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Disguise Your Strength Work

  • By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Published Jan 9, 2012
  • Updated Oct 31, 2014 at 4:37 PM UTC
Photo: Nils Nilsen

Photo: Nils Nilsen

Most cycling and triathlon coaches consider strength training an essential component of a sound training regimen. Done right, it enhances cycling performance, reduces injury risk and slows the gradual loss of muscle strength that occurs after age 30.

Despite these benefits, most cyclists and triathletes don’t include strength workouts in their training. Who can blame them? It’s hard enough to fit time-consuming rides between work, family time and household chores. Making time for another type of training just isn’t realistic.

But who says your strength training has to be separate from your on-the-bike training? Not Tim Crowley. A Massachusetts-based coach to 10 elite triathletes, including 2008 Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker, Crowley has come up with creative ways to build strength work into the rides his athletes are already doing. And now you can follow suit.

Enhanced Indoor Intervals

Cyclists and triathletes often classify hill repetitions and high-gear intervals as strength work, but according to Crowley these things don’t truly build strength. “Even in a short, 30-second interval, you’re completing about 50 pedal strokes,” Crowley explains. “You wouldn’t expect to gain any strength from 50 leg presses using a load that is light enough to lift that many times.”

As an alternative to hill repeats, Crowley uses enhanced indoor intervals to develop strength in the context of bike workouts. Instead of pedaling at a low intensity to recover between high-intensity intervals on a stationary bike, hop off the bike and perform one leg exercise, one core exercise and one upper-body exercise. For example, between a warm-up and a cool-down, do 5×3 min at high intensity with a set of box lunges, a set of crunches and a set of pushups after each interval

What About Swimming And Running?

Do open-water paddle sets. “I find paddles are more effective in open water because you don’t have the wall to push off and give you a break,” Crowley says. Alternate 300-yard intervals with and without paddles. If you have a partner, hand off the paddles at the end of each 300.

Run with a drag sled. Crowley uses tire pulls instead of hills to develop specific strength. Make your own drag sled by attaching a 20-foot rope to a car tire. Twist an old bike tire tube into a figure-8 and slip your arms through to create a harness. Tie the other end of the rope to it and you’re ready to go. Run a few sprints of 50–100 meters once a week after an easy run.

Read more articles about becoming a better cyclist.

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