CCyclists use various approaches to design their training, but what does the evidence have to say about the most effective way to structure your riding?

In a study of the Strava data for 29,284 cyclists, a group of researchers from the university of Pisa, Italy, determined that there is no correlation between effort and performance. Initially, this may seem surprising, but our own experience should reveal its truth; how many of us have completed an epic week of training only to get sick and end up out of action for a couple of weeks? Performance is not simply a function of how much training you do, or how hard you ride.

Precise Training Patterns = Improved Performance?

The Pisa study went on to conclude that athletes who improve their performance most follow precise training patterns with alternating cycles of stress and rest. Periodized training systems describe and prescribe these cycles. Road cyclists use various periodized training approaches to achieve fitness and performance peaks.

In traditional periodization, cycles initially target low-intensities and high-volumes, gradually increasing training intensity as the competitive season approaches. Each cycle is characterised by an emphasis on a particular element of fitness or conditioning. However, alternative approaches to periodization may prove to be more beneficial for road cyclists, particularly if the athlete is aiming to achieve multiple peaks during the season. The following two studies explore two areas of research in training theory and practice: Block Periodization and Polarized Training Intensity Distribution.

Evidence and anecdote both suggest that high training volumes and a polarized intensity distribution contribute to success in road cycling (Mujika).

Block Periodization

“Block periodization of high-intensity aerobic intervals provides superior training effects in trained cyclists.” 

Polarized Training Intensity Distribution

“Six weeks of a polarized training-intensity distribution leads to greater physiological and performance adaptations than a threshold model in trained cyclists.” 

The two studies (above) may provide an interesting perspective and some new options for arranging your forthcoming training year. Let us know how you get on!

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