Example Strength session: CYCLING

As I've mentioned (repeatedly) before, all session programmes are geared towards an individual. This post is meant only as a guide to help you understand the discreet and not so discreet differences between workouts designed to increase strength, as opposed to ones designed to increase power or speed or muscle mass or endurance. Please don't simply copy anything you seen on the internet. Your girlfriend won't thank you. More importantly you won't necessarily get the outcome you hope for because you weren't the individual in mind when I wrote the session plan.

I want to give you a deeper level of understanding - the principles behind the variables - so that you can be more independent and less reliant on copy and paste programme templates from charlatan 'coaches'.

Without further ado, here is a session I used with one of the cyclists I coach. It is a strength session transitioning from off season to pre race season. The phase before had been hypertrophy (muscle gain) and work capacity, and the phase after it was to be power. The athlete in question is a female masters sprint cyclist. Unless that's you, you would need something a little different I expect.

Warm up:

  • 3 mins cycling at rising level of intensity

  • dynamic leg stretches 2-3mins of a body weight 'flow'

  • Body weight lower body exercises - walking lunges, hamstring walks, glute bridges (single leg)

  • Vertical jumps (primer) 3 sets of 5 at body weight. Max height intention on final set.

Resistance work:

A. Front squats - 4 sets of 3 reps performed at 3010 tempo*. Rest 150s

Load selected at 80% 1RM^

B. Romanian Deadlifts - 4 sets of 5 reps performed at 3010 tempo. Rest 120s

Load selected as 8RM**

C. Close parallel grip chin up - 3 sets of 2 reps at 20X0 tempo. Rest 90-120s

Load selected as body weight (4RM).

D1. DB Reverse lunge - 3 sets of 5 reps each leg, alternating. Rest 15s before D2.

D2. SA DB Rows - 3 sets of 6 reps each arm. Rest 15s before D3.

D3. Ab wheel rollouts - 3 sets of 8 reps. Rest 60s before completing remains sets.


Important features:

*Tempo is prescribed. It is one of the many variables you have at your control. Think about this for a second; is a body weight squat harder if you lower for 10secs and come up fast or if you drop quickly and come up slowly for 10seconds? By specifying tempo you can regulate the difficulty and largely the outcomes. I use a four digit system where each number represents a phase of each repetition. Picture that body weight squat again; now lower yourself for 3 seconds, take 0 seconds rest at the bottom, come back up in 1 second and take no rest at the top before the next squat. That's a 3010 tempo.

^Exercise load is referred to as intensity. This is often misused or misunderstood in programming. Many people think if it's hard it's 'intense'. In the case of strength training intensity refers to the load used, relative to the maximum possible load - 100%. So in the example above, her 100% front squat was 85kg and she used 80% of this to do 3 reps - 68kg.

**If you don't know your 100% load (who does for every lift?) then you can use repetition maximum instead of %. It is still a measure of intensity relative to your maximum but in this case your repetition maximum. For example, in the above programme I hadn't tested her 100% RDL but I did know her 10 and 8 rep max (RM) from the previous training phase. This means I can use that as a guide for how hard she'll find dong 5 reps across many sets and thus how sore it could make her. This is where experience and the finer 'art of coaching' comes in to know that if she's riding the next day I don't want her hamstrings so sore that she has a bad bike session so I use a lighter load relative to her working reps. I could have prescribed 4 sets of 5 reps at her 6RM (heavier than her 8RM) but that would have been counter productive to her cycling - her main aim!

Exercises are labelled to notify order - A,B,C etc. When exercises are noted as D1/D2/D3 it means they are performed in superset or circuit fashion (i.e. 5 reps each leg of reverse lunges, rest 15sec, 6 reps each arm DB rows, rest 15sec, 8 rollouts, rest 60sec then repeat).

Rest periods are long! For optimal performance of heavy strength work you have to rest. The loads you use are heavy so you can't do many reps and you NEED longer rest periods than when doing other types of training. This can be counterintuitive for many people and hard to do for most endurance athletes but it is the most important part - without adequate rest between sets, you can't use enough load to get stronger!

I hope you can see how different this session looks to a speed session example. The overwhelming message should be that if you look at a programme and think "that looks heavy and slow" you're doing ok at programming max strength. Check back soon as I'll be posting an example power session for the same athlete next.

For more info on how to select programme variables, check out my ebook on starting your own S&C journey.

#examplesession #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #squats

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