Having a holistic approach and understanding to the training you are undertaking is the best way to take ownership and ultimately improve. Ideally our Strength and Conditioning should be increased and improved over the off season, with 3 to 4 sessions per week and maintained over the racing season by training 1-2 sessions per week.
Once you get to the racing season, your strength and conditioning efforts over your off season will be converted to specific cycling power and endurance through a number of more conventional training techniques such as hill repeats, intervals, slow cadence efforts and time trialing itself.
The three key areas to focus on for any Strength and Conditioning program for cycling should be flexibility, core stability and leg strength.
Flexibility is ultimately going to increase your range of motion (ROM) at a joint. For cycling this ROM primarily needs to be in your hips and back. Remember that with increased ROM we increase the opportunity for our muscles to provide force as they have a greater area to work with. Being flexible will also minimize the chance of becoming injured given the extra length of the working muscle. For cycling this is largely gluteals, quadraceps, illiotibial band, back, hamstrings and gastocnemius.
Being flexible ultimately allows us to be set up in a lower, more aerodynamic and ultimately more aggressive position on the bike. If we are staying nice and low we minimize the drag effect on our body. Drag – also know in this case as wind resistance, increases exponentially with an increase in speed and thus is the single biggest factor to slowing our movement forward. This leads us directly into our core stability.
Often an underated factor of any training program, core stability, plays a significant role in maximizing our ability to generate force and sequentially speed! Being in an aggressive, aerodynamic position, without fatiguing, and ideally being able to stay in that position, allows us to ride the fastest. For triathletes this is even more important as not only do we want to be in a superior, aerodynamic position on the bike, but we want to minimize our fatigue levels so we can run optimally, off it.
Core stability also provides us with an integral part of our pedal stroke, as it allows us to stay rigid and in the correct, comfortable position. This in turn allows a rider with a strong core to minimize their upper body movement and hip rocking movement from side to side.
The final component to riding faster is increasing the cross sectional area of muscle fibres. This can be done in a number of ways depending on the phase of the program you are in and what equipment you have available.
If you want to ride your bike, or do not have access to free weights, then try low cadence strength efforts or hill repeats. The focus with these efforts should be up to two minutes in duration, around 70 cadence, up to 100% max effort and up to 10 repeats, once again depending on your program phase. As with all programs, these need to be structured and progressive to avoid injury and illness.
If you are looking for a more traditional method of improving your strength and conditioning, you can head to the local gym and focus on squats, leg press, lunges, single leg extensions and hamstring curls. After an adequate warm up stick to around 3 sets of 6 reps.
Manage these three elements successfully and your bound to see the results come race day.
''Jimmy Mundy is the head coach of Trifitness.com.au and the co owner of Vuelta bikeshop/spin room/cafe/dream factory!firstoffthebike.com is Australia's first stop for Triathlon news, and gives triathletes the inside edge with news, interviews, comment and race reports from Australia and overseas. Check out more great tips at www.firstoffthebike.com/''