5 Tips for Building Strength and Power on the Bike

Ride the Flats

Many riders will just hit the hills for their force workouts. I recommend that even riders who live in hilly areas do a significant portion of this work on the flats using larger than normal gearing. This will help the cyclist who can climb well but encounters difficulty when the speed goes up on the flats.

The rider specializing in time trials will also want to spend time doing force work on both the flats and climbs.

All of the following workouts should be done with a target cadence of 50 to 60 rpm. These workouts are intended to strengthen your muscles, not your anaerobic system, so use a "somewhat hard" to "hard" (Zones 3 or 4 in TrainingBible terms) but definitely not anaerobic heart rate.

More: 2 Indoor Workouts to Improve Your Climbing

Maintain a smooth, round pedal stroke. It is imperative that you keep your upper body still and relaxed.

Power output (read using an on-the-bike power meter) is not necessarily the best way to judge the effort for these workouts. Since power = force x velocity, the lower cadence (velocity) will generally give lower than normal power output readings. This is OK; remember that the goal is to increase the force applied during each pedal stroke.

The Workouts

Force repetitions: On flat road or on a trainer. Use the big chain ring and a gear that allows only about 50 to 60 rpm. While in the saddle, drive the pedals down as hard as possible for 15 to 20 revolutions of the cranks. Do 6 to 10 sets of these, starting a new one every 3 to 5 minutes after warming up.

More: 8 Single-Leg Strengthening Exercises for Cyclists

1. Ride 4 x 5 minutes in a big gear (probably your largest) with five-minute recoveries between efforts.

2. Ride 2 x 10 to 15 minutes in a big gear with 10 minutes recovery.

3. Do the above workout sitting and standing.

4. At a set speed, ride one minute in the 53x19. Shift to a harder gear every minute while maintaining the set speed. When you get to the hardest gear work your way back to the easiest in one-minute increments.

5. Same as above, except ride at a fixed cadence between 50 to 60 rpm instead of a set speed. After every shift maintain the same cadence. This will cause your speed to increase with every shift.

Big gear climbing: Ride several one- to two-minute climbs of varying grades. Shift to a higher gear than you would normally use for any given climb. Cadence is 50 to 60 rpm. Seated. As you improve you can extend the length of each climb.

Adding on-bike force work to your program should help improve your cycling on climbs and flat roads. You can continue these workouts all the way through the build periods, especially if this is a limiter, and before long you will be "using the force" during every ride.

More: 10 Workouts Every Cyclist Should Do

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