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Muscle Tension Intervals(9 posts)

Muscle Tension IntervalsRockyMountainRacer
Mar 14, 2002 9:37 AM
What do you folks think about the effectiveness of this workout? I read about muscle tension intervals on Bicycling Magazine's website in the training section:

They are basically just doing intervals of turning a huge gear at a low cadence to build strength. A little counter-intuitive because mostly we are told to "spin spin spin" but the idea seems to make sense: spin most of the time to develop leg speed, then do muscle tension intervals on occassion to develop the power to spin a bigger gear.

Anyway, I've never done these before and am planning on implementing them into my training, but I wanted to see what people think about them first. Are they more effective than weight training? I don't really like to lift much with my legs during the on-season, preferring to be more bike specific. But does anyone think that a day in the weight room might actually be better than doing these workouts? Let me know what you all think...I'd really like to hear from folks who have done muscle tension intervals in the past and whether or not they think they are faster/stronger for doing them.
re: Muscle Tension Intervalsmixinbeatz
Mar 14, 2002 12:08 PM
For me, the single thing that has improved my riding most, is doing 55-65 rpm workouts for 30 min twice a week on the fluid trainer and low rpm hill climbing on the weekend. It didn't seem to put any extra strain on my knees and helped my climbing and sprinting a lot. I did not do any weight training this winter, and after the first few races of the year, I think I am doing really well. To each his own, I tend to like to do my strength training on the bike, while a lot of people like the gym. Whatever floats your boat, as long as your legs are getting stronger.
re: Muscle Tension Intervalsjim hubbard
Mar 14, 2002 1:19 PM
OK here is the deal when doing these start small and work your way down the gears. Make the length about 3-5ks of climbing. When finished do a downhill windout back down the hill aiming to be spun out in about 12sec. I participated in astudy last year that compared the effectiveness of on the bike strength work to gym for improvements in a 40k TT the result came out favouring the gym work as far as the 40k goes.
Taking a different view of this...brider
Mar 14, 2002 1:37 PM
Okay, I'm going to take a different direction on the benefits of this type of riding -- spinning up for a sprint. Think about getting a good jump in a sprint -- you already need to be in a somewhat taller gear when you make that jump in order to not spin it out too early and disrupt the rhythm trying to shift. If you don't do the high tension intervals, and just spin spin spin, you're going to either totally bog down in that taller gear, or have to REALLY spin out a gear before you shift. Which would be easier to do and most likely get better results in a sprint. Same thing applies to making a good surge on an uphill. While we can argue all day about whether these increase your TT strength, it's very easy to see how these translate to the "jump."
Good point...bigdave
Mar 14, 2002 2:08 PM
That's a really good point... I'd be interested to see any studies on whether weight work or on-the-bike strength work help more here. I'd tend to think on-the-bike, as I was squatting and pressing a bunch of weight at high reps last season, but didn't find that it translated as well to the bike as I might have thought...

Good point...Jon Billheimer
Mar 14, 2002 8:23 PM
I've compared for myself the effect of doing muscle tensions vs. weight room work only, and I found the MTs far more effective. This was, however, after about a ten week base of weight training for overall muscle balance and strength. There's considerable research that backs up sport-specific strength work as opposed to straightforward weight training. For one thing, unless you gain strength at your sport specific velocity of movement your strength gains will transfer very little if any to the bike.
MT's, other pointsThe General
Mar 15, 2002 8:49 AM
I did a some of both,

MT's for on the bike strength training and weights for overall body conditioning.

I found the MT's made the bigger difference for getting stronger on the bike. The problem some may find is not getting the needed break from the bike. Weight lifhting is a good way to stay in shape and take a mental break from the bike.

MT's helped improve my time on a local hill from 40 minutes to 33 minutes, other factors played into the increase as well. Like diet, loss of 5lbs, more specific training over past years. But I think the MT's have really helped me on the longer (3+ miles) type climbs.

More on weights, I found by concentrating on my core body strength I feel stronger and don't get tired on the longer rides as well. I started doing two session's of Power Yoga a week in Janurary after lifting weights from October-December. I found that I am not bulking up and keeping my strength.

For me it compliments my riding style and let's me ride all day.

The General
re: Muscle Tension Intervalsallervite
Mar 15, 2002 11:11 AM
Absolutely essential if you want to be competitive. As far as which is better: gym work or MT's. I would choose the specificity of MT's. However, you will benefit that much more if you begin your MT's with an adequate amount of base work and a winter in the gym.

The gym builds strength faster because of the negative resistance inherint in the movement. On the bike, you push down and then pull up (oversimplified I know). When pushing down the pulling muscles in the leg are relaxing. When pulling up the pushing msucles in the leg are relaxing. When you are performing the leg press, you are stressing the muscles when pushing and then again when you lower the weight. Therefore, you can bring the muscles involved, to failure much quicker. This can trnaslate to quicker gains.

Also, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that gym work increases your ability to buffer lactic acid and prevent free radical damage. Again, because you can more effectively stress the muscle and more densely flood the area with lactic acid and free radicals causing th body to adapt.
They're both good . . .speedisgood
Mar 17, 2002 9:19 PM
and both very useful, IMO. Like previous posters mentioned, specificity of exercise is very important, weights a lot in the off-season and then mostly cycling-specific strength in the pre- and in-seasons. I haven't had much luck in previous years, but I'm gonna try to do a once a week maintenance session in the gym during the season this year.

I like to do single leg movements in the gym: I call 'em "Wooders", basically a split squat with the rear leg on a bench, most of your weight on the front leg (upper body leaning forward like you're a speedskater), with a 45 on your back held by both hands. This gives me both concentric and eccentric motion (positive and negative) which has been shown to build strength the best.

In season you need to train your body to apply that general strength to whatever sport you're doing. So now, in my personal timeline, I'm starting to do more MT-type workouts in addition to the weight training.

On a side note, I just got a TT bike and I noticed that riding in that forward position totally stresses my legs differently than my regular set up, even though the seat angles are within a half a degree. The point is, to get the most specific work, you gotta be on the bike, preferably in your racing position so you can recruit the same muscles you use while racing.

Sorry for rambling . . .