Strength Training, Crosstraining, Pushing Sleds and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Do ‘Non-Cycling Interventions’ (NCI), such as strength or power training, belong in an optimal weekly plan for a cyclist ? a mountain biker ? an endurance athlete?

Reason for Post/Back Story: 
Two Colleagues of mine just posted about Pulling/pushing Sleds as a tool for athletic development and this got me thinking, or at least gave me more reason to think, about what we (cyclists/mountain bikers) include in our weekly plan and what we hope to gain from these practices. Adam, who trains cyclists (such as Emily Batty) did a post discussing two ways to look at ‘sprinting’ and he shared a tool he has used called the ‘Sledbarrow’. Steve, who trains many explosive/team sport athletes in addition to select cyclists, added some methodology for pushing/dragging sleds and also provided 2 examples of sprint/power training on the bike. Where I hope to contribute is in a cycling specific consideration of why we may or may not want to use “NCI” to achieve cycling goals.
*See Steve Neal/Crossfit Orangeville Post HERE in response to Adam Morka/Wired for Performance SledBarrow Post 

Pre-Post Bias: 
I am very fond of the idea that general health, movement skills especially, will create a great base for athletic performance. This is, admittedly, not always true as evidenced by top athletes in a given sport being very limited in abilities outside of their performance domain. (*ask a pro cyclist to squat or touch their toes or jump up and grab a pullup bar). Given this ‘movement bias’ I do choose the idea of variety and non-specific modes of exercise in my own training and the training of my clients with the belief that the resultant health and performance will be positive.

If one’s goals were strictly, or largely, performance based we must evaluate whether “NCI” have a role.

Peer Reviewed / Research Evidence: 
a) A 2010 review of studies done on trained cyclists (>7hrs/wk) found that if Resistance training was added on top of Endurance training there was no gain in time trial performance. However, if the strength training replaced some of the endurance training there was improvement.

b)  This study found that Non-resisted sprint training was as effective as Resisted Sprint training (i.e. sled push). The resisted sprint training did have positive benefits on horizontal acceleration and did not negatively affect running/upper body mechanics.
c)Elite Cyclists/Athletes training time consistently found to be 80-90% Volume (low intensity 90%vo2)

Anecdotal/Practical/inferred Evidence:
a) Joe Friel – Strength training drops out of plan in mid ‘base’ periods (early in offseason) but he is in favor of using it initially then transferring to the bike.
b) Hunter Allen – 3-4 weeks, periodized (variety of rep/sets) but moving to bike specific.
c) Andy Coggan – “Strength is Irrelevant”
d) Nino/Swiss Power Videos   featuring balance, strength and core training
e) Todd Wells discussing plans to build power mid-season in prep for 2012 olympics
*and prior to 2011 discussing huge miles and North America vs. World Cup race demands.

My Experience: 
a) Folks with minimal experience and/or time to train will benefit more from doing something rather than nothing. I have seen this with Steve as he has continued to race at a respectible level while doing crossfit, max strength, stretching with 1-2 bike sessions a week (this is estimated by me) but he also has tremendous experience and natural skill in MTB racing and so this idea of strength/crossfit being a solution for all becomes somewhat limited if someone can not technically handle a MTB.

Questions I am debating given the Above:
a) Does it make sense to suggest someone with less time to train (‘time crunched’) would be better served by random or variable training stimulus vs. a specific (‘game play’) based regime.
b) would an Elite Athlete be benefited by punctuated and isolated exposure to strength training and/or sprint based training (sport specific or not)
c) If the individual is more important than the classification of the athlete (i.e. beginner vs. elite) then how do we isolate who would benefit from any “NCI” to better progress athletes through plateaus and limiters.

Please Share on Facebook
Get Special Weekly Content for Newsletter Subscribers ONLY LINK