This week we're working legs
As we get deeper into the season and closer to target races it becomes increasingly difficult to find days to focus on lower body strength training. You begin prioritizing long rides and fast intervals so you need fresh legs. Elliott has a few weeks before his next target race so we're taking advantage of this time to do strengthening and pre-hab exercises.
Elliott's program is focused on balancing his leg strength. As a mountain biker Elliott faces different demands than a triathlete or typical cyclist. When riding off road you spend more time out of the saddle balancing on the pedals while you pump through downhills or work through technical single track. Because of these unique demands much of Elliott's program is done in a split stance or unilaterally.
Another benefit to single leg work is the mobility required to perform an exercise. For example, Bulgarian or Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats require proper hip mobility to be performed efficiently. Adding load to this position also helps increase your body's ability to adapt to the new movement. Strength exercises that require full ROM and hip mobility are great for endurance athletes, you kill two birds at once by loading positions and working into their full progression.
On to the Workout
RFESS/ Bulgarian Split Squat - 4 x 8, 8, 6, 6
For Split Squats I have athlete's start with a kettlebell in the goblet position as this reinforces good technique and forces you to keep the chest up and hips square. As they progress in strength I have them switch to holding two dumbbells and eventually on to an olympic bar on the back.
Single Leg Deadlift 4 x 6-8
This exercises is a staple in most of my programs. It is a great way to work on balance, hip stability and strength all at the same time. Many endurance athletes also have issues with low back fatigue from long days so it is better to be smart with programing conventional deadlifts for athletes putting in high mileage weeks. The offseason is a great time to work conventional and straight leg deadlifts into the program to help fight low back issues.
Step Ups - 3 x 8
Step ups are a great way to isolate each leg and also work on hip extension. I have athletes step onto the box and fully stand up for each rep. This gets the athlete into a position with a fully flexed hip to start which is a position seen often in cycling.
Single Leg Eccentric Hamstring Curls 3 x 6 w/ 3s negative
Eccentric training is excellent for both strengthening and injury prevention. The hamstrings especially are prone to little strains from time to time so working them in this way ideally helps prevent these issues from occurring. These can be done with TRX straps or with furniture sliders as I prefer.
Step Downs 3 x 8 w/ 3s negative
Step downs again focus on the eccentric part of the motion. These are effective at strengthening the VMO which is the muscle above the knee on the inside of the leg. This is a common place for fatigue in cyclists. The eccentric motion also helps strengthen the patellar tendon helping to prevent tendonitis issues.
Single Leg elevated glute bridge 3 x 8 w/ 8s pause on final rep.
These are performed with your feet elevated while holding a small ball or yoga block between your knees. This helps increase activation in the adductors which are often neglected while we work abduction with band walks and clamshells. The pause at the end is to focus on the isometric contraction of the adductors while also maintaining full hip extension.
Each of these exercises can easily be scaled up or down depending on your strength. Whether that means adding or increasing weight or adjusting your positioning is up to you or your trainer. With Elliott I like to add in extra challenges by using an Airex pad or queuing his position with mini bands around the knees.
For this week's bike workout we're keeping our focus on strength with low cadence work.
We'll make it easy and give you the workout files first before Elliott explains the rationale behind these workouts.
The interval set for this week is going to include low cadence work at sub-threshold/tempo power ranges. Working just underneath our threshold gives us the best "bang for your buck" in terms of sustainability and power output. This workout is perfect for early season to help build your aerobic engine. The low cadence aspect of this workout (combined with the high power) applies a heavy force to the legs and requires you to focus your pedaling technique and utilize the entire pedal stroke. This will work on efficiency and help to improve any weak areas in your pedal stroke.
Appropriately warm up for 10 to 15 minutes. Then complete 3 x 15 minute intervals at 95% of FTP (Sub-Threshold/Tempo) with 3 minute recovery in between. After that interval set recovery for about 10 minutes then complete 5 x 1 minute intervals at 110% of FTP (Anaerobic Power) with 2 minutes of recovery in between.