Maximum strength and cycling performance

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by dominikk85, Nov 7, 2012.

  1. fergie

    fergie Active Member

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    A Strength and Conditioning Coach says athletes need more strength. No surprises there.
     


  2. Colnago62

    Colnago62 New Member

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    He didn't say that. What he did say was developing more strength than needed for an athlete's given discipline is probably a waste of energy. Since this article is about rowing, he then goes about trying to quantify exactly how much strength that is. To imply that cyclists don't need strength is not accurate. Cycling events last less then a minute and also can last days at a time. The real question is does the cyclist have enough strength for the event they are training for. That question isn't always easily answered.
     
  3. fergie

    fergie Active Member

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    It is actually (measuring strength demands).

    Even for Sprinters, and I coach a few, it's less strength than you think compared to the power one produces in the gym. And beyond 30s it's bugger all.
     
  4. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Well-Known Member

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    Most do and it would seem to be something so easy to observe that these discussions are unnecessary.

    • Thousands have stood on podiums over the years at the lowest amateur ranks to the world class level without an ounce of strength training for track and for endurance type events. (both in the world of running, swimming and cycling)
    • Small children can ride a bike without a day of strength training.
    • People with severe handicaps can ride a bike and yet cannot strength train
    • Many women that are very fragile with very low strength levels can flat out destroy many men on endurance courses that have much greater strength.
    • Thousands perform really well on club and charity rides with only cycling as an activity and the rest of their time is spent working in a sedentary position at an office job. I have many cycling friends that fit this category and 99.9% of my cycling friends never do anything in regards of strength training or even using other training like push ups (which is not strength training).
    • I train with weights weekly for over 30 years. I will say that my "strength" has never played a positive role in cycling, EVER. Has it played a negative role, ABSOLUTELY. I kid with friends that "I am highly trained to go slow." But as I have slowly lost strength since retiring from competition and I have continued to train on the bike my cycling performance has improved. Strength is going down, Endurance is going up.


    On another note and one that people that have little understanding of coaching and training at a lower level struggle to understand regarding the thought that "it's good for your health" or "it will help your health to give you a longer competitive career" is there is training for good health and there is training to win. The two are not necessarily the same and most of the time are not even close.

    When I trained pure strength athletes that was something I listened to their objectives to formulate their plan. If they kind of sort of wanted to do better in competition, but also wanted good health than I made their training load easier. But if they really wanted to win we incrementally increased their training load to a point that it became unhealthy and full of risks. High level athletes are often at the brink of overreaching, flirting with illness with weakened immunes systems, a rise in cortisol levels and other hormone imbalances from excessive training, injury and on the rare occasion death. Many struggle in relationships because they are so focused on self. I ended up in divorce myself when I was young because all I could do was focus on me to win. Outside of work I spent all my time training.

    Guys like fergie can take all that mess and try to refine training through sports science to make a more efficient training plan by weeding out the unnecessary fluff. Unfortunately there are some coaches that knowingly promote extra fluff because they are not as successful and they try to promote those ideas as if they have something extra special though training gimmicks (like an endurance athlete needed strength).

    ------------------------------------

    I feel like I know a little about "strength training". Now days I just lift and that is all that I can call it because if I were "Strength Training" I would not be losing strength.

    A few photos of training legs this morning, but not strength training

    [​IMG]
    Warming up on leg press in preparation of squats

    [​IMG]
    Light squats on the smith machine. I use the smith machine now because I have lower back issues from years of heavy squats and there is a high risk backing out of the rack with heavier weight. Lots of risk in lifting heavier.

    [​IMG]
    Light bar in the back ground for deadlifts off of a platform and high jump platform in the foreground. I was doing supersets between the two and why I was going ultra light on the deadlifts.

    [​IMG]
    Contradiction of wearing this shirt to the gym to lift weights. I often wear these custom t-shirts to remind me of what endurance training is about or at least for my recreational cycling goals.

    [​IMG]

    A custom logo that means something to me. A coworker mentioned that is a high level triathlete talked me into putting something on the shirt that would be motivational to me personally. I put this on the back in big letters as to what my goals are in cycling. I could careless about how fast I could sprint from here to the stop sign. Sprinting bores me. What I would like to achieve on the recreational level is being in the front break away group and in that front group as they arrive at the parking lot. The more I have focused toward cycling specific training structure that goal is being met. Rather than being the first shelled off the back of the group like two years ago I am now one of the first getting to the parking lot. Sprinting is useless when find yourself alone as the last to get there and the rest have packed up their gear and drove home.

    Becoming lighter and more aerobically fit has helped me tremendously. Not 30 plus years of heavy squats. None of my cycling friends ever felt threatened by the strength of my legs when it came to a 5 hour ride. As my strength declines and my endurance picks up they have a bit more respect. I am now getting invites from group leaders of the faster groups because I am not getting dropped and I am hanging with them. This improvement has come cycling training.

    When it comes to short events I am still skeptical that it strength training is necessary. For those very short specific events I step aside and let the gurus like fergie and Alex do the talking.
     
  5. Colnago62

    Colnago62 New Member

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    I can't think of a national senior program that doesn't use some form of strength training as part of the program for the speed guys. Which ones am I missing? Felt, you seem very passionate about being able to keep up on the road with other riders. For you, you probably have enough strength to do that. I haven't come across any information that states added strength work is not beneficial to sprinters and kilo riders. Empirically, that certainly hasn't been the case for what I have seen. I come from a track background in the kilo. I will say a little goes a long way, however. It is possible to focus too much energy on getting strong and not enough on the specificity of pedaling. It is definitely a balance that some get wrong.
     
  6. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    Felt, your example above regarding push ups is spot on. I believe muscular endurance training is often confused with strength training.

    There is a direct correlation between a muscle’s size and its strength. For a muscle to be stronger its cross section has to be bigger, and vice versa. However a component of strength can also be attributed to increased neuromuscular efficiency. The muscle did not actually increase in size but neural pathways got more efficient at sending their signals between the brain and muscles. Neuromuscular efficiency works two ways: as it improves, more muscle fibers are recruited for an activity (a fibers state of contraction is either ON or OFF, there is no condition where a muscle fiber is partially contracted). The other way is rate coding, that is the speed of the signal from the brain, and the force with which a fiber contracts.

    Most early gains in strength in any program are usually from increased NM efficiency not increased fiber cross section, i.e. the muscle is "learning" how to be strong. On the bike, one way to increase NM efficiency is simply smashing down the pedals in a big gear for short periods. Sprinters do this a lot. Roadies do it too, recreational riders not so much. One thing that lifting weights forces us to do is recruit muscle fibers for a contraction, the main reason many successful cyclists get by with zero weight training is that their training plans and/or riding habits take care of the NM efficiency development. If you never sprint to a street sign, telephone pole, or county line marker against your riding partners (or even alone), NM development will remain in a poor state, and it's doubtful you will ever win a sprint (or improve 1sec, 5sec power). In my time on the bike I am still surprised by how many riders don't engage in this playful and competitive activity. It's not needed to enjoy a century, but it is needed to win a bike race. Maybe those riders not engaging in NM activity on the bike are finding improvements to efficiency in the gym because that is the only time they are seriously recruiting the activity of muscle fibers, I dunno?

    Cycling isn't about muscular strength, it's about muscular endurance and cardiovascular efficiency.

    Both these fellas are in the 400W FTP range...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My legs are twice the size of Wiggo's and I'm lucky to put out 250W over an hour on a good day. In fact, I'm thinking I could destroy Sir Bradley in a squat competition if he'd have a go with me ;P
     
  7. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    As far as weight training on the bike, from what I've seen the majority of riders that do participate are mostly track guys, and then mostly sprinters. I don't have much involvement with that scene so I'm speculating a bit, but that is still a very small percentage of riders overall. As for road riders who lift, they strike me as the exception, not the rule.
     
  8. Colnago62

    Colnago62 New Member

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    Kilo riding has the issue of overcoming a less than optimal gear in beginning of the event. That is where strength really comes into play; being able to quickly get 94 gear inches up to a high cadence. Once you are on top of the gear, it becomes a matter of how long you can hold that speed till lactic acid takes over.
     
  9. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Well-Known Member

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    Okay, now your posts are starting to focus in on a unique group of cyclist that has a specific title. You are now talking about strength training for a specific activity and one which I mentioned at the tail end of my last post that I step aside and let fergie, who coaches track athletes to tell me if strength training is mandatory or not.

    However, up until you became specific you have been painting with a really broad brush as I highlighted in your quote above. Those who are new to endurance cycling (the majority that visit this forum are recreational level endurance based cyclists) these posts sends a very confusing message and may lead them to chase after the wrong training methods.

    If you had used Kilo cyclist or something specific like that I probably would have not responded, but your posts uses the generic label of cyclists.

    In Ira's post he mentions that lifting helped his FTP. I say kudos to the improvement, but he would be the rare individual that raised FTP (that I am aware) by lifting since lifting is a very short duration and not aerobic (typically since I have never heard of anyone squatting for an hour straight and if they were capable that is not strength training) and training to improve FTP is generally thought to happen through aerobic type training.
     
  10. ira41

    ira41 New Member

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    Just to be clear I have been full disclosure that I did massive work on the stair machine in addition to weights. In fact it rained yesterday and I hit it hard again, My legs are gassed today.

    I can fully accept the weight training may not have been the factor I thought it was, which isn't a bummer at all, it means I have found something to cross train that does actually help cycling, Stairs machines :) and I get some decent stuff to look at while I do it most days.

    On that note I did a full hour no breaks yesterday and my HR after the first 15 minutes was right around what it is when I do 2x20s, this particular machine also tells you power output(I have no idea how accurate) but my stair climbing power output per the machine was right around 85-90% of threshold power.

    Given how difficult I find putting hours in on my trainer in the winter, having something else to do that helps cycling fitness is huge for me. living int he PNW and not digging riding in the rain can kill consistency, the gym has provided me a way to stay in shape when the weather sucks, wish I had done it 5 years ago.
     
  11. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Well-Known Member

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    Ira, I really wish my current gym had a revolving ladder or climber. I agree with you that it is a really awesome form of cardio equipment. A few years ago I really considered getting one of these for our home, but my wife insisted we get a treadmill instead. I used something like the "stairway" version an my condition improved fast as well.

    We have magnetic stair steppers at my current gym, but as equipment goes they are just not the same and by now they are well worn out. Plus the step range of motion is really short. When you are forced or have the ability to lengthen the range of motion and up the speed of the machine it will really kick one's butt.

    http://www.jacobsladderexercise.com/cardio-training/#sthash.K54Ndx4T.dpbs
     
  12. fergie

    fergie Active Member

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    Because they have always done weights.

    In NZ when our juniors are inducted into high performance programmes the gym sessions are compulsory even if they are endurance athletes.

    A major movement from with within strength and conditioning is drop the term strength and to focus on conditioning as this is a requisite for all sports. If you understand the demands of cycling, even the sprint events, then you would understand how little strength contributes to the process.
     
  13. fergie

    fergie Active Member

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    Most Elite riders doing Kilo or Keirin are riding between 98 - 116in gears and have no problem getting underway. I have my U19 women heading to Junior Worlds doing starts on a 98in gear and they have no problem getting off the line. Trick is to get the technique right off the line. That can't be replicated in the gym.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Colnago62

    Colnago62 New Member

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    Felt, you missed the sentence where I wrote that, "cycling events last less than a minute or can last days." The less than a minute was referencing to kilo sprint track events. I think the rowing article said it best; developing more strength than needed for one's goals is not the best use of training time.
     
  15. Colnago62

    Colnago62 New Member

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    Your riders are clearly large individuals. Why do suppose that is?
     
  16. fergie

    fergie Active Member

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    [​IMG]

    A 15 year old girl weighing 53kg putting out World Class 5s power (Andy Coggan Power Profile) who has never been to the gym.

    As she went into U19 was worried about going from a restricted gear of 53 x 17 but after a few rides was doing it easy.

    I clearly need to get into the gym more. Plus ride my bike and lay off the bagels.
     
  17. Colnago62

    Colnago62 New Member

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    Hey, you look good for a coach. Jenny Reed was thin like that when she started racing.She didn't stay that way long, she got big. I don't know if the National Team put on a strength program or not. Even after she switched to the team pursuit she still kept a lot of her muscle. Bo Jackson never lifted weights either. I don't consider weights as the only way to strength train. The Cuban National team program had them using resistance bands. John Roper had his riders doing plyometrics. Situps, pull ups. Somebody else who I can't remember was telling me of a circuit system that focused on explosive movements. Of course none of this replaces actual work on the bike. That goes for any sport. Even lineman have to work on specific skills to do their jobs. It is not just about being strong. There are a bunch of successful programs out there that have different focuses and variations. More then one way to get to the podium.
     
  18. needmoreair

    needmoreair New Member

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    So is her ability to do tha just a result of muscle fiber makeup? And if so, is there anything that can be done to overcome a significant amount of slow twitch vs fast twitch fibers?

    If a person is looking to improve max power output (for a sprint), would the gym be a waste? What would help? Stomps or big gear work? Just sprinting?
     
  19. fergie

    fergie Active Member

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    Olivia is now in the gym. Part of that is most gyms do not allow people under 16 to train there. But most of her gains as a sprinter will come from sprinting. Specificity.

    Why gym? Bigger muscle is a stronger muscle as long as it doesn't compromise her ability to maintain an aero position (looks like a mini Cav when sprinting) or decrease her aerodynamics.

    Increased rate of force generation and decreasing neural inhibition. Both are general effects. But in the same way as learning a second language will help you learn a third faster we are hoping there is some transfer.

    Two of the big things I see with gym trained athletes is that instant feedback (either you lift the bar or not) = mentally strong, especially women, and learning complex exercises in the gym makes for riders able to take instruction better when teaching skills like gate starts.
     
  20. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Well-Known Member

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    This is the type of posts that I like to read because it is carefully worded unlike certain posts that toss the "strength" word around without much thought. Fergie gets it just as I would expect a coach and sports science type guy to get and I can only hope that I use cycling terminology correctly when I attempt to discuss cycling training. As mentioned before if I were asked if I strength trained my answer would be no. I do train at the gym 5 days a week and have for over 30 years. I used to strength train long ago with focused efforts on improving in certain lifts. The primary was squat and at one time I set my focus on achieving a max lift on a drug free hack squat personal best. I did hit that goal of a 1 x 600 full depth hack squat at 175 lb bodyweight and actually got 3 reps on that particular day. The whole gym stopped to watch. My best lift ever but there is no hack squat competition so it's just a fond memory. :)

    The title of the thread is "Maximum Strength and Cycling Performance." When we dig into what it takes to achieve maximum strength we must look at the training structure. The 1RM (1 rep maximum) is to strength as FTP, 5s or other power metric is to cycling performance. If we then puts someone on a true strength training program it has a sole focus or a specific focus.

    Even in strength training there is specificity. For instance I could train a guy or gal using a leg press and over the weeks their 1RM may improve on leg press, but it doesn't mean they can casually walk over to the squat rack and squat the same weight. To get a better 1RM on squat one must eventually train the squat with purpose. Now the leg press may act as a supplement to the squat depending on how the structure is laid out or the desire of the coach and athlete. When I was lifting at Coffee's Gym back in the day I never saw Robin do any sort of supplemental lifting outside of the specific Olympic lifts and she set a world record. I have seen the same with world class powerlifters where some would only train the three lifts and no other supplemental lifting. They reserved every ounce of energy and mental focus on the specific lifts and were highly successful. However, I have seen other world class lifters use supplemental lifts and were successful as well. But all of them kept their focus on the primary goal and all of them would refine their training and would weed out wasted efforts if it distracted from the Specific Lift.

    Bringing this forward into cycling training I start looking at training specifically for a particular goal and what it takes to achieve that goal. Not knowing enough about proper endurance training or having years of competitive cycling experience a lot of this is very new to me, but I do have a lot of experience in lifting and what sort of recovery is needed when strength training is done properly.

    For instance I am just lifting these days without a focus on improving any particular lift in regards of 1RM. This past Monday I trained legs at the gym and yet the result is somewhat typical for generic lifting in terms of timing of recovery. By Monday afternoon I could feel the tightness and slight discomfort coming on while sitting at my office desk. Tuesday morning DOMS is getting more intense. Tuesday evening it is full on, but now I have L4 intervals scheduled for the cycling training portion. I have said it before many times on this forum that the level of discomfort of doing L4 while recovering from leg training is really intense. The discomfort level is at least L5 or higher to sustain L4. It is almost all I can do mentally to control the desire to back off for sake of relief. If I back off from L4 than my cycling performance begins to decline.

    Tonight I go back for another round of L4 intervals and I am still feeling DOMS from Monday's lifting, but now I have stacked on the training load a day of lifting and a day of L4 that may impact tonight's effort. Typically by Thursday my legs are starting to feel recovered from Monday's lifting. If a person claims to be strength training and it is not impacting cycling training I get skeptical or if they have absolutely no soreness in their legs from lifting then I am skeptical that the lifting did any good at all. Lifting, one would think is equivalent to doing L7 on the bike. Coggan's chart for L7 lists it as typically needing a couple days or more for recovery. I would think that a person that lifts and feels no sort of discomfort the following days is just going through the motions of swinging a weight around much like what I saw in the Lance video of him wildly swinging a weight around with terrible technique.

    Now the converse of this of how cycling training impacts lifting is Saturday I often do an endurance (L2) type of ride and will often rack up 230 TSS or more for a 4 to 5 hour ride and Sunday I typically hit about 125 TSS when I attempt to race a 31 mile loop which is really a sort of SST type of session. By Monday I cannot do "strength training" because I have expended so much on the bike that I do not have fresh enough legs to squat the appropriate amount that would stimulate strength gains.

    Attempting to be progressive in both types of sports is exactly what I expected it to be - near impossible. However, like Fergie mentioned about his athlete is that he will use supplemental type training, but with a very careful eye as not to distract from the primary or Specific Goal.

    Back in the day when I trained to improve my squat toward the 1RM even the specificity became specific. What do I mean by that?
    It means that there was a very fine balance between warming up to use 80%+ of 1RM training weight so that my legs would not be too worn out from warming up. I found that if I kept my reps at around 6 on each set I would be warmed up enough to lift heavy and yet not too worn out to fail. This is another place where I struggle with people saying to keep their sets low in order not to gain muscle size or hypertrophy. In all my years of being around high level strength athletes I have never seen anyone come off the street cold and jump straight into maximum lifts. Incrementally adding weight is not only wise for warming up the muscle group, but it gets your mind prepared from the fear of the lift. I don't care how veteran a lifter may be once they get to a weight that is heavy enough to only do a triple the mind will say, "this is going to crush you" and the fear sets in. I am skeptical when someone tells me they are strength training and they say they only did 3 sets of squats. I also used my warm up weight as a time to practice lifting technique. No matter how much veteran a person may be in the gym working on technique never stops IMO and very few people walk into a gym and get the technique right without practice.

    Since 2004 I have attempted to look at the balance of holistic fitness. It is a real struggle to balance the training load in order to be progressive in both. I have to admit I have not found that path yet and I am skeptical it exists. The recovery aspect is probably the hardest and then as Fergie mentioned there are other aspects like CdA that can impact performance. When I started lifting in college I weighed 115 lbs and was the smallest guy in my high school. No one could have imagined that beneath that anemic looking frame was the genetics to add muscle. I gained 40 pounds in my first year of lifting. My legs grew so fast that the surficial stretch marks were tearing deep enough to bleed. And those gains were from lifting without knowing how to properly lift. So one has to be careful with the athlete because you never know what genetics that person has until the training starts.

    I can see using other things as supplemental training that may provide benefit, but as Fergie mentioned it needs a careful eye and consideration to make sure the athlete gets the benefit from the supplemental training or if it is going to be a distraction to the athlete's progression it needs to be changed quickly.

    .......but if someone says they are doing 10 push ups once a week and they want to call that strength training than it's a free world with free speech. I suppose if someone wants to call the blue sky green that's their prerogative.

    Great posts fergie. I wish I could be a fly on the wall as you train this young athlete. I am always interested in how good coaches approach a training plan with careful consideration.
     
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