Power to the Pedals
Building Strength and Power for Time Trials
Time trials are excruciating events. As a race against the clock, a competitor must ride at their limit from start to finish. There are many components of a time trial that contribute to a good ride; these can include equipment selection, mental attitude, aerodynamic position, and nutritional status. However, success in the time trial is most dependent on the athletes' physical ability to generate power to the pedals. This ability is dependent on a combination of strength, power and speed of movement. Strength refers to a force that one can apply against a resistance, such as lifting weights; and power refers to the ability to exert that force at speeds characteristic of cycling. Studies have shown that the combination of strength training and power training result in greater gains in each.
You can help to develop your ability to deliver power in time trials by performing long intervals. During interval training you are targeting the cardiovascular system to help generate power, but where does that power originate? In this article we will review two ways to build strength and power for a time trial event. The first is to increase core strength, which will help put more power to the pedals by providing a solid platform for the lower body to push against. Riding with an undeveloped torso is similar to riding a bike with a cracked frame, the power will dissipate elsewhere. Secondly, we will address transferring strength gains from the weight room into power production to the pedals through on the bike strength training.
In the last few years, there has been a big increase in the emphasis on strengthening the "core" of the body. The body's core, which includes the back and abdominal muscles, can be a weak link for many time trialists. Because of the extended aerodynamic positions, cyclists may be able to generate ideal power early in the event, but then low back fatigue and pain contribute to a loss of power. Most riders give away significant pedal power because of weak low back and abdominal muscles.
The legs perform most of the work in cycling, but a strong core will increase stability on the bike and increase power transfer to the pedals. In addition, a strong lower back will allow you to remain in a more aerodynamic position for longer periods of time without discomfort. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working to strengthen core muscles:
- Begin your core training with simple exercises - abdominal crunches, back extensions, leg raises and bridging exercises (see list below).
- Progress to more complex exercises as you increase your core strength. Include a variety of exercises to minimize the risk of injury and keep you motivated.
- Explore the option of completing some of your exercises on an unstable surface such as balance boards or stability balls.
- Spend equal time training the muscles in your lower back as you do the muscles of your abdomen. By omitting one you will create an imbalance in muscle strength and increase the risk of injury.
In addition to