Maintaining Strength Gains During The Season (Podcast #60)

Maintaining Strength Gains During The Season (Podcast #60)

It's no secret that cycling requires strength: leg strength, arm and shoulder girdle strength and core strength (and stability) are often overlooked parts of cycling prowess.  I've personally seen the benefits of combining moderate strength training with cycling, and I've seen clients, athletes and patients benefit greatly from increased strength.

“But cycling is and aerobic sport” I hear you cry.  You're 100% right, cycling (aside from track sprinting) is predicated on aerobic conditioning and capacity.  However, no sport can exist in a strength vacuum;, and cycling is no exception; lack of strength (especially functional strength) is a short road to injury and underperformance.  Your body needs strength and stability to be able to efficiently utilize its aerobic capacity.  The problem with strength and stability is that it's exactly like your aerobic capacity in the idea that if you don't use it you lose it.  I've talked about strength training and building strength in weightlifting for cyclists part 1 and part 2, and detailed in my Raw Strength Modular training plan, but an important part of strength training is maintaining the gains made during those winter sessions.  That can be tough for a couple reasons, which I'll explore in today's podcast.

Click through for the show notes and learn how to maintain those winter strength gains through the year and set yourself up for even bigger gains next year.

Cycling strength trainingMaintaining Strength Gains – Show Notes

Losing strength during the season: one of the major reasons for “slowing down” as the season wears on (combined with overtraining.).
Strength loss occurs because aerobic exercise is catabolic in nature (breakdown of unnecessary muscle and tissue to increase power to weight ratio and overall aerobic speed.)  High-intensity exercise stimulates metabolic efficiency, which in turn causes loss of muscle fiber bulk to increase efficiency.

Major hormonal players in aerobic exercise: cortisol (increased with aerobic exercise, catabolizes muscle, suppresses testosterone, IGF-1, and hGH.)  Also decreased DHEA (testosterone precursor) and increased adrenaline hormones.  Cortisol mobilizes fat, proteins from muscle and glucose to fuel the body and respond to stresses via (sympathetic) fight or flight response.

DNA/BiohackingSupplementing with 4 grams of BCAAs and 6 grams of glutamine, 1 gram of vitamin C to combat cortisol build-up and stimulate anabolic pathways.

Strength training combats cortisol dominance by increasing HGH, IGF-1 and testosterone.

Links of studies cited in the podcast:

Marsit, J. L., Conley, M. S., Stone, M. H., Fleck, S. J., Kearney, J. T., Schirmer, G. P., … & Johnson, R. L. (1998). Effects of Ascorbic Acid on Serum Cortisol and the Testosterone: Cortisol Ratio in Junior Elite Weightlifters. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 12(3), 179-184.

Gleeson M, Lancaster GI, Bishop NC. Nutritional strategies to minimize exercise-induced immunosuppression in athletes. Can J Appl Physiol 2001;26 Suppl:S23-35


Timing of strength training:  Generally before an easy/aerobic day (strength training will inhibit high-intensity aerobic work for a day or so post exercise) or before a rest day.


Stripped down strength training during the same period of time: 

At home: Goblet squats, single leg deadlifts, calf raises, lunges/walks, cross lunges, kettlebells (swings, Turkish getups), bridges and variations, renegade rows, variety of swiss ball work, core stability

Kettlebells –

Swiss Ball Adjustable Weights

In the gym: Leg press, hack squat, deadlift, squats

Sets and reps:  3×10 or 3×12 sets/reps.  Near exhaustion at the end of 3rd set.  Builds muscular endurance and strength, increases muscle fiber size and therefore power/strength.  For track riders, consider 1-2 days/month of neuromuscular strength training at 3×4 sets/reps to exhaustion.

On bike work: force work, ME work to “integrate” strength work into your riding.

Take home Point:  Work strength training into your routine at some point during the season to keep strength gains from the off-season.  Do it in such a way that it doesn't impact your high-quality interval days to get the most out of it.

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About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.