With the aim of reaching all of you with topics of interest, we began the publication of our blog with a topic discussed by all. Which we will seek to land on in simple but truthful terms. Today we will talk about the strength as a training objective or to achieve our goals.
We will start with the timing, although throughout the year we must have constant stimuli on our muscular component, during the first months of the year, when the competitions do not appear yet, it will be the ideal time to work on this physical capacity. For us cyclists and endurance sports athletes this is usually difficult to assimilate and adapt. We usually name this period (preseason), it is the perfect time to go to the gym and correct muscular imbalances, intramuscular incoordinations, improve general strength, provide structure to synergistic muscles, increase the tensile capacity of our main tendons, improve proprioception and with all the above to be able to promote better sports performance during the season and reduce the risk of tendon injuries.
Now, being clear about the multiple benefits that strength training can bring to us, with special emphasis during the preseason, we usually ask ourselves. What aspects should I consider doing it properly? The first thing will be to choose which exercises I should do. We will look for are those exercises that will work directly on the muscles that will be involved in our sports gesture, if talking about cycling they would be the gluteus, the quadriceps, the gastrosoleus, the tibialis anterior, the hamstrings, the paravertebral, the triceps and some other postural muscles that help us spend more hours on the bike. Bearing in mind the above, a differentiation must be made between those muscles that play an “action-propulsion” role and between those other muscles that play postural and anti-gravitational functions on the bicycle. We will train those muscles of action through isotonic contractions (concentric and eccentric) and we will train those postural muscles isometrically. We must train these muscles for the specific action that they will perform within the sport. The question then arises: are proprioceptive and coordination training on unstable platforms recommended or not? As everything in training depends on the objective, if our objective is to generate structure (maximum strength) it may not be the best option, since it will limit us in the maximum load to apply, and it would not be the ideal option to start our strength program. On the other hand, it could be a very good option for when we achieve our strength and structure objectives. Giving them greater efficiency and even mixing these proprioceptive stimuli with strength resistance can be very convenient.
Once we are clear about the importance of strength training, the exercises to be performed and how to perform it, another question arises related to the prescription and control of this type of load. What should be the order? If our objective is clearly to reduce fat mass and aesthetics is what interests us most, it could be very positive to perform resistance and strength within the same session, but if our objective is to improve cycling or running performance in the medium and long term, it is best to do strength and endurance training in separate sessions. The aerobic resistance session should be in the morning hours and the one dedicated to strength in the afternoon hours with a time interval between both, hopefully greater than 7 hours. Regarding the succession of days, for endurance athletes we usually advise working on strength and endurance with intercalated days, facilitating at least 48 hours of recovery between strength sessions. Allowing the swollen muscular structure by the micro-tears generated by the work in the gym and thus generating the muscular adaptation that will always be the main objective of each strengthening session.
Now from the recovery and nutrition that I should and should not do so that these stimuli are used to our advantage. The first thing will be to have an adequate consumption of proteins and an adequate energy balance (not being in a caloric deficit) if my goal is to gain muscle mass, helping us at key moments such as at the end of a session with a recovery or a protein could be positive. Before making the decision to use it, it will be good to consult a sports nutritionist to help us choose which of the two will be more efficient to achieve our goal and to know that we do not have any medical contraindications to the supplement. Regarding what to avoid, we could talk about the famous cryo immersion or recovery in cold water. This has been shown to allow greater weightlifting on the day immediately after a strength stimulus. In the long term, it decreases the adaptations typical of strength, which are the maximum objective of our preseason.
To finish and frame this writing within the global pandemic that we are going through, it is important to understand that covid-19 and its variants are not a respiratory disease, it is a multisystemic disease with some respiratory symptoms (the most notable). In general, it is a disease that usually generates a systemic inflammatory response. This leads to the strength exercise that we carry out during the disease not being well assimilated and instead of generating adaptations, it generates a higher rate of fatigue which will make it difficult for us to recover from the disease and the resumption of exercise after it. For this reason, we do not recommend performing strength training during it and gradually returning to activity the days after the symptoms have completely disappeared.
By Pablo Pulido
Methodological director of threshold experst sas.