Virtual Coach – December
To do well in Downhill, 4X or BMX you need to be able to produce very high power outputs, during the course of a race. Muscular strength will be one of the major limiting factors stopping you from doing this. You also need good overall whole body strength to support the strong leg muscle contractions in order for them to be most effective. Strength training will also be essential as the base for future power and sprint training development.
The fundamental principle behind any strength-training program is the fact that muscles become stronger if you subject them to forces larger than they normally experience and then allow them the chance to recover. This is commonly known as overload.
There are two main reasons why this happens:
1 - The brain becomes better at co-ordinating the muscle contraction, getting all the fibres to contract together to produce a greater force.
2 - The muscle increases in size, as more contractile tissue is laid down within the muscle enabling it to produce more force, which is proportional to the cross-sectional area of the muscle.
The other main principle of strength training is specificity. This means that a muscle will only become stronger for a particular type of contraction, in the pattern of movement and at the speed of the contractions used. For most cycling disciplines the muscle contractions are mainly concentric, where the muscle shortens in length so your training plan should focus mainly on that type of movement. In order to develop the ability to produce high power outputs heavier weights and low repetitions are best but it is equally important to choose exercises that closely mimic the type of strain that your muscles will experience during your specific event. A good example of this would be to include some high gear/low cadence work on your bike to build leg muscle.
Strength training, like endurance and sprint training, can be categorised in terms of intensity from body weight exercises for general strength conditioning through to the development of muscle power to support sprint training. We can also split the year up into periods in much the same way as with endurance training so a typical year might go as follows;
Typical year split into training phases
In terms of resistance loads you can use the following as the basis to adjust the weights that you're lifting
If you complete:
- 1-2 more reps, add 2 kilos
- 3-4 more reps, add 4 kilos
- 5+ extra reps, add 6 kilos
If you fail:
- 1-2 reps short, subtract 2 kilos
- 3-4 reps short, subtract 4 kilos
- 5+ reps short subtract 6 kilos
These are only guidelines however and will vary depending on the particular exercise and the muscle groups involved. Your overall aim should be to be struggling to make the last two reps of the last two sets so adjust the weight to achieve this based on each exercise.
Some of the exercises that you could use in each phase are listed below:
Recommended exercises by training phase
One of the problems that you may face is fitting strength training in around the other things going on in your life, but the benefits of following a properly structured program are significant. This article has only just touched on the subject, and strength training is a highly specialist area. It's therefore important that you speak to a qualified instructor before starting any strength program. Most gyms however will have someone qualified who can help so tell them what your goals are and how much time you have available and they'll be able to sort you out a more detailed plan.
Pete Osborne is a qualified British Cycling Club Coach and has worked on their Go Ride Primary Link Program. Pete rides downhill and BMX and competes at national level in both. For more information or to inquire about a personal training program tailored to your exact needs contact Pete at p.osborne -at- shef.ac.uk.
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[ Virtual Coach – December ] - posted on 13th December 2004 by Pete Osborne.
[ Virtual Coach – November ] - posted on 16th November 2004 by Pete Osborne.
[ Virtual Coach – October ] - posted on 12th October 2004 by Pete Osborne.
[ Slacker's Diary : Quest for Fitness : 3 ] - posted on 17th May 2004 by Phil.
[ Slackers' Diary : Quest for Fitness : 2 ] - posted on 4th January 2004 by Phil.
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