In Season Strength

By: Art O’Connor, Strength and Conditioning Coach


One question I get a lot is when is the best time to start lifting. The best time was 5 years ago, the second best time is today. Even if you are an athlete in the middle of your season you can and should start a lifting program today. Now that does not mean go out and make yourself so sore that you can’t move. If you are just wanting to lift for general health then you can start right away with a full body program. For the purposes of this article though lets talk about an in season athlete using cycling as our sample sport. The main concepts here though can applied to any sport. Full body movements to recruit maximum available muscle fibers and some supplementary work on supporting musculature. In this case core and upper body.

This plan is intended to help you keep the strength gains you worked so hard for over the winter. It also works well for those of you who didn’t spend the winter training your weakness and are now playing catch up to those who did. It is pretty simple and easy to follow. Now that you are starting to really ramp up your on bike training recovery is the key to having a great season. These workouts are designed to be pretty “low cost” in terms of energy expenditure. Most of your workouts will be 20-40 minutes. At first glance you may ask are these workouts even doing anything? The answer is YES! In my experience (and many studies confirm this) once a week of a heavy primary move like deadlift or squat is all you need to keep the neural pathways engaged so that you can recruit maximum muscle fiber on demand assuming you did your homework over the winter. If not then 2 days a week would be better. This directly translates to the bike in the form of sprinting on the road or powering up ledges in the trail as an example.

Your gym sessions are best done early in the week when you are most recovered. Also if possible you will want to do these before your on bike training, but that is not a rule only a suggestion.  Make sure you are warmed up well for these workouts. Riding to the gym is a great way to accomplish this.


Sample Gym Workouts 

This is meant to be a template for you to get started and use to design future workouts.  If you are new to lifting then I would strongly recommend hiring a knowledgable strength coach for a session or 2 to teach you these lifts. Done right they are very safe and effective. Done wrong you will get hurt.  Don’t try and learn these by YouTube. They are pretty easy to learn with a good coach. The main idea is you will do either a Deadlift or a Squat variation (back squat, goblet, etc) each week with a weight that is 70-80% of your max for that lift. You want to vary the sets and reps each week but keep it within 3-5 sets and 3-5 reps. Recovery is going to be at least 2 minutes. Stay moving during the recovery to stay loose. You can do some easy core, push ups, or pull ups during the rest period.


Workout 1

3×3 Deadlift @ 80% 3 minutes between sets
5×5 Push Ups Can be done between sets of DL
3×3 Pull Up Same as above


Workout 2

4×4 Goblet Squat @ 70% 2 minutes between sets
3×5 Dumbbell Overhead Press Moderate weight, 5 reps should be easy. Can be done during rest on squat
3×5 Plank Pull Same as above


No Gym No Gear Option

I you are not able to get in a proper gym you can do a reasonable job with a little creativity and motivation. Jumping is a great way to get the neurologic response we desire for the lower body. Doing stuff like box jumps (jump up, step off) is a great solution. You can also do weighted jumps with say a back pack or holding a something weighted. These would be done on flat ground where you just jump straight up and land, so not onto a box or elevated platform. Keep the weight pretty light 25-40lbs. Make sure you land and absorb the impact, don’t land straight legged. With any jumping plan keep the reps and sets low. 3-5 of each. For unweighted box jumps the rest between sets can be pretty low, 30-60 seconds. For any weighted jumps do at least 2 minutes.


Workout 1

5×2 Box Jumps 30-60 seconds between sets
3×5 Push Ups Elevate your feet if these are too easy
3×5 Pull Ups or Negatives  


Workout 2

3×5 Weighted Jumps 2 Minutes between sets
3x10m Bear Crawl Forward and backward


Closing Thoughts

The days of (good) endurance athletes not hitting the gym are numbered. The science is unequivocal. Stronger is better in any sport. Give this template a try if you have never lifted before. This is the exact template I use with my pro riders.

2017-06-13T19:46:51+00:00 June 13th, 2017|