The strength phase of the build up is the most frequently skipped phase. Most likely due to a lack of “race specific feel”. However, this phase is the foundation for all future phases. The more time you spend in this phase, the better your race day fitness can be.
So, what is strength? The strength I am referring to is sport specific strength. Strength in the form of functional strength and other gym based strength can be beneficial and should be incorporated, but the purpose of this overview is to focus on bike and run strength.
The goal of the strength phase is to condition muscles, ligaments and tendons to deliver as much force to the pedals/ground as possible. The more strength developed, the more the speed (incorporated later in the season) can sink is teeth into. It’s important to note that strength is not concerned with speed of movement.
Bike – On the bike your goal is to deliver as much torque to the pedals as possible with the least amount of aerobic strain – that is, these should not make you feel like your lungs are about to explode. These intervals are best done on a trainer or a hill. Cadence target should be in the 45-55 range with power in the Z4 range. Focus on even power throughout the pedal stroke while keeping your upper body still. Recovery between intervals is key and should be no less than a 1:1 work to rest ratio.
Sample Strength Bike Session:
15 minute warm up going through a range of intensities and cadences.
4 x 5 minutes @ 50 RPM @ Z3/Z4 power. Recover 5 minutes with easy spinning.
10 minute cool down
Run – The key for an effective strength session on the run is to choose a hill that you can run and not just shuffle up. Your focus is to run up the hill with good mechanics and focusing on hip extension. Learn to fire the gluteal muscles. Intensity is about Z3/Z4 heart rate. Duration can range from 1 minute to 5 minutes. Rest to work interval should be 1:1. Or 1.5:1. If you start to break down, then this is where you should stop.
Sample Strength Run Workout:
20 minute warm up consisting of a drills and a steady build up. Finish with strides.
5 x 3 minutes on a 5-7% hill @ Z3/Z4 intensity with 3 minute recovery as an easy jog.
5 minutes easy jog
Length of Phase
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Here’s a look at the next phase – strength-endurance