Endurance Coaching
February 16, 2024

Strength training improves performance and pedalling characteristics

Jon Bateman
Founder, Performance Nutritionist and Endurance Coach

Strength training is becoming more common in endurance athletes these last few years, and rightly so. What should it look like? Let's look at some recent research and see how it might work for us.

The addition of strength training into a cyclists’ preparatory period has become commonplace over the last years. Research has shown that concurrent strength and endurance training improves various factors related to cycling performance. In theory, this may improve pedalling characteristics by increasing peak torque in the pedal stroke, reducing time to peak torque and reducing the pedalling torque relative to maximal strength, which in turn may allow for higher power output and/or increased blood flow. I have adapted the findings from a recent research project and integrate this strength-training plan into training programs over the winter and beyond (1).

The novel finding of this study was that elite cyclists performing 10-week strength development period followed by 15-week strength maintenance period achieved superior improvements in Wmax and mean power output during 40-min all-out trial compared with the control cyclists. The improvement in 40-min all-out performance was largely correlated with changes toward earlier peak torque during the pedal stroke.

Two strength-training sessions per week, as performed during the initial 10 weeks of the intervention, increased leg strength by ∼20%.

The maintenance period has shown that one strength training session per week maintains maximal strength developed during a preceding period of strength training

In line with the findings of this study in elite cyclists, concurrent endurance and heavy strength training have previously been shown to increase Wmax in other studies.

It is interesting to note that 25 weeks of combined strength and endurance training led to earlier occurrence of peak torque during the pedal stroke, while endurance training only did not. In conclusion, 25 weeks of concurrent endurance and strength training resulted in larger improvements in cycling performance and performance-related factors, including earlier peak torque during the pedal stroke in elite cyclists, increased Wmax.

S&C double phase plan

Prior to performing the plan you should include a warm up of 5-10 minutes. You will then focus on beginning with the exercise that is the most demanding in term of co-ordination. The exercises in the table below have been listed in order.

Key Take-home messages

• Use strength exercises that imitate the pedalling action.

• Focus on the concentric phase in the lift.

• Developing strength 2 x sessions per week w/ 2-3 mins rest per set & 4-10RM.

• Maintaining strength 1 x session per week at high intensity.

Rønnestad, B.R., Hansen, E.A. & Raastad, T., (2010). In-season strength maintenance training increases well-trained cyclists’ performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 110(6,) pp.1269-1282

Rønnestad, B.R. et al., (2015). Strength training improves performance and pedaling characteristics in elite cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 25(1), pp.e89–e98.

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