Friday, February 18, 2011

Endurance Training Phase 3


Lee Unwin, Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach

In this article I am going to discuss the third 8-week phase of your strength-training program: The Strength Phase. Like your cycling year, there are 5 phases of the strength-training year: Transition, Endurance, Strength, Power, and Competition. If you completed the first 16 weeks (Transition Phase and Endurance Phase), you should now be ready to increase the intensity of your weight training regimen, and you can begin this section as it is laid out; however, if you are just starting at this point, it is better to begin with the Endurance Phase. You can find that plan in the CycleOps Strength Training Archives.

Muscular Strength is defined as the maximal amount of force the muscle can exert against an object. In short, how much weight you can lift. This phase of training is often the only style of training that people are familiar with, but it is actually the bridge between endurance training and power training.

The Strength Phase is familiar to most of us because it is the regimen that has been taught to just about everyone who has ever entered a weight room or fitness facility. It is the most commonly prescribed style of training because this intensity of training specifically elicits muscle hypertrophy, increased muscle size. It is also the regimen that will facilitate some increases in endurance, power and of course strength. For the average person who isn’t concerned about sports performance and would like to put on muscle weight, this regimen is adequate.

In general, cyclists don’t have a desire to increase muscle weight, but don’t worry; this amount of time is only enough time to elicit increases in muscular strength, but not enough time to increase muscle weight.

Strength gains seen during this phase are the result of increased neuromuscular recruitment.

Finding Your Weight for Strength Training.

To begin, select a weight that you can lift at least 8 times, but cannot, no matter how hard you try, lift more than 12 times. To be clear, it is not lifting the weight between 8-12 times and stopping. It is physically going to failure in that 8-12 range. During this phase you will increase strength, so you must continue to increase your weight to match those gains. Be sure to test yourself each week to ensure that you are lifting to your full potential.

Muscular failure is the inability to perform a lift or movement with correct form one more time. You may be able to perform one more repetition, but if it is with poor form, it does not count, so don’t do it.

I recommend 3 to 5 sets per muscle group 2 times per week. Like the previous phase, you will lift for 7 weeks with the 8th week as complete recovery. This many sets sounds like a lot, but if you are efficient, you can move through it quickly. During this higher level of training you require approximately 1-3 minutes of recovery between sets. To accomplish recovery and efficiency at the same time, perform single leg exercises. This will have one leg working while the other is resting. You can also work opposing muscle groups; for example: quads then hamstrings or upper body then lower body. Repeat any or all of these methods back and forth until you have completed the desired number of sets. I find that this is not only efficient, but mimics the repetitive and exhaustive nature of cycling.

Balancing Cycling and Strength Training

If you are riding and lifting on the same day, I recommend riding first then strength training after. I believe you should put your best effort in to cycling first, especially if you are planning intervals or threshold work. After riding you will be very warmed up and even more prepared to begin your strength workout.

Be sure to use the day after weight training to recover you legs. Perform a variety of cadence drills and easy tempo work, keeping your effort in Zone 1 and Zone 2. This not only facilitates recovery it keeps you honest about building your cycling base.

See you again in 8 weeks when I will be discussing the Power Phase of training, and don’t worry, there will be little to no plyo-metrics involved.

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