Competitive cyclists of all levels and ability have a winter off-season, but this does not mean the athlete isn’t training. Instead, it means that work is being done to build on the last season and to start preparing for the next season. This is a perfect time to hit the gym and combine muscle tension intervals with resistance training.
It is always a good idea to reflect on the year of racing to determine where you need improvement. Do you feel you lacked strength on the bike? Logically, one would hit the gym and get strong, right? But, to capitalize on the hard work put in at the gym, the athlete needs to transfer this strength to the pedals. The key is to choose on-bike training intervals to compliment your strength training. An example of this is incorporating muscle tension (MT) intervals.
Muscle tension intervals are a great way to transfer strength to an aerobic setting. They are high torque, low cadence efforts. These are best performed either on an indoor trainer, or on a 2-6% grade steady hill in order to maintain a cadence of 50-60 RPM. Ideally, the interval should be done while seated, focusing on applying torque in the pedal for the entire pedal stroke hitting all the muscle groups. The workout is to stay around zone 2-3 efforts in order to stay aerobic and avoid threshold-type work. A beginner cyclist can start with 3×5 min MT intervals with 3 min rest intervals. An intermediate cyclist can start with 4×5 min (2-2:30 rest). A more advanced cyclist can start with 4×6 min (3 min rest). The goal would be to reach at least two ~10-12 min MT intervals with rest intervals approximately ½ the interval time. Muscle recruitment and power output is generally higher during MT intervals when completed following your weight training session.
Your coach can help you find what is best for you and get the most out of your off-season strength training and SPARC can offer a well-rounded cycling-specific program. SPARC also offers performance testing that your coach may need to develop your training program including Lactate Threshold Testing, Vo2Max Testing, DEXA body composition, and Resting Metabolic Rate Testing. Remember all endurance athletes of all levels can benefit from smart training and the help of a coach. Train smart and good luck!
Maria Carrelli, PT, DPT
Dr. Maria Carrelli is a physical therapist at Athens Orthopedic Clinic and races bikes for United Healthcare of GA p/b 706project.
Content collaboration with:
Dr. Namrita Kumar is a Sports Physiologist, Registered Dietitian, and Endurance Coach. She also is the Head Cycling Coach at SCAD Atlanta Collegiate Cycling Team and a Level 2 USA cycling coach.
Look out for another post of why Maria thinks endurance athletes should not ditch the gym even during the season.