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Balancing A Riding And Strength Training Schedule

Derek Teel on May 20th, 2022

Consistently nailing your strength training and riding schedule each week requires you to start with the bare minimum.  Instead of asking yourself "how much can I do" and getting overwhelmed, ask yourself "how little can I do and still get the desired result."  That answer comes from the principle of Super Compensation, which is how your body responds to a strength training stimulus.  

*the length of time given on the X Axis is 1 Week.

As you can see, immediately after a training session your performance will drop due to fatigue.  Once you begin to recover, your body will adapt to the type of training you did.  Your performance level will surpass that of the initial session after about 3 days to its peak on the 4th or 5th day.  Once peaked, you'll start experiencing a "negative adaptation" that will drop back to your "fitness baseline" by the 7th day.  These are the results you get from strength training 1 time per week (maintenance, not really gaining or losing).  That means that in order to progress your strength, you need to do it at least 2 days of strength training per week.

"But what if I'm including strength work on the bike through low cadence intervals or sprints?"  This is a great question because strength terminology gets twisted in endurance communities.  Although those efforts will likely make you feel stronger on the bike, the adaption from them is primarily metabolic (increasing cardiac output, mitochondria, glycogen storage capacity, etc).  Strength training adaptations are more muscular and skeletal (breaking down & repairing tissue, activating dormant muscles, reducing compensations, increasing bone density, etc.).  In short, one cannot replace the other.

So to address the aforementioned question of "how little can I do and still get the desired result."

The answer is 2 days per week with 48-72 hours between each strength session.  Your goal is to do each one somewhere along the Super Compensation Curve.

"If I do more than the minimum, will I get better results?"  This depends on your riding volume.  If you ride less then 3 days per week or most of your riding is shuttle/lift assisted (Gravity MTB), adding a 3rd session will get you better results.  That's because you'll likely have the recovery time needed.  Also, if your primary goal is substantial muscle gain, a 3rd session is recommended.  If you ride 4 or more days per week (and don't primarily use lift access), then more sessions can start to conflict with your ride quality and ability to execute training targets.

As your Coach, my suggestion is to NOT STRESS about "perfect timelines", because your ability to recover is not fixed.  The science will get you in the ballpark, but your execution of consistent training will direct you to the perfect position.  Focus on the "bare minimum" approach, because overtime it will compound to far outweigh the results of a short term "do as much as possible" mentality.

"Why Goldilocks?"  It's a reminder to be intuitive with your training intensity.  Consistency over the long term means that you can't do "too much" and dig yourself into a recovery pit.  It also shows that "too little" won't provide the stimulus needed to have much effect either.  Although it takes experience on your end to determine what is "just right," every Dialed Health Program and Workout is designed to get you as close as possible from Day 1.