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Training with Periodization (Part 1 of 8: Introduction)
by Chad Butts, Maxxis-SpokePost.com Team Trainer
Published: 10/01/2002

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8]

Introduction

This is the first article in a series written for www.spokepost.com on the periodization of weight training for cyclists looking to improve there strength and power during the long winter months of upstate New York.

Cyclists looking for peak performance FROM a strength-training program must realize that the days of going to the gym all winter and always lifting till you could barely walk out of the gym are gone. To get the most FROM resistance training, the program needs to be periodized, just like training on the bike. There will be easy days and hard days, easy weeks and very hard weeks. For example, take a yearly training plan for bike volume. At the start of the season your volume slowly progresses to a maximum point before decreasing to accommodate increases in training intensity. The same should be true with weight training. Periodization will allow you to monitor and change the level of intensity throughout the phases of your program to ensure the proper stimulus and provide enough recovery. Training on the bike is also devoted to more than one technique or system. There are intervals, endurance rides, threshold intervals, sprints, etc., each of these developing a different system. Likewise, a periodized strength program works different systems at different times to maximize the development of strength and power.

There are basic principles to any strength-training program as well. One of the most important is using proper form during exercises. Never increase the weight if you cannot perform the exercise properly in the same manner and range of motion. Tendons and ligaments take longer to adapt to a strength program than muscle. It is very important to give them time to adapt to the program or a whole winters worth of weight training may be ruined because your knees cannot take it when the LOAD increases. A proper warm-up is also a very good idea. The more intense the session, as later in the program during the maximum strength phase, the longer the warm-up should be. Look for doing 5-10 minutes on the bike or stepper followed by 2 sets of 15 squats with just the bar. After that some light stretching to get the muscle good and loose. Developing abdominal and back strength and endurance is very important for the weight-training cyclist. Your legs constantly push and pull on the pelvis each pedal stroke and it is the abs and back that stabilize the pelvis, which the legs work from. The less stabilization you provide, the less power you can produce.

Because cyclists are training for strength and power on the bike your exercises need to simulate, as close as possible, your position on the bike. Whenever you are performing an exercise you need to ask yourself if you are as close to your riding position as possible. Is your stance the same distance apart when clipped INTO your pedals? Are you training the same range of motion as your pedal stroke? What is your foot angle? Are you pushing with the balls of your feet and not your heels? Every nuance you can think of to make your training specific to cycling will enhance the specificity of your exercises and enhance the amount of strength/power you can transfer to the bike.

Other considerations when starting a strength program is the amount of time you have to devote to the program, how many days per week, what exercises and what ORDER to perform them, number of repetitions, training method, training load, rest interval between sets, number of sets, etc. Each one of these will vary depending on the phase you are in.

Of course there are many other components to a properly periodized resistance program and they change based on the goals of the athlete. For cyclists, a resistance program needs to be based around muscular endurance, the primary factor determining endurance success. Power endurance must also be addressed in a cyclists program because power is no good unless you can sustain it.

Periodized weight training involves a long-term plan broken up INTO specific phases, each training a specific component (i.e. energy systems, hypertrophy, power, etc.). In ORDER to get the most out of your program it must be organized ahead of time. Creating the program, and doing it correctly, is the first step. A template to train by provides more objectivity for your workouts and keeps you ahead of your workouts so all of your focus can go INTO that session rather than planning ahead of time. Just do what your program tells you. At best your program will meet all of your expectations and produce all of the results you expect. At worst, your program will fail to produce the results you expected but at least you have a program of what was done which, with the help of a coach or trainer, can be changed. Next year you will have a program that is more suited to you.


The annual training plan should be broken up INTO 5-6 DISTINCT phases, depending on your goals and weaknesses. Since cyclists typically do not weight train the whole year, a typical program may run FROM Oct./Nov. to March/April. Each of the specific phases within the plan contains a certain number of microcycles or weeks. It is important that before each phase you test your 1-repetition maximum (RM) for each exercise. This is how you will determine the LOAD for each exercise. It is much safer and more practical to do a 3-5 RM test for each exercise and then estimating your 1RM using a maximum weight chart.

A good weight program for cyclists should include and anatomical adaptation phase (AA), a maximal strength phase (MxS), a power phase (P), endurance phase (End), and maintenance phase (M). Depending on the amount of time and previous training history of the athlete, a hypertrophy phase (H) can also be added.

Each one of these phases has specific requirements for the load, # of reps, # of sets, rest interval, speed of execution, etc. For this first installment we will look at each of these factors and how they can affect the workout and in the articles to come we will look in depth, at each phase of a well-periodized strength program.

Training volume is the quantity of work performed. In its truest sense, volume is the total amount of weight lifted and can be calculated for a single session, microcycle, or macrocycle. This number is the amount of weight lifted per rep., multiplied by the reps/set, multiplied by the sets per exercise. Adding each of the exercise totals will give you that session’s total volume. Performance gains occur when this volume is progressively increased with adequate recovery over a period of time. That is what a periodized program is. Novice strength trainers must start slower and accumulate less yearly volume than a veteran weight trainer to avoid detrimental overuse injuries. Muscular endurance and maximum strength training requires a large volume of training due to the higher loads and increased number of repetitions performed.

Intensity for a strength-training program should be prescribed using percentage of 1RM (maximum amount of weight that can only be lifted once). As stated earlier, 1RM can be calculated safely by warming up properly and performing each exercise at a weight that you can lift approximately 3-5 times. Once you have found a weight that you can lift in this range look up the weight and number of repetitions on a maximum weight chart to see what your estimated 1RM would be. It is much safer and just as accurate this way than to try and test an actual 1RM! The minimum LOAD required to see strength gains is 60% of 1RM. The only time you should be below a 60% LOAD is during the adaptation phase (first one) and during recovery weeks. The LOAD is determined by the phase and what adaptations you are trying to develop.

The number of sessions per week is a big issue with a lot of people because of time constraints. The amount of time you need to spend in the gym depends on experience and how well you respond or recover to each training phase. For the most part, an experienced weight lifter and can tolerate 3x/wk the benefits will be greater than a 2x/wk schedule. However, there is always the law of diminishing returns, which requires consideration. Also, a novice may be able to handle 3x/wk during the adaptation phase but may have switch to 2x/wk during the strength phase because he/she cannot adapt quickly enough. It is most important to get 3 sessions during the initial phases of the program, when LOAD is low and most of the benefit is coordination and tendon/ligament strength. During the later phases when LOAD begins to increase it is less of a benefit to have 3 sessions/wk because you will need to recover, as fast as possible and for some people, novices and very heavy training, 3 days is too much to allow full recovery.

The number of exercises should depend on the length of time spent in the gym. For the most part, especially during the high intensity cycles, you should not spend much more than an hour in the gym at a time. After an hour, hormones circulating in the blood take a nose-dive, and further work can be detrimental to the building and recovery process.

The number of sets, repetitions/set, lifting method, rest interval, and selection of exercises all depend on the phase you are in and the adaptations you are looking for.
Each on of these we will go over in more detail in the coming articles.

Part 2 will deal with the first phase of a well-periodized strength program for cyclists, the adaptation phase.

Chad Butts (chadbutts@earthlink.net) is a personal trainer in the Ithaca area and Cat 2 cyclist for the Maxxis-SpokePost.com Cycling team. He has 8 years of training and racing experience and coaches endurance athletes in and around the central New York region. He is also currently finishing his Masters degree in exercise physiology at Ithaca College.

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7] [Part 8]

Chad Butts (chadbutts@earthlink.net) is a personal trainer in the Ithaca area and Cat 2 cyclist for the Maxxis-SpokePost.com Cycling team. He has 8 years of training and racing experience and coaches endurance athletes in and around the central New York region. He is also currently finishing his Masters degree in exercise physiology at Ithaca College.


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