Periodized Strength Training for Cyclists

Joy Murphy

Keep your body guessing, so it doesn’t get too comfortable by varying your strength training stress in a meaningful and focused way.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could stay fit all year long? Always peaked and feeling strong? Of course, it would be.

Unfortunately, the body does not work that way.  Because it doesn’t, we must break up our training into blocks throughout the year to create cycles.  

The training blocks vary in length and intensity depending on your goals.  By doing so, we are more likely to avoid mental and physical burn-out and overuse injuries.

With a good program in place, you will build up slowly to peak just before a high-priority race or A event.

Periodized Strength Training for Cyclists is essential

What is Periodized Training?

Periodization, simply put, is the theory behind changing up your intensity throughout a training block to include a mix of sessions in different heart rates and power zones. Periodized training for cyclists also includes adding in varied strength training targeting all the major muscle groups.

Working on strength as well as cardio in different zones will have the most beneficial impact on your performance.[1]

How Will Periodized Strength Training Benefit You?

Cycling is a repetitive motion activity done in the same plane that stresses the same muscle groups in the same way. Incorporating resistance training using different exercises, performed in varied planes of movement, increases your strength, endurance, and flexibility.

To optimize your periodized strength training your body will go through these 5 stages.

Periodized Strength Training for Cyclists - The Five Stages

A brief explanation of the 5 stages include:

Stage 1 - Anatomical Adaptation

Just like the warm-up on your bike. You will do high reps (up to 20), with low weight while focusing on proper form. Stage one will prepare your muscles and connective tissues for the stress of strength training. During this stage train 2-3 times a week for at least four weeks.

Stage 2 - Maximum Strength Building

In the second stage, you complete fewer reps (3 to 6), but increase the weight (slowly at first to help reduce injury).  Stage two sessions should be performed 2-3 times a week for at least four weeks.

Stage 3 – Power

Strength and Power are not the same. In stage three you train your body to convert strength into power.

You do this by performing the movements with a slightly lower weight, as fast possible, without sacrificing form. Each rep (8 to 12) should be explosive to teach your muscles to produce maximum power and recruit as many fibers as possible, while maintaining complete control over function.

Stage three can vary in duration between 3 to 6 weeks, 1 to 2 times a week.

Stage 4 - Muscular Endurance

At this point we have increased strength and power. It’s time to add endurance (my favorite).

Perform the exercises with a reduced weight, for very high reps (40 to 60), with a short recovery between sets. The movements should be done at a steady pace while maintaining proper form. Perform endurance workouts once a week for 4 to 8 weeks.

Stage 5 - Strength Maintenance

Simply put, this stage is all about maintaining what we have gained through the first four stages. Perform the exercises with moderate weight, 6 to 12 times. Your goal is to keep your fitness level high while not excessively fatiguing your muscles.

You can perform this workout 1 to 2 times a week for as long as you wish during the cycling season; however, remember to taper for all your high-priority races.

Periodized Strength Training for Cyclists improves performance

Conclusion

When you decide to begin a strength training program, remember to start easy.  As endurance athletes, we want to take off fast, move hard, and see results quickly. Strength training does not work this way. 

Begin by picking two days a week and plan 20 minutes of bodyweight and core muscle exercises. When you’re ready, add weights and begin stage 1. As you progress through the stages, you will feel your strength and power improving, not just in your strength training but also in your rides.

Remember to always concentrate on proper form!

Next Up for Coach Joy

Coach Joy puts Zwift Strongman and legendary Sweeper Matt Yankow through a periodized strength training program.  I didn’t think there was any way he could possibly get any stronger.  I was wrong!

Check out Coach Joy’s great article on Functional Strength Training for Cyclists for a framework on how to apply periodization to improve your performance. 

It is Proper...Period!

Do you follow a phased approach when performing your off-the-bike strength training program?  Your fellow Zwifters would like to know how it works for you.

Bibliography

 “Periodization and Mixed Training | TrainingPeaks.” https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/periodization-and-mixed-training/. Accessed 11 Jul. 2021.

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[…] The program progressed by following the principles of periodization, which you can read more about here: Periodized Strength Training for Cyclists. […]

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