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Thanks for this post. I've always been a little unclear about the force reps. I still have one question: What do I do if six pedal revolutions doesn't get me to the top of the hill?

Neeraj Engineer

Hey Joe, Great stuff.
Just wondering, for indoor bicycle workouts, do you recommend a stationary trainer or rollers?

thanks again for the blog. Its a great resource.



In your Cyclist's Training Bible (I have the 4th edition) you prescribe force workouts that revolve more around doing climbs with a low cadence (60rpm) and moderate to high intensity (up to upper zone 4). I've seen some analysis (see the new edition of Allen and Coggan, Training and Racing with a Power Meter, pp 137-142) that sheds doubt on the benefits of "strength endurance training" based on the claim that this doesn't stimulate the muscle fibers enough to promote actual strength gains. This leads to the conclusion that workouts like these "Force Reps" are better for building on the bike strength. What are your thoughts on the relative benefits of each approach, and has your mentality on force workouts changed over the years?

Joe Friel

Douglas--Yes, I think the force reps are more effective. I've had athletes doing them the last 2 seasons.

Joe Friel

Neeraj--Whichever you prefer.

Joe Friel

Randy--Turn around.

Willem le Roux

What power zone (Bike) should one achieve during each of the reps?
(with referral to Dr. A Coggan power zones)

Joe Friel

Willem--Max power/effort. Whatever you can do.

Michael H.

Great post. I avoided hill repeats last year because in the "Triathlete's Training Bible" you recommend that runners avoid these workouts in the first two years of running. Now that I have more than two years of triathlon training and two race seasons under my belt, I'm going to add these force rep workouts when I get back to Base 2 early next year.

I found that my primary limiter on the bike and run this year was my climbing. On the bike, I pass almost everyone on the flats and downhills. But I get passed by many people on the climbs. I'm hoping to change that in 2011.

I'm also wondering if using a tri bike makes it more difficult to tackle tough hills. I keep reading that people often switch to road bikes for hilly races.

Joe Friel

Michael H--The typical tri bike is designed to get you into an aero position to reduce drag. It is poorly designed for producing power when climbing. These two aspects of bike design are pretty much at opposite ends of the spectrum. For very hilly triathlons some athletes use road bikes with clip on aero bars for this reason.


In your Nov 2009 posts on coaching novice athletes, you expression caution regarding weight training because of the risks high loads pose to untrained joints. Does this caution extend to the Force Reps for cyclists that you describe above? And, in this context, when you refer to novices, are you speaking of novice competitors or newcomers to cycling? Thanks !


(re-reading what I just wrote, what I really mean is - is a road cyclist with 10,000 club and touring miles and one season of racing in the last three years still "new to the sport" with respect to force reps?)

Joe Friel

Madeleine--Yes, it certainly does apply to novices. I tried to make that point in the post. A 'novice' is someone new to structured training.


Joel - I am a novice (a true novice, first season of racing coming up in 2011). I know you recommend concentrating on Base periods for your first couple of years, but how would I structure them? Would I go Base 1 - Base 1 - Base 2 - Base 2, etc. where I repeat each base or do I go through all three Base periods and then repeat, starting over at Base 1?

Thanks and it is great to have an incredible resource such as this one.


Joe Friel

Mikkel--Once you build up to base 3 just stay there. Good luck!

Joe Friel

Madeleine--Sounds pretty experienced to me.



I have a couple of questions that are more general about strength building for cycling:

In the 4th edition of your Training Bible for Cyclists, you state in the chapter on strength training that one could do as many as 12 sessions of AA at 3 sessions/week (f weeks), 5 sessions of MT (2 weeks) and six weeks of Maximum Strength. (12 sessions at 2 sessions/week) Yet somewhere else in the book, you say that you recommend doing all of the AA and MT workouts in the four-week prep period and then doing MS in Base 1, switching fully to SM workouts in Base 2.

Would you say it's OK to do the higher volume of weight training you suggest in the particular chapter of the Training Bible, which would entail AA in Prep, MT in the first two weeks of Base 1, and then MS through the end of Base 2?

Also, I have a question about Muscular Endurance workouts. In the 3rd edition of the training bible for triathletes, you recommend doing all ME workouts at a cadence at the "low end of your comfort range." In the training bible of cyclists (again, 4th edition), you don't make such a statement. Would you still say that "low end of your comfort range" is a good goal in ME, which would suggest riding a big gear to build strength? What do you think would be a good target cadence to shoot for in these workouts? I am most comfortable myself riding at a cadence between 90-110, but I could easily ride a lower cadence in a bigger gear. I get the impression from the training bible for triathletes that you would be looking for a cadence significantly lower than 90, for instance.



Joe Friel

Paige--Wow, a lot of questions! I'll take a quick stab... I like to have MS completed by the end of Base 1. But it doesn't always work out that way for a number of reasons. I typically have tris do ME training at a lower cadence than roadies. Too easy. What did I leave out?


I think that covers it! Thank you!

What's the reason for having Tris do a lower cadence than roadies in ME? Maybe that they don't spend as much time as roadies doing strength training for the bike, so you have them do a bigger gear/lower cadence for ME to do so?



Thanks for the info on the Force intervals. Have been doing intervals indoors on a set of rollers with magnetic resistance setting (e-motion)rollers. Typically use 53x11 gearing doing 10 x 30 sec maximum effort intervals on the hardest resistance setting for the rollers. I can barely get past 30 seconds per interval, but my cadence gets up to about 85rpms (avg about 630Watts). Is the cadence too high to be considered a Force interval? Thanks.

Joe Friel

Frank--30s is too long to develop force. Just a few pedal strokes - maximal effort.


Thanks a lot Joe - shorter harder effort certainly works for me.


I am a novice cyclist that easily spins at 100-115 rpm. But I had a hard time riding in the big ring easily on rolling terrain without my legs fatiguing quickly.

Do force rep exercises help riding comfortably in larger gearing?

Joe Friel

ScorpionKing - It might.


Joe, do any of your athletes have much success with this workout indoors on a trainer? I have been doing them on a fluid trainer and I find it necessary to start each rep from nearly a dead stop (cranks and rear wheel) in 53x11 gearing to reach maximum perceived exertion within the 6 revolutions (yes I'm setead.) Power is what I would expect it to be for a 6-8 second effort, which may eliminate the possibility of any losses due to tire slippage. And my second question - is 50 rpm an absolute? I'm starting from a stop and finishing around 110 rpm. Thanks, your blog and Bible series have had a tremendous impact on my training!

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