Sunday, October 16, 2005

Off Season Training Pt3: Strength Training

This is part 3 in a series of how I've been training on the Morris Plan

1)Resistance Training

There is a huge amount of debate over the effectiveness of weight room training for cycling. Many say that you can accomplish the same goals by doing low cadence/high resistance intervals, or single speeding. And if it was ONLY weight room strength that was an indicator to cycling success than Yuri Gregogov and a bunch of other eastern bloc power lifters would be on top of NORBA podiums.

The real key here is taking strength gains from the weight room and turning them into cycling specific gains by doing things like sprints, lead out intervals and low cadence/high resistance (What Dave calls Muscle Endurance Intervals). But the intense work with the weights is what provides your muscles with that underlying strength which the high resistance cycling can turn into pure cycling power. At least that is what I believe

Especially given my other responsibilities, I think it makes efficient use of time. It is easier to do as the weather gets bad and darker earlier.

In addition there are other benefits. Cycling is notorious its relation to osteoporosis.

I have bird wrists. My 95lbs wife has wrists that are bigger than mine. I am lactose intolerant. So don't drink a lot of dairy, and I am not that good about taking supplements. And I don't do much cross training due to time. So the few months in the weight room are good for my battle against osteoporosis.

Lifting is also one of those things that should be done as you grow older. For life. It's just good for you to balance things out.

And finally, I just like it. Those several weeks in the weight room are a great change. I like putting the mp3 player on and doing my thing. I've been lifting since high school when it was the first thing that I ever did to reverse my non-athletic, pudgy lifestyle.

Oh yeah, the first thing a lot of people think about wrt to strength training and cycling is weight gain and turning into a body builder.

Forget about it. A cycling specific strength program is NOT going to turn you into arnold and you are not going to be dragging an extra 10 lbs up the hills. Besides, if you are mountain biking you definitely need the upper body work.

Also it is a hard pill to swallow, but during the lifting your riding is going to suffer. You are definitely not going to be riding like you were in August. This is hard if you group ride with people who ride at a high intensity all year long, or who are still racing cross or something. Your legs will feel dead and wooden. It won't be until you get into the power phase when you start converting over to cycling specific strength when they start to come around a little.

*If you are following the Dave Morris Book, the strength training section is hard to follow and a little confusing. I put it all down into an excel spreadsheet and it makes following it A LOT easier. If you want a copy just email me at I've sent this thing from California to Eastern Europe and everyone has liked it. *Note I am not responsible if you hurt yourself.

I am just going to go over the plan in general here, refer to the book for details and more instructions on the lifts.

Also there are other periodized cycling specific strength plans out there. Here is one at Spokepost 8 part article on strength training to compare to.

The general plan is
-Increase size of muscle fibers
-Make muscle fibers stronger
-Training nervous system through lifting
-Increase muscle power
-Transition muscle power to cycling specific power
-And then we are on the bike and will try to maintain power gains

The exercises:
There are only a few lifts done. Which is great because it cuts down on time. There is also stretching, that I always skimp on, and core work that I also skimp on to my detriment:

Finding your 1 rep maximum
The weights your throw down in this program are calculated from a 1 rep maximum that you determine after the prep phase. I personally don't like doing a true 1 rep maximum. It requires a spotter, and on things like squat it scares the hell out of me. What I typically do is calculate 1 rep max by multiplying a coefficient #
X set of 4 or 5. It isn't as accurate, and I do tinker with the weights during the course of the lifting (upping or lowering them) often. But it is a starting point.

I usually do a warm up set with light weight for each exercise

Stiff Legged Dead Lift

***NOTE this lift does not follow the same reps/sets in the strength and power phases and 1 rep max.**** Typically I do 3sets of 10 with it and don't ever go too heavy, but I do increase weight over time. I think it has helped me significantly with minimizing lower back pain while climbing. It also makes picking up groceries and children easier.

Back Squat
-Ah the KING of cycling lifting.

I wear a belt except in the prep phase. I try to go till hamstrings are // to the ground. But do have a hard time keeping proper form when the weights get heavy.

In the power phase it is fun and you get some great looks from the other people in the gym, cause you actually jump off the ground with the bar/weights on your shoulder.

Incline Dumbell press

Yup I was doing sets with 20pounders the other day. Everyone was crowded around me, "You're making some big gains man"

Incline leg press

I love this one, because when you get into the strength phase you can really start loading on the plates. Sometimes I am putting 4-5 plates on each side. That does get me some looks for real because I am 135lbs and it takes like 5 minutes to unload the machine when you're done.

Go down to 90 degrees and then back up
Feet shoulder width apart
Avoid locking knees. Oh yeah.. been there done that. oooooh. Avoid that.

Lat Pull

Hamstring curl

-align axis of rotation with your knee
-adjust pad to st low on legs near ankles
-go till pad touches hamstrings

The phases

Length 3 weeks:

-Easy lifting. 1st week 2 sets of 8, 2nd week sets of 3, 3rd week sets of 4, gradually increasing weight. Here is what my prep looks like right now:

Just jumping straight into the next phase is going to cripple you. My hamstrings were so soar after the first day of dead lifting just the bar. And my chest was hurting after doing sets with 20lb dumbbells. Don't skimp and rush this. Just do it and it will make everything that comes after MUCH better.

Length 2-4 weeks
-4x a week (2 heavy days 2 light days)
-6 sets (1,2 at 65% 1RM, 3,4 at 70, 5,6 at 75)
-10 to 12 reps
-Upper body does 2 days/week.

Purpose- build muscle mass. yeah yeah, don't worry you are not going to look like arnold.

Don't even bother riding other than spinning around or commuting. This phase WORKS your legs hard. Riding is just going to bum you out.

3) Strength
-2 weeks
-2x week (1 heavy, 1 light)
-4 sets. 6 reps
-working from 70% all the way to 100%

This phase rules. Cause it SOOO amazing to be throwing down 2-3 reps of 100% of your original 1 rep max in such short a time.

4) Power
From what I read, strength gains are speed specific. Here is where you want to start doing lifts faster to transition into cycling specific speeds.
-2 weeks
-3x a week (1 heavy day 1 light day)
-1 day of sprint intervals
-can start including some longer rides in
-8,6,4,3 reps
-45-60% 1RM

That's it, next we'll see how to transition this stuff over to real cycling power


So we are talking
3 weeks prep
4 weeks hypertrophy
2 weeks strength
2 weeks power
for a total of 11weeks in the gym. And only about 4 of those your riding should be cut down, during strenght, power and prep if you have the time to ride you can.

After this I rarely go into the gym at all. I'd probably do better with my ab work and stretching if I went there just for that purpose though.

And don't expect your legs to all of a sudden have super human abilities. It really takes me well into April and May to truly feel the benefit of the weights.

For me, my main limiter is my legs. You've seen it time and time again in my race reports. Cardio isn't an issue here in a 2-3hr mountain bike race. It's always my legs . The high intensity efforts just destroy them. I'm obviously not pacing properly either but the legs is where I need the most work.


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