Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why strength training payoff isn't until later in the year

Someone asked me why I'd written that the benefits of my weight room work won't be realized until April. I'm just parroting what Dave Morris writes in his book but It seems to agree with my experiences.

Strength gains are speed specific. What that means is that the increase in muscular strength you get from workouts is seen only at the speeds (of contractions) that you've been performing. Lifting weights in the gym is done at a significantly slower speed than cycling is performed at.

Part of the key to cycling specific lifting programs is to convert weight room specific strength into cycling specific strength. Just Big legs alone do not make a fast cyclist. Muscle size is one issue but as important is muscle fiber recruitment and the force per fiber contraction.

I've just transitioned into the last phase of my weight room work. The power phase of my workout has me doing lifts as fast as I can at relatively low weights. With the squats I'm actually jumping off the ground.

Even this speed is still much slower than cycling. However the power phase is sort of a gateway to transforming my weight room strength gains into cycling strength. Along with the higher speeds of lifting, I've just started doing sprints on the trainer which require lots of muscle contraction and will soon do Muscle Endurance workouts on the bike. These workouts are where you climb a hill or ride in a big big gear and turn the pedals at very slow cadence (50rpm as compared to a more normal 80-100rpm).

This kind of workout is like weightlifting on a bike.

Converting the weight room strength to cycling strength takes time which is why I don't realize the benefits of the weight room work until later in the year.

There is huge debate in the cycling world regarding whether time spent in the weight room is time well spent. Many feel that sprints and muscle endurance workouts on the bike are sufficient to building cycling power. And many feel that there is too much loss in aerobic capacity when you're in the gym.

The way I look at is in terms of potential. From a baseline my muscle have a potential of X to do work. If I skip the weights and go right into sprints/muscle endurance than I'm taking X and making it cycling specific.

With the cycling specific weight training I'm taking X and making it 2X or whatever. If I then take 2X and do my sprints /muscle endurance I've got more potential to start with and ideally will be able to create more cycling specific strength.

There is definitely a hit to the aerobic conditioning when you are lifting and not riding. However Dave feels that muscular development is key to increasing sustainable power. And that the aerobic conditioning is relatively easy compared to the muscular part.

Truth, fallacy. Don't know. Don't care. Well.. I care, but at the same time I'm trying not to care.

Find something to believe in.

Be consistent, slowly, one foot in front of the other. One day at a time. Over the course of years. (I'm going on 3 years now with consistent training)


In an interview with Dave I asked him what are the characteristics that separate elite athletes from amateur athletes. He said: From a mental standpoint, the pros seem to stay more focused on doing what they need to do to get the job done, while amateurs will often allow themselves to become distracted. They preoccupy themselves with things that don’t really matter and lose site of the big picture.

Changing your training program every 2 months based on the latest article in Bicycling or a forum post (which is what I did for many many years) got me nowhere. My personality of 100% energy diversion to little mini-obsessions (skills, tech bike geek issues) hurts more than it helps, although it's part of the fun.


At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a 33 year old Sport rider (1st year racing, 10th year riding) who will be trying Expert next year and I've been using the Morris plan as well, but with my own twists. I've been doing 4 weeks of the hypertrophy and the base/endurance phase on the bike simultaneously with great results in both areas. With the squats I've been lifting Mon/Tues and then Thurs/Fri - adding 15 lbs each week (I'm at the end of my 4th week now). With the endurance riding I've been doing to 4 hour trainer rides on the weekends with some 2 hour rides Tues-Thurs (with 6 1 minute on/offs SMSP's at the end to help sustain my high end) and I went from averaging 18mph to 20mph. So it seems to me that the muscle gain in the weight room has helped raise the quality of my base. I was hesitant about doing both phases at the same time, but I kept seeing positive results. Not sure what Morris would think of this, but no complaints here. :)

By the way, love the site, and thinks for turning me on to the Morris plan.

At 8:25 PM, Blogger Ashwin Amanna said...

Wow that sounds hardcore. I just caution you to not go too hard.

For me any riding, beyond easy commuting, during hypertrophy was almost worthless. It taxed me too much along with 4 days/week of lifting.

During strength phase I added some riding, and this year have ridden way more (and harder) than in years past. Because of this additional riding, I've taken several additional days off after the rides instead of getting back to the lifting. This has prolonged my lifting schedule.

4hr trainer rides. Oh man. That is some serious work. Kudos on that. That is what some top pros do because they must in order to get their miles in. 4hrs on the trainer is equivalant to like 5hrs on the road because there is no coasting on a trainer.

It sounds like you have a high capacity for work. Just be careful and monitor your energy. And make sure to get enough rest.

I bet you'll do really well with the block training and 3 week cycles. Again, just don't forget to take your rest weeks.

At 12:56 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Man, do I feel stupid asking this but........... I am 41 and obviously never been much into health. What

exactly is weight should one start....what amount of time should one put in it?
I found an interesting website that teaches weight training. It’s pretty basic. Check it out. It’s from
weight training

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Hi Ashwin,
Any possibility of posting your interview with Dave Morris on your blog? It looks like The Biking Hub is now defunct.



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