Cycling Training Tips

Squat is the king in weight lifting

If you have decided to enter the weight lifting gym this winter, implementing squats in your training program is difficult to avoid. This exercise is the best way to increase your leg strength in a very functional way. If only have the time to do one exercise, please make some good squats. In a cyclist’s strength training program, squatting should be the bread and butter. Actually squat is often mentioned as ”˜the king of exercises’.

Heavy weights matters
Well, first of all you have to reconsider how you can make your muscles stronger. The short answer is that you have to lift heavy weights frequently. If the weights aren’t heavy enough, they will not force the muscles to make neural adaptations nor hypertrophy. You can read more about neural adaptations in the post: How a muscle develops force. The good thing about squats is that it is possible to work with heavy weights, which put an enormous stress on legs, calves, hamstrings, gluteus, abdominal and back muscles. As you can see most of your body is working in coordination to manage to lift the weight. Can you imagine what this exercise will do to your overall strength? You will get a great boost not only for your leg extensors (m. quadriceps) but also several other important muscles at the same time.

As I previously described in a post about typical mistakes, non-functional exercises are very difficult to convert to something useful in your cycling. This is because strength training is a kind of teaching for your nervous system. I will give an example: If you compare an elite tennis player with a pro golfer: Who will win the match if these elite sport people play badminton? That would probably be the tennis player, because tennis is a racket sport that has similar movements like badminton. Thus, the tennis player gets an advantage because his nervous system is optimized for movements that are similar to the ones in badminton. It is easier for him to convert his skills from tennis to badminton, than it is for the golfer to start playing a racket sport.

Squatting is a lifting style that is close related to pedalling and therefore gives you the best opportunities to convert strength gains made in the weight lifting gym to a better cycling performance. On the other hand, commonly used exercises as leg extensions (or even worse leg adductions or abductions) are single joint movements that are very difficult to convert to cycling power. Leg extensions should be used only by cyclists with injuries and otherwise left available for regular people that don’t know the power of squats.

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Powder might hide EPO abuse

In an article in International Herald Tribune there is an interesting theory about hiding of EPO abuse. Scientists in laboratoriums in Switzerland work to develop a test that can prove a special powder used to destroy traces of the drug EPO (erythropoietin). In the past year there has been a significant increase in the number of tests showing no EPO at all. The scientists have the theory that the riders use a protease that can brake down proteins in the urine.

“We have no proof so far but there are indications that a powder exists. It can happen that people who excrete less EPO than others have a result where there is no EPO but it is unusual. And over this last year we’ve seen some suspicious cases of EPO-free urine samples, where we did not understand why suddenly it was undetectable.” Said Martial Saugy, the head of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory, to International Herald Tribune.

Small amount of protease can remove EPO
It is possible to remove EPO from the urine by putting protease on their hands, then urinating on their fingers. Only a small amount of protease is needed to brake down all EPO in the urine.

This theory might explain why so relative few riders have delivered a positive EPO test compared to how many riders have been caught with an enhanced hematocrit.

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Tour de France - How to win a stage

How To Perform A Watt Max Test

Watt max testing is a fast and accurate way to evaluate your training. I normally recommend serious riders to do a couple of these tests through the season.

Why you should do a watt max test
First of all, it is very motivating to follow progress in performance. When you word hard to achieve a better performance, it is very satisfying to see that you are not vesting your time. Even for small increments, the test is very sensitive.
Secondly, it is possible to use the test results to modify your training program. This could be done either through optimizing your power outputs in the intervals or maybe a test will show that you need a recovery week. The optimal situation is to evaluate the test results with your cycling coach.

Watt max test
1. 15 min warm up
2. 100W workload ”“ increase intensity with 10W every 30sec.
3. Keep cadence at min. 80rpm.
4. Ride until exhaustion
5. Notice the last completed power output. = P
6. Notice seconds spent at exhaustion power output = T

How to calculate the result from a watt max test
Watt max power = P + (T/30x10W)

Example: A rider gets exhausted after 15 seconds at 280W. Thus, his last completed power output is 270W. Calculation of Watt max power = 270W + (15/30 x 10W) = 275W

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Report about time trial aerodynamics

Your body position and the bike’s aerodynamics play a big role in time trials. A couple a years ago I read a comparing of different body positions and what influence it had on the finishing time in a 40k time trial. I am not sure, but I think I saw these results back in 1997, so this is not breaking news, rather nostalgic news.

Aerodynamics is important in time trials

An interesting question is how much time you can save by using expensive aero wheels, an aero frame or saving some pounds? There are probably more precise answers to these questions than this report calculates for you, but it gives you an idea of what difference these changes can give you.

One of the interesting findings is that slower riders will benefit more from a lighter bike than top riders will, while aero wheels and frames will give the biggest advantage to faster riders. This is probably because the aerodynamic drag requires a relative larger percentile of the workload at high speeds.

Optimized aerodynamics is better than weight savings
The conclusion for this report is that the biggest changes in aerodynamic drag and in cycling performance come from changes in body position. A more aerodynamic body position can improve your 40k time trial by over 6 minutes (that is really something!) The report also concludes that improving the bike’s aerodynamics is more important than weight savings. A pair of aero wheels can reduce you 40k time trial time with 1 or 2 minutes.

Read the report about cycling aerodynamics

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Carbon Cycling Shoes have more Stiffness

Carbon cycling shoes are stiffer than regular ones.

Carbon cycling shoes look better than traditional cycling shoes made of plastic. But the question is, do they perform better or are they only more expensive? Well, I found a scientific study that tested the stiffness, which is a very important detail when I decide which cycling shoes to wear. Comfort and weight are also important factors, especially comfort. It is though important to remember that shoes with the best comfort often lack stiffness. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve a high degree of stiffness and comfort at the same time.

Carbon cycling shoes are stiffer
In the study shoe stiffness measurements were collected under controlled conditions in the laboratory with a dynamic hydraulic tensile testing machine. Measurements of plantar pressure were done using a special sensor in the soles while subjects pedalled at a controlled power output. The results from these tests showed that the carbon cycling shoes produced a significant, 18% higher peak plantar pressure than plastic cycling shoes. So carbon cycling shoes are stiffer and that is also what riders tell me when they have switched to this more expensive foot wear.

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12 week strength program for cyclists

Here is a very effective strength training program for cyclists. The program is based on multi joint exercises with free weights, which indicate that this program is not for beginners. If you are not familiar with lifting free weights, consider training the same exercises in a machine. Ask a fitness instructor in your training gym.

When using this strength program:

Ӣ Warm up before lifting
Ӣ Never train to failure
Ӣ Use as heavy weights as possible (still no failure training)
Ӣ Be explosive in the concentric phase
Ӣ Rest periods of at least 2 minutes between sets

Read the full strength training program for cyclists

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How to Achieve Better Results with Spinning

1. Warm up before spinning lesson
Spinning lessons have a normal length of around 50 minutes. For trained cyclists this is a very short amount of time, when this time includes both warm up, intervals and cool down. Remember that most spinning lessons are made for people that are not very familiar with cycling training. Therefore I suggest you do a warm up before you enter the spinning room to get more training time.
2. Drink water with electrolytes and carbohydrates
Spinning rooms have a very high temperature and high humidity. Therefore it is quite normal to sweat much more than you are used to. Some people believe that they sweat more at spinning lessons because they work harder. That is not true. They sweat more because of the climate, not because they work harder than normal. I will recommend you to drink water with electrolytes and carbohydrates to maintain a high level of performance during the whole session.
3. Choose intervals carefully
Spinning instructors plan their lesson to be interesting and challenging for a wide range of riders. Most of them train spinning only 2 to 3 times week, so they can use all their effort in this short period. If you do not like the program made of the instructor, consider to use your own program or one of the indoor cycling programs here on It is possible to ride one of these programs without telling the instructor. Just remember to stand up and sit down when the instructor tells you to (and ignore his commands about pacing strategy).
4. Remember rest days
You can not do intervals every single day. Some days should be easy days. If you go for a ride in the spinning class on one of these days, please remember your goal with the training.

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Power Crank can improve upstroke pedalling

Power CrankIt is very difficult to train the hamstrings and hip flexors on a regular bike. Basically we use most of our efforts to push the pedals down and never to pull the pedals up. Power Crank offers a different way to train for a better upstroke pedalling power. The pedal arms on the crank work independently of each other, which forces you to work much harder in the upstroke pedalling phase. Now you are forced to make an active upstroke to keep pedalling. That should make you stronger and more efficient. I can not recommend the Power Crank yet, because I have never tried it and neither have the riders I work with. But hopefully I will try it in the future.

Better than one leg riding
I have tried to ride my bike with only one pedal clicked in, but I don’t think that works very well. It does not feel like cycling and it is difficult to maintain a reasonable speed. Therefore I am quite interested in experiences made with the Power Crank system. So if you have tried it, please let me know about it. Otherwise, we will have to wait until I have tried it and made a review of the Power Crank.

Official Power Crank Website – incl. videos
Power Crank blog – Review and pictures

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How a muscle develop force

This is a very short description of how a muscle can develop force:

What is a motor unit
A motor unit is a functional unit that contains a single nerve and all the muscle fibres innervated by the nerve. All muscle fibres are grouped together as motor units and have an average of 150 fibres pr motor neuron.

Larger muscle cells (that will say larger square diameter) can generate more power. That is the most commonly known way to increase power, though it is not desirable for cyclists. The problem is that a large muscle mass is heavy to carry and there is a dilution of mitochondrias. Thus, an increment of maximal strength made through hypertrophy will probably not result in a better overall cycling performance.

Nervous regulation of force
Basically there are two ways to control a muscle’s force. One way is to recruit more motor unit, which will activate more motor units. You can think of this as the brain tells the muscle to use a larger percentile of the muscle’s fibres to generate power. Motor units are recruited to in order of size. Small motor units are recruited before large motor units. This is called the size principle of recruitment. The second way to regulate force production is through rate coding. It is an increment of the frequency of impulse signals to the motor unit. When a motor unit is stimulated more frequently, the twitches begin to overlap each other, which will generate a larger force.

So now we know the basic physiology behind the mechanisms used to increase the force. It is either to build larger muscle mass, make a better recruitment of motor units or fire a higher frequency of stimuli to the motor neurons.

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Interview with Serguei Gonchar

Tim Maloney from has made a very interesting interview with T-mobile´s time trialist specialist Serguei Gonchar, Ukraine. Gonchar has been one of the best time trialists in the world for the last decade.

A couple of highlights from the interview:

On being called Honchar: “Yeah! In the last few years, people got used to calling me Honchar, especially in Italy, but that is not my name. So during the Tour De France, when I was team leader for a few stages, it was even more important to get my right name out there. It was the fault of a secretary in the passport office back home in Ukraine and I have had to live with this. But finally I was able to say ‘my name is Gonchar, so call me that’.

On the Floyd Landis affair: “I really can’t say anything at this point”¦ except that I’m sorry to see a sponsor like Phonak leave the sport. They have been around for a long time and have supported cycling so it’s too bad they are leaving. Cycling is taking hits from all sides lately”¦ it’s seems like some kind of fashion trend!”

On his gear choice in time trials: “Not many other riders can [ride such big gears]”¦ I guess I have become famous for it! I don’t really know where it comes from. I’ve always ridden time trials like that since I was a young rider and have always used big gears for time trials. When I’m in the race, it doesn’t feel to me like I’m pushing a big gear, but like I’m pedaling with agility. But afterwards when I see myself on TV, it looks like I’m pedaling slow and going slow,”

Read the full interview

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