Building Leg Strength

This month, I’m going to focus on developing leg strength. Success during the bike leg of a triathlon is dependent on high muscular and aerobic power as well as an effective biomechanical application of power through the crank.

Power is defined as force divided by time and on a bike, is therefore determined by two things; the largest gear you can turn and how quickly you can turn it. When training at low cadence, you’ll have to apply more force to ride at the same power and so the increased force required will be like doing weight training for the legs!

A trainSharp client taking part in a one2one low cadence training session

Developing the strength to roll a big gear nice and smoothly into a headwind or produce greater force on a climb will not only help improve your performance on the bike but will also keep your legs strong for the run. It therefore makes sense to incorporate cycling specific leg strength sessions to your triathlon training plan. These sessions may not work for everyone. If you’ve never trained like this before, I wouldn’t recommend starting in the hardest gear on your bike as it may leave you more susceptible to injury.

Below are a couple of sessions I use to help improve leg strength for triathletes and cyclists:

Strength endurance hill reps

Note before: trainSharp uses 7 power zones to prescribe training. The first is classed a recovery, we then go from zone 1 through to zone 6. The Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) for these zones is as follows:

Recovery: RPE 1-2.

Zone 1: RPE 2-4.

Zone 2: RPE 5-6.

Zone 3: RPE 7-8.

Zone 4: RPE 8.

Zone 5: RPE 9.

Zone 6: RPE 10.

  • Take a decent 40 or 50-minute ride to a hill or climb of your choice to ensure a good warm up. The hill or climb ideally needs to be around 5 minutes.

  • Ride the climb for 5 minutes at 50-60 rpm. After 5 minutes, increase cadence to 90-95 rpm and hold to the top. Remain seated whilst climbing. The aim for this session is to really focus on maintaining a strong core idea and a nice smooth cadence. At the top, turn – recover and retrace.

  • Aim for 3 reps initially and add 1 rep each week over a 6-week training block.

  • Finish with a nice zone 2 ride back home.

This can easily be adapted to an indoor session:

  • Start with 20-minute warm up in Zone 2 pushing into Zone 3 followed by 5 minutes easy spinning.

  • Then perform 5-minutes seated and low cadence (50-60 rpm) - aim for upper Zone 3 or low Zone 4.

  • Aim for 4 reps initially with 5 minutes easy spinning in-between each rep. Add 1 rep each week over a 6-week training block

  • Finish with a 10-minute easy warm down.

Not everyone has a suitable hill or climb at their disposal, so this session can be completed as part of a normal training ride:

Tempo road ride with 4 x 10-minute low cadence blocks

  • Head out on a normal tempo road ride keeping a nice steady pace. Choose a relatively flat section of road and if possible, riding into a headwind. Switch into the biggest gear possible with a target cadence of 70-80 rpm – this is a 10-minute zone 3 effort.

  • Focus on keeping your torso stable and aero. Ensure that you’re doing all the work from your hips down whilst maintaining a nice smooth cadence.

Power & cadence trace of a trainSharp coached triathlete following the completion of a low cadence session.

Whilst these low cadence sessions are tough, it will reap rewards! They can be used to break up the monotony of a long ride or can be adapted for a compact indoor session if you only have limited time.

For more information on trainSharp coaching and fitness testing packages email or call us on 01892 577802.

Good luck with your training!

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