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On-the-Bike Strength Training

During the Base 1 training phase, most athletes work very hard in the gym, strength training through the Maximum Strength (MS) period. Once this period ends, leg strength is not automatically transferred to the bike. It can be frustrating to see gym built strength fail to transfer to the bike. There are two links that need to be taken care of to ensure gym strength is transferred into on-the-bike strength. The first is core training. The second area is, specific on-bike strength training. MS weight lifting ends with the Base 1 period of training. On-bike strength training should start with the Base 2 period. Here are several workouts to build on-bike strength.

Caution: The workouts described below are difficult sessions and can be stressful to your knees. Monitor your knees carefully and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort. Build up the number of repeats and duration of each repeat gradually over weeks. Injuries are often caused by too much, too soon. Have patience with yourself to see the best improvements.

Big Gear Repeats
On a flat course or indoor trainer pedal in a big gear, with a cadence of 50 - 60 rpm for 5 minutes. Your heart rate should stay in heart rate zones 1-3. That is well below lactate threshold. This workout is to stress your muscular system, not aerobic system. Start with repeats of 5 minutes and work gradually up to 20 minutes. Stay seated in the saddle with a quiet upper-body throughout the repeat.

Big Gear Hill Repeats
When you have built up to 20 minutes of big gear repeats on flat terrain you can do the same session on a hill to build additional strength. Remember to stay seated in the saddle with a quiet upper-body. Focus on leg strength.

Force Repeats
This workout is similar to lifting weights in the gym, but done on the bike. On a flat course or indoor trainer pedal in a gear that only allows you to reach 50 - 60 rpm. While remaining seated drive the pedals down as hard as possible for 15 - 20 revolutions of the cranks. Do 6 - 10 of these, starting a new one every 3 - 5 minutes. Between force repeats spin 85+ rpm easily with light pressure on the pedals.

90 Second Hills
On an indoor trainer with a high resistance setting pedal for 30 seconds at 70 - 80 rpm with your heart rate in zone 1-2, shift up one gear and maintain cadence for 30 seconds, shift up another gear and maintain cadence for another 30 seconds. Your heart rate will rise but should stay below lactate threshold in zones 3 - 4. Spin at 85+ rpm with light pressure on the pedals for 90 seconds recovery between each repeat. Do this 8 - 12 times.

About Lynda Wallenfels

Lynda Wallenfels's picture


Lynda Wallenfels is a professional cyclist, USA Triathlon level II, USA Cycling Elite level and Ultrafit certified coach. Her new book “The Triathlete's Guide to Bike Training” is now available from VeloPress. Lynda always enjoys discussing training and racing and will answer questions posted on her Web site discussion forum www.lwcoaching.com.
She is available for coaching and consulting and can be contacted at lynda@lwcoaching.com.

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