3 Leg-Strengthening Bike Intervals for Triathletes

Endurance isn't the problem for most triathletes. Long hours spent training for the swim, bike and run put your cardiovascular system in overdrive, which can sometimes leave the rest of your body struggling to keep up.

Building strength in your legs to match that big cardiovascular engine is the key to success on the bike. But, unfortunately, it's often not as easy as it sounds.

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To produce the necessary watts on the bike and still have enough in the tank to power through the run, you'll need to focus a portion of your training on pedaling in big gears. Incorporate these intervals into two of your weekly rides to get started.

A Word of Caution
Since most of these workouts focus on pedaling in a cadence range that is designed to be uncomfortable, there are a few things you should be aware of. Before you begin to train using a lower cadence, follow these basic tips:

  • Maintain your form: Concentrate on pedaling in smooth circles, even when it becomes difficult. 
  • Beware of pain: Low cadences can place more tension on your muscles and tendons-- especially in the knee. If you feel pain, it's always best to back off.
  • Be careful: You're going to be riding at greater speeds for short periods of time, so make sure you're on safe streets and following the rules of the road.
  • Recover properly: Always follow a low gear effort with easy spinning in a high cadence.

More: Ask A Coach: Why Do My Feet Fall Asleep?

Workout No. 1 - Sprinter Starts

For this workout, you can use stop signs or red lights throughout your ride, or you can do these on a stretch of road that will allow you to sprint for at least 100 to 200 yards.

  1. Ride for at least 20 minutes before your first interval.
  2. Begin by slowing as much as possible without unclipping from your pedals. Ideally, you'll come to a complete stop.
  3. With the back in one of the larger gears, pedal as hard as you can out of the saddle for 6 to 8 seconds. 
  4. Concentrate on keeping your upper body still. Your power should come from the hips down through the legs. 
  5. At the end of the sprint, continue to pedal at a 100 revolutions per minute or more for two to three minutes. 
  6. Start with four or five of these efforts during the workout, no more than once per week. Some soreness should be expected. As it becomes easier, you can increase the number of intervals.
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