Exploring Progressive Overload to Maximise Your Training Capacity
With the cold weather now firmly here to stay, now is the time to start elevating your cycle training to the next level in order to make the most of the warmer months ahead.
Indeed, like any physical training the goal is always to gradually better yourself in order to make progress. Particularly in strength training, the concept of progressive overload, which we will discuss in this article, is fundamental to not only seeing tangible results but also in lifting heavier weights.
What is Progressive Overload?
The idea is very simple at its core; week by week either the intensity, time or resistance increases in small incremental amounts in order to slowly increase the capacity of said factors.
However, it is important to note that while any and all training programmes promote the ultimate goal of increasing performance, the tendency for many riders is to assume that more is better, and subsequently proceed to put unnecessary stress on both the body and the mind which can lead to premature fatigue, causing your training to plateau.
Progression means that in order to keep on improving you need to continue to overload the system as it has gotten used to the initial amount of stress and can now handle it quite readily. Therefore, increasing things like time, speed, distance or resistance of watts (if using indoor equipment) by small, but still manageable amounts means your body is reacting to the progressive overload in a positive way. This will ultimately create a practicable, attainable training programme.
Applying Progressive Overload to Cycling
“Without progressive overload, you would just be doing the same thing over and over again, and your body would eventually stop adapting,” says Alex Parry, a UK-based strength and conditioning coach who works closely with cyclists.
“With cycling, this means that if you want to keep going further and faster, your training sessions will have to get progressively harder over time.
“Plus, by limiting yourself to small increases in training , you can keep improving without the risk of injury that typically comes with massive jumps in workload.”
To provide a real world example in the context of cycling, a rider might cycle for a total of 10 hours a week. Therefore, the next week they might try to extend that by riding an extra half an hour.
Similarly, if you only have so much time in the week as most of us do, you may opt for an alternative factor to focus on such as pushing the speed of your rides.
Eventually, although it may differ from person-to-person, after about 4-6 weeks you may start to push these incremental advances in your training to more significant distances or with greater speed, thus allowing you to keep improving strength and fitness.