Strength Add-on Clarification

Hi, I’ve been using the strength add-ons for a while using various training plans. My question is really out of curiosity. My understanding is that to make gains, one needs to put the body under strain consistently and repeatedly which will cause it to adapt to be able to handle the new workload. So, for a VERY simplified example, if I want to get better at squats, I do a squat workout 2 - 3 times a week, my body will adapt to this new regimen and will get stronger when doing squats.

Now, I enjoy the strength add-ons in SYSTM/SUF, but I’m wondering if they’re as effective as they could be. There seems to be no focus whatsoever. Just jumping around from exercise to exercise, body part to body part while missing the key “repeatedly” part of the formula to consistently and repeatedly challenge your body to adapt. For example, my current plan had me doing Dynamic Focus 4 (mostly legs) on Nov 1 , Upper Body Focus on Nov 4, Full Body 2 on Nov 8, Full Body 1 on Nov 11, Lower Body Focus 1 on Nov 15, Core Focus 3 on Nov 18.

There is obviously a strain put on my body as whole, but there is no focus. How do adaptations happen that way? For example, how will I strengthen my upper body if there is only 1 upper body focused workout in 3 weeks. Wouldn’t I need to repeatedly strain my upper body to make any gains in upper body strength? How does 1 upper body workout every 3 weeks accomplish that? I can’t see that working for something like running. If I run once every 3 weeks, my running will never improve.

I apologize for the length of this post and I hope it doesn’t come across as me being disgruntled. Like I said, I do enjoy the strength workouts, I’m just wondering if I’m misunderstanding something about how they’re supposed to work.

Any insight would be appreciated.

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Interesting thought. I have no idea, but will tag @coach.jinger.g as I’m sure she will know (or another coach)

@simon This morning I had Dynamic 3 and Core 4. Core 4 had a lot of work focused on the core muscles but there were also pushups which certainly engage the core but also work the chest and arms and several sets of planks which are also focused on the core but also involve upper body muscles. Dynamic 3 had several different exercises targeting the glutes, hips and core - squats, jump squats, side lunges, tempo squats. You definitely don’t have to repeat the same movement to see progress and it is definitely helpful to work the muscle in different ways. My guess is that the plans take into consideration some of the upper, lower, core overlap in the videos.

Keep in mind that the videos are geared toward cyclists and runners and I would put them in the category of conditioning muscle and connective tissue so you perform better. Some of us also add some additional weight work - either after strength using the strength videos as a warm up or just keeping them in the plan so that there are dedicated days for strength when the bike or running work is toned down to match the day’s work and then doing your own thing. If you do that be sure to start slow and allow the adaption process to occur and really work on form 1st. As an example, I added kettlebell swings, Turkish getups and overhead presses at the end of today’s workout. Other days it might be a variation of rows, bench press, deadlifts or pull-ups. I generally keep the weights in the moderate range and go for higher reps to try and minimize affecting my on bike performance.

A few of the podcasts touch on this topic as well - looks for the ones about strength:

The Knowledge: Podcasts

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HI @simon! Great questions! And the simple answer is really being thoughtful about what your goal is and focusing the quality, repeated, intense sessions around that goal while supplementing with other training.

So if your goal is cycling fitness or performance, then the plan will not have the amount of upper body focused work to create significant changes in upper body strength, but enough for maintenance and injury prevention.

Does that help at all?

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Thanks for the info @coach.jinger.g. I guess I just misunderstood the intention of the strength add-ons. It seems to me, that it’s been advertised as “Progressive, bodyweight-based exercises are designed to build functional, full-body strength and turbocharge your power”, where, in fact, it’s designed to maintain strength and aid in injury prevention. Are there any plans to include programs that BUILD strength?

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@simon The exercises definitely increase power on the bike - better core stability allows the legs to drive more power. I can’t speak for running but would imagine that it is similar.

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I’m not doubting the benefits. I guess I was looking for something matching their description of “build functional, full-body strength”, which it appears the strength add-ons do not do. I think it would be really beneficial if SYSTM would add a strength program into their plans that does as you do; adding heavier weights or more focused body weight exercises, in a more specific way to BUILD more overall body strength.

@simon YES! I would say more specifically build strength and power with a focus on the primary muscles utilized for your goal… which for cycling would be hip to ankle with the help of core. But for the upper body, it is more of maintenance-

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@simon Understood - I add weights because I am over 50 and mostly ride MTB. For upper body, try a few sets of burpees into pull-ups. Those will definitely spice things up.

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I find that most of the strength workouts repeat a lot of hip hinge/glute exercises such as squats and lunges etc. I seem to get enough adaptation from it that when I don’t do them for a few weeks I can definitely feel a difference! I don’t expect a lot of upper body exercises to be included in a cycling focused strength routine.

I suppose in the end it all comes down to time and training priorities. I could do a LOT more strength work, but only at the expense of less cycling. So it’s a matter of finding the right balance for what you want to achieve overall. I’m quite happy with the balance as presented in the plans, which are obviously focused on becoming faster on the bike rather than gaining significant upper body strength.

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Yes, I understand what you’re saying and agree that if I take time off the exercises, I also feel it when I get back at it.

That being said, perhaps they can add in a Strengh+ option when you select the strength add-on. Maybe it would include 2 strength sessions. The normal one that we would get now, plus an additional 15 min session focussing on upper body and/or core.

Just a thought… While I definitely want to make cycling gains, I’m not winning the Olympics any time soon, so gaining overall body strength and fitness, integrated into my cycling program would be perfect for me.

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The plans do have the option of 5 differnt levels of strength training getting progressively harder. But I haven’t looked at the levels beyond 2 so I don’t know how much harder they actually get.

I think if you are looking to focus on strength training beyond what is required for cycling then you are probably better off looking at adding in a supplementary routine from elsewhere. But you then have to think about how that would impact your tougher SYSTM workouts.

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One thing that keeps getting missed is that cyclists do not want nor need heavy upper body strength or weight. The purpose of the SYSTM strength programs is to build enough strength so you can muscle your bicycle around and not much more. If you are looking for an upper body strength workout routine, there are some but not enough to cause massive upper body building. If you are a triathlete, you might want to look at a triathlete specific program.

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i’ll be honest everyone, i’m sometimes more sore after a suf strength session with the one legged hip hinges than i am after deadlifting three plates.

And i also believe i’ve made progress. One easy hack is that if you feel like there are parts that aren’t getting enough love–like for example the overhead press with a water bottle is really not much, really just activation and balance and not much else–get a set of adjustable dumbbells and bang out a few quick sets of 5-8 reps after your suf session. Only need to add one or two exercises, tops, and you can make progress. Or sets of pushups. Real easy to add, not too taxing, solidifies the motor patterns and skill aspect. easy peasy lemon squeezy

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tnx for this, I really thought something was wrong with me. On week 10 of the all purpose plan with strenght, and still sore for days after every of these “easy” strenght sessions.

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Agreed, the “easy” strength routines can be deceptive. Same goes for the Yoga!

Another easy hack to bolster the strength routines (if you feel the need) is to add in some kettlebell swings and lifts. Before I started SUF/SYSTM kettlebells were my preferred method of strength maintenance and I found them to be very effective.

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Yep kettlebell swings are good, you can do em heavy to build strength or lighter with higher reps or supersetted with burpees, as more like full body conditioning. You can also do cleans, presses and all sorts of other exercises. Doesn’t take a lot on top of SUF strength to have an impact.

As well as doing a few exercises to supplement SUF, I also use weights in the routines, like a dumbbell instead of the water bottle.

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