Coach Mel: Sport Specific Technique and Strength Part I

Now that January is in full swing, it is time to start thinking about a bit more sport-specificity. However, for most of us, the weather is, if not worse, not much better than the past couple months. During the winter, sports that are more winter-enjoyable can fill our activity plate, but since the season sneaks up on us quickly it is time to narrow our focus a little bit. While we continue the staples of indoor training I have some ideas on how we can build a bit more cycling work into the program without plugging in yet another movie and mindlessly spinning on the trainer.

I think that strength training should continue through January and February, but I like to make the training more sport specific by doing some of the strength work on the bike, adding little workouts to increase the amount of cycling volume I am doing and turning my routine for core and limb strength into a circuit routine. I will give you some ideas in two parts that will allow you to continue to work on your technique for cycling and still address muscle imbalances that you might be targeting, while at the same time building some volume on the bike. The good thing about these workouts is that they also will improve your technique. I think a lot of people overlook how beneficial a nice, smooth pedal stroke and quiet upper body can be for your cycling.

There are some bare minimum training tools that I think some people still might not have. The first is either a trainer or some rollers. I advocate the use of rollers. At first they might look really scary but they really can do wonders for your pedaling. When I was a mountain bike racer I used to do 20 minutes every morning before breakfast, incorporating some single leg work and some higher cadence work. Now I do these workouts in the evening after I have had a tougher run workout, because I find this helps me to build back my leg speed which seems to suffer when I run more. Either way, a rollers workout with some cadence can be a nice little addition to your program which will definitely improve your technique. You must be smooth to ride comfortably on rollers and you must have a quiet upper body to stay upright, both of which are desirable pedaling assets. If you have a trainer, you can still do this workout, but the advantage or rollers is the stability muscles which are incorporated. If you are going to get a trainer, I believe the minimum you should have is a decent fluid trainer WITH a Powertap, a Computrainer or the very best is a Powertap AND a Computrainer (the next level of price range, but a completely new level for training specificity). We will talk about training with power in another article but for today we are on rollers or a trainer working on cadence. Here is the 20 minute workout to add-on some cycling to your program which will fit in on non-swim mornings or on your run days:

5 minute warm-up

10 minutes of cadence work done at a low resistance (non or very little on the rollers, about 100W on a Computrainer or if you have a Powertap:

Starting at 100 rpm, increase your cadence by 5 rpm every minute up to 120 rpm. Stay at 120 rpm for 2 minutes, then decrease by 5 rpm every minute down to 100 rpm. This is 10 minutes of work.

5 minutes of single-leg:

Alternate single legs every 30 seconds for 5 minutes holding cadence near 90-95 if you can (getting in and out of your pedals on rollers for your first rides will be challenging, stay near a wall and don’t worry if you only do about 20 seconds per leg because of the fumbling)

5 minute spin warm-down

You can add repetitions of the 100-120 rpm intervals, add time to the warm up and warm down, and also go from 100-130 rpm as you progress with this session to add more time to your program.

This is not a very muscular workout so you will not have to sacrifice any quality work you have in your program when you do this workout. You will likely find your legs feel BETTER for having done this little workout, and it adds some cycling time to your week. Keeping in mind I think Xterra athletes need to do 60-70% of their volume on the bike, adding 20-30 minutes three times a week could be another 1.5 hours on your program that will benefit you will better technique, better leg speed and a bit more time on the bike.

So Part I is a technical workout to add indoors, Part II is a circuit training workout to add during your core and strength training. Good luck!

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