Coach Mel: Sport Specific Technique and Strength Part II

Cadence work mostly increases your heart rate through leg speed and builds speed endurance but not necessarily leg strength. Our next workout will focus on building leg strength. Doing both the cadence work and this on-the-bike strength work together is a great idea, since they will complement each other.

If you are doing long rides outside, I would suggest adding some hills. When you ride the hills, instead of trying to go up it fast, put your bike in a big gear and grind it out at about 60 rpm. This will keep your heart rate down and turn the climb into a leg-press workout to build strength in your climbing-specific muscles. You can do this workout off road with a lot of success. If you need to do your long rides indoors still, I would suggest turning up the resistance for 3-8 minutes with 5 minutes in between to mimic a hill interval workout with low cadence. You can do these intervals both seated and standing but make sure you are comfortable seated because you need to maintain traction on your mountainbike.

On days where you don’t have time to ride for a long period of time, but have been doing gym workouts lifting weights, this time of year might be a good time to turn these workouts into a circuit. I do this workout at home with a ball, wobble board, weights and Powercranks. Powercranks on the trainer are a challenge. They are cranks which are on an individual clutch system which basically means you are single-legged pedaling all the time. You need a fairly high resistance to keep on top of the cranks, so it becomes a strength workout and you also get the benefit of the technique improvements associated with single leg pedaling. Double bonus! If you do not have Powercranks, or you don’t have space at home to do this kind of workout, do it in the gym with a spinning bike or on your trainer doing some single leg intervals instead of just pedaling.

So the workout is as follows:

10 minutes warm-up on Powercranks or on the bike


2 minutes Powercranks or pedaling indoor bike

One Leg Squats with Swissball (start with 1 set 15/leg, build to 2)

2 minutes Powercranks or pedaling indoor bike

Crunches on Swissball (start with 1 set 20, build to 2 sets of 30)

2 minutes Powercranks or pedaling indoor bike

Shoulder Press (1 set of 15, increase weight slowly and do 2 sets of 10)

2 minutes Powercranks or pedaling indoor bike

Bicycle Crunches Alternating Legs (start with 1 set 20 each leg, build to 2)

2 minutes Powercranks or pedaling indoor bike

Back Hyperextensions on the Ball (start with 1 set 20, build to 2)

2 minutes Powercranks or pedaling indoor bike

Lunges on Wobble Board (or Standing One-Leg Squats – this is for balance) (start with 1 set 10/leg, build to 2 sets)

2 minutes Powercranks or pedaling indoor bike

Push-ups with legs on Swissball (start with 1 set of 10 and build to 2 sets of 20)

6 minutes warm-down with Powercranks or an easy spin to finish

This is a very challenging workout. You will have very tired legs from the Powercranks and will be able to do a full body workout in between intervals on the bike. You can change any or all of the exercises I have suggested to better reflect the gym workouts you have been doing, my example is just what I like to do in the winter. I do a bit of legs, upper body, core and balance work while I work on my pedal efficiency on the Powercranks.

I am going to suggest that everyone should have AT LEAST one long ride a week. Depending on where you are at in your training, build your long ride by about 15% per week. Take a week off every four weeks to recover. Reading books on how to periodize your training is a good idea if you don’t have a coach sorting out a calendar specific program for you. Joe Friel writes some good ones. I usually suggest to my athletes that while you are building your lifetime volume a very traditional Bompa periodization where your weeks will build in volume for three weeks and then be followed by one week of drastically reduced volume to recover. You should focus in the winter on volume and keep the intensity to below 80% of your maximal effort, so you don’t overtrain by doing to much volume and intensity at the same time. Things like group spin classes can be very intense, so watch you aren’t piling on too much when you do classes like that. You will need time to recover from those. This circuit workout will work very well to get you on your bike on your time-crunch days so that you feel much better during your weekend long rides.

So good luck with this, adjust this workout to fit your schedule and especially your fitness level. Remember to keep an eye on both your process and outcome goals to keep you motivated, and if you haven’t written those down in your training log yet, GET ON IT!

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