kevin!

Calvini said...

Holy cow, man, this is a lot to think about.

I plan on responding in my next post.

Several questions I'm trying to answer:
(1) Should you do maximal strength training and/or plyometrics during the race season? Traditionally, no one does, but maybe we should.

(2) Is there a way to sustain gains made during a 12-week strength program? In other words, what do I have to do to see effects from my December strength training carry over into May and even August?

(3) When, if ever, should we do on-the-bike ("isokinetic") work? The study mentioned in my previous post seems to suggest that it is inferior to maximum strength training.

Just one word of caution: you're using the word "endurance" like Friel and others in the cycling community. You mean "riding a lot at a moderate pace," or something like that.

The guys in the Danish team strength training study use "endurance" to mean, simply, "riding a lot on a bike." For them, this could mean any kind of training on a bike for over 30 minutes.

I take this to mean that you can do strength training during any of Friel's phases: build, base, etc. But it's probably more complicated than that, as these things always are complicated.