Transition Phase of Strength Training
Posted in training on September 11, 2010
by Lee Unwin
For the first installment of this 5 part strength training series I am going to discuss the first phase of your strength-training program, The Transition Phase.
The same as training for cycling, there are generally considered to be 5 phases to a strength training program. These phases of training are the following: Competition, Transition, Endurance, Strength, and Power.
Remember it is important to work all phases of training.
To create a plan for the year we will assume that each phase lasts approximately 8 weeks. Each week should be a little harder than the last with the 8th week being full recovery or rest from the strength-training program. I say that each phase should be approximately 8 weeks because depending on your particular cycling sport, you may choose to add more weeks to a phase that would more beneficial, while subtracting a week or two from another that would be less. Remember it is important to work all phases of training; just because you are an endurance athlete doesn’t mean that you should skip the power phase of training.
Before we begin let’s address just a couple of concerns that I often hear from cyclists regarding strength training.
“I don’t want to bulk up or get heavy.” This strength-training plan is designed for cyclists and not body builders. Each phase and session is too short to create any real mass. It is possible that you will gain several pounds of muscle back that you lost during the competitive season, but typically no more.
“Its boring.” Yes, the same as if you were to ride the same course each time out; weight training can be very boring. I challenge my athletes to mix up their routine day-to-day and week-to-week. If you are really stuck consider working with a trainer once a month for some new ideas.
The Transition Phase: September-October
This first 8 weeks you are simply getting your muscles, tendons, and ligaments prepped for harder work to come.
This first 8 weeks you are simply getting your muscles, tendons, and ligaments prepped for harder work to come. You will not be lifting heavy weights or going to muscular failure during this phase, but you will complete each lift until the muscle and you are tired. As a guideline, pick a weight that you can lift at least 8 times. You should feel that you could easily do 3-5 more repetitions before complete muscular failure. What is muscular failure? For our purpose it means lifting a weight until you cannot possibly lift it one more time with good form.
During this time I recommend 1 set per muscle group for the first 4 weeks, 1-2 times per week. The next 3 weeks go through the same muscle groups for a second time but try working them in a completely different way. For example, if you want to focus on working quads, the first time through you could do single leg squats and the second time step-ups on a box or riser. Remember it is important to work all phases of training.; furthermore, research is beginning to emerge on the increased performance of athletes who consistently change the way in which they strength train. The last week of the Phase is always a recovery week with no strength training.
If you are still racing during this time, you can still begin strength training. You are not lifting to muscular failure, so your weight training days should be similar to or even take the place of one of your hard effort days. If you are racing, I would recommend only 1 day of strength training and no more than 3 if you are not racing. Later, when you begin lifting to failure, you will require 48-72 hours of recovery between weight training sessions and sometimes even longer if it was a particularly hard day.
Make the most of your time, alternate between upper and lower body exercises. This gives your muscles the time they need to recover between sets and it keeps the heart rate elevated as you are constantly shunting blood between the lower and upper body. This is not cardio training, but it is a good way to be very efficient with your time.
I am often asked what is the best way to train: free weights, machines, body weight, classes etc. My answer is all of them.
Lastly, I am often asked what is the best way to train: free weights, machines, body weight, classes etc. My answer is all of them. I recommend that you use everything at your disposal. All modalities of strength training have their benefits and drawback so to say one is the best way would be foolish. If you are adding strength training into your program for the first time, I would suggest beginning with machines so that you can get started without a lot of hands-on instruction. In time you will seek out new ways to train, so it becomes a natural progression into more advanced training.
This is the time to transition, rehab, and rebuild.
Use these 8 weeks to build your foundation; it may feel too easy to be of benefit, but this is the time to transition, rehab, and rebuild. This is the only 8 weeks that strength training will feel easy so enjoy it while you can.
In the next installment I will discuss the Endurance Phase of Strength Training.
Lee Unwin holds a BA in Exercise Science. He is also a Certified Massage Therapist, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, and a Certified Training with Power Coach. He and his wife own and operate Unwin Chiropractic and Wellness Center. Lee is also representing CycleOps this year in Marathon Mountain bike events.
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