Training Notes: May – October 2021
The last five months saw me working primarily on strength development whilst continuing to refine my sprint training plan.
The transition from endurance to sprint training was pretty abrupt, but not difficult; my cycling volume has come down to around 6 or 7 hours per week and I'm actually spending more time in the gym than on my bike. Most of my cycling has been base training combined with short, overgeared sprinting. No group rides, no tempo or threshold work; almost everything has been either very easy or full gas. This is to ensure my cycling is as complementary as possible to my weight training.
In fact, it's so clear to me that strength is the limiting factor in my sprint performance that I've been almost exclusively focusing on it throughout this period. 6 days per week lifting weights in a garage in South Carolina wasn't the most fun way to spend the summer, but there's no disputing the results.
I've added 160, 125 and 110 Watts to my 1-, 5- and 30-second power since 2020. As this is despite spending less time than in previous years training anaerobic capacity on the bike, I'm sure this is almost entirely down to increased strength and muscle mass (as the scientific literature would predict). And since my strength is still relatively low, that means I should have plenty more potential for improvement.
My 1-rep max on the back squat is currently 1.35 times bodyweight, with my deadlift is close to 1.7. The research I've read indicates that a squat in the range of 1.5-1.6 times body weight is the minimum level of strength necessary before you even need to worry about power training. Around 2.0-2.1 x would be sufficient such that extra strength beyond this would likely be superfluous.
So at this point, after 10 months of hard work, I'm still quite a way short of the bottom of the sweet spot range, and it was with that (and my frustratingly-slow progress) in mind that, closing out the season, I also made the decision to continue focusing on strength through 2022.
Following a 1-month hypertrophy block as a lead-in (currently underway), I've decided to do two consecutive 18-week Strength blocks, then maybe as a little carrot move to a Speed Endurance cycle followed by one Taper/Event block, before closing out the training year.
When I start the Preparation phase next October, it will be the first time I actually follow a whole year of my annual plan as written. By then I expect to have got my back squat up to at least 1.6 times bodyweight, with my deadlift over 2.0 x, and these numbers should increase to over 1.7 and 2.1 after another 18-week Strength block to start the following training year. So by spring 2023 I should finally be strong enough that I'll be ready to focus squarely on my cycling again.
I addition to my quite low general strength, another thing that inclines me to believe that it's force rather than velocity that's limiting my power output is that I consistently hit my peak power numbers at ridiculously high cadences (145-155 rpm). Clearly I don't have a problem with velocity.
If, as I believe, my sprint cycling performance is indeed strength-limited, I expect my power numbers on the bike to continue to increase close to linearly in line with strength gains through this period. This will confirm that I'm on the right track with my training focus.