Off Season Training: Get ready for 2012 NOW

Even though we are only in December, now is the perfect time to think about your 2012 outdoor event season. This is the time of year when you work on staying ready, so you don’t have to get ready.
Whether you are preparing to take the start line your first race, clip in for your first century or turn the pedals in your favorite group ride the more you prepare off the bike, the better time you’ll have when you get on it.
Your focus should be to “undue” all the time spent in riding in 2011. The goal should be to created more joint mobility hip stability, strength, power and power endurance. Since a large number of cyclists have a job where they are seated for prolonged periods of time, it is critical that you take care of yourself off the bike.
The reason being is because by shear virtue of sitting down all day, you are shortening the hip flexors (muscles that bring the knee up from bottom dead center). Once this happens, it creates muscle imbalances that will inhibit the pedaling power center, the glutes, from activating.
“The seated position exacerbates the inactivity of the gluteals while riding and reinforces the degeneration of this muscle,” (Pointing Out Gluteal Atrophy,  John Izzo).
Once this happens, the following progressions of regression may take place:
  • Overactive hamstrings
  • Reach fatigue faster
  • May cramp more
  • Low back, knee and shoulder pain
  • You won’t recover as fast
  • You won’t produce as much power
2011 Race Across the West Winner, Joan Grant
This is why single leg work is critical to build proper hip strength to maximize the amount of power you drive to the pedals. Even if you don’t race, there will be a short punchy climb you’ll have to do. You will ride in the wind and at some point, you will probably be late getting back from a ride and have to throw the hammer down to get back. Everyone needs power at some point when they ride. Condition your body correctly, and you will have it and then some when you need it.
I’ve always found it funny how cycling strength workouts look just like old school body builder routines: sit down and press, sit down and curl, sit down and extend. Not only does this not look like cycling, it will exacerbate any lower body muscle imbalances that you’ve got, further loss of flexibility and put you on a path of pattern overload.
If you want to get faster in the saddle, seated work will not only not get you closer to that goal, but it will put at risk for an injury. Machines will hit the targeted “beach muscles,” but won’t do much in the way of spinal stabilizers or the supportive mechanisms of the core. Since it is the main defense against the forces of gravity, ground reaction and momentum for the body, you want to hit these muscles as many ways as you can.
Also keep in mind, in the seated environment, you aren’t stabilizing you while moving, the machine is. Since riding a bike takes place in a supported seated environment in only one plane of motion (just like these exercises do), it is critical to do “anti-cycling” workouts that open up the hips and get you working while you stand up on a single leg.We have seen 100’s of riders at INTEGRATE Performance Fitness in the last four years. Out of that population, it is safe to say over 50% of them lacked the proper muscle firing sequences to take full advantage of their hips when they ride (not too mention causing joint pain of every variety). This drastically impacts your ability to sprint, climb and ride at tempo.

Most of the time it is because the hip flexors and quads are too tight, and the glutes and lower abdomen are too weak. This causes performance robbing muscle imbalances that WILL lessen your enjoyment of riding your bike. Not to mention what they do to your balance. Fortunately, a functional strength training program will prevent as well as correct this.
The best way to go about this is to use 4 week blocks that are progressive in nature that ultimately lead to metabolic circuits in a power endurance phase. In a perfect world, you’d have five phases to this for proper progression and fitness gains.
In Oct, you would spend time increasing the range of motion your joints have. You’d also be managing any aches and pains created by a ton of time spent in the saddle.
In November, you would build more joint stability to compliment your new mobility. This is where standing single leg works comes into play.
December is when your body is now in the best spot to be made stronger after two months of foundation work.
Now is when it gets fun. Come January 1st, if you’ve progressed correctly, you can start doing power work. Squat jumps, single leg jumps, lunge jumps, kettlebell swings, the skies the limit to what you can do here.
In February, after you’ve gotten more mobile, built stable joints, increased your total body strength and made your body more powerful, its time for my favorite phase; power endurance. I love this one. Pick up a light weight, and move it as fast as you can for 3:00. If you’re getting bored with your workouts, these metabolic circuits will cure you, quickly.
Plus, these circuits are great at burning fat in addition to helping you build your motor on the bike. If you’re not sure how to set up interval training on the bike, this is great option.

Since your body can only produce the amount of power your joint stability allows, the more you create this off season, the more fun you’ll have in the saddle in 2012. You will not only ride faster, but you will recovery quicker and use your energy much more efficiently.

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Never attempt any new exercises mentioned in the VelowReviews blog without a thorough evaluation from a physician, personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist or sports chiropractor.