Health and Wellness – “On the Bike Strength, Endurance and Power”
One can ride a bike for the sheer pleasure in an of itself, to commute, to compete, or to break a sweat “spinning” at the gym! Bravo to all rationales, but if you’re at all considering improving fitness or even performance, let’s take a glimpse at elementary concepts & drills in muscular strength, endurance and power as they relate to cycling.
NOTE: Your heart & lungs are inseparably linked with your cycling musculature; the legs! This means a change in one affects the other. So, the leg drills below will benefit the heart & lungs too!
If you’re new to cycling or perhaps want to explore getting more out of your current leisure rides, let’s consider some training with Resistance, Pace/RPMs/Cadence, and Time/Intervals. These are all easily measured by either a simple bicycle computer, or your perceived level of exertion and a wrist watch!
First, we need adequate strength to effectively turn the pedals on our chosen course or terrain i.e. road, trail, track, stationary bike etc. If for example you find your legs quickly fatiguing despite low resistance, you may need to build muscular strength. So, if it is not a shortness of breath that is holding you back, use that bike to improve the force your legs put into the pedals as follows: High resistance at a low RPM for a short interval(s). Example:
- Spin bike: Sit and try 30sec of high resistance at 50-60RPMs (hold a mild burn in the thighs!) followed immediately by 30sec easy recovery pedalling. Repeat continuously for 5minutes. That’s one 5-minute set! Try 2 or 3 sets.
Doing this 2-3 times per week, you’ll soon enough be ready to increase the length of time during which you can sustain a measurably strenuous muscular effort, aka: Strength Endurance.
Building one’s strength endurance for cycling involves working for measured intervals within a moderate discomfort zone. Let’s be clear here; training strength endurance on the bike should not be painful. The point behind it is to find the “sweet spot” in which you train your legs to sustain a moderate effort for a longer period of time. A term associated with such endurance training is “tempo”.
Repeating 3-5 min long tempo drills are a great start in improving leg endurance on the bike. When on the bike, the KEY here is to feel a particular sensation in your legs. It may be described as moderate burn or ache. You should be moderately uncomfortable, forced to mouth breath, and would find it challenging to have a conversation.
- Spin bike: Sit and set a resistance which challenges you to hold a “moderate discomfort” in the legs for 3-5 minutes at RPMs of 80-90. Repeat this about 3 times with 2-3min easy pedalling breaks between.
After a few weeks, you may be ready to consider one more area; power! Power is described as force & speed together. We need to work with a relatively high resistance AND a high RPM simultaneously. Here’s a great drill to begin power training with.
- Spin Bike: Set a high resistance; one that would mimic climbing a very steep hill which drops your RPMs in the 60’s. Next, stand up for 30sec and pedal faster/harder to reach RPMs of 80-90. This should be hard, you have a heavy breath, and the feeling you want to quit soon. Take a 2min easy break and that repeat 3 – 5 times.
Power is useful when wanting to sprint, surge, and climb with some authority!! Although a little more advanced, it’s a great tool to have in your back pocket when needed on the road or trail.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for improvements in fitness and/or performance with the bike, perhaps you can consider adding some drills that specifically train strength, endurance and power. It’s of course good for the legs, but also the heart and lungs!!