's Forum Archives - Racing

Archive Home >> Racing(1 2 3 )

The length of a single AA session á la Friel(21 posts)

The length of a single AA session á la FrielTimo Vennonen
Nov 25, 2002 11:37 PM
How long time you're supposed to spend in the gym when doing AA sessions? Of course, it depends partly on the number of reps and sets. However, I've been sweating there for approximately 1 h 45 --> seems a bit excessive to me.

Here's my workout:

- 10 warm-up on the bike
- 10 exercises (circuit): leg press, seated row, back extensions, squats, bench presses, leg curls, heel raises, crunches, dead lifts, lat pulls
- 3 sets, 30 reps
- about 1,5 min per set
- 15 min cool down on the bike

I appreciate that the emphasis is on building general strength and conditioning for the MS phase. However, the time spent on the gym feels huge. I used to lift a lot of weight in my dark past and seldom used more than an hour in the gym. That makes me wonder... This is the first time I'm doing any kind of structured training for cycling, so I'm a bit wet behind my ears in that respect. So, what do you think, 1 h 45 min twice a week, ok? I'm almost done with my AA phase, but any input would be welcomed.
re: The length of a single AA session á la FrielJon Billheimer
Nov 26, 2002 7:56 AM
When I was doing the Friel program I spent about the same amount of time, which I think is excessive, especially since I hate doing weights. So I scaled back to two sets at twenty reps, but still...

I've restructured my program to a split routine, each split done twice per week. Legs take me 35 min. and upper body about the same. BTW, I do a lot of core work now involving a Swiss Ball and my own body w eight, not nearly the emphasis on big free weights, and I think it's much more sport-functional.
Number of repsTimo Vennonen
Nov 27, 2002 2:59 AM
I've been thinking about the reps, too. Friel gives a range from 20 to 30 for AA, I've figured that 30 will give you a better workout, more endurance and all the other goodies without building muscle. Bulk is the last thing I'm after with my 83 kilos (185 lbs?) and height of 185 cm. But perhaps the difference between 20 and 30 isn't that much after all. So you use more weight to compensate for the fewer reps, right?

I don't enjoy the weights either, even though it's not that bad that I thought. It's funny how your focus can change, back in the old days I thought gym was the way to go...
It gets better...and worse...and betterBryanJL
Nov 26, 2002 12:07 PM
Same experience here.

AA has most time in the gym...most exercises and sets.

But MS and other phases reduce the number of exercises.

Remember you don't always have to do every exercise every time. Be sure to focus on your prime movers (squat or leg press, for example) first--that way if you have to cut it short, you did a key exercise.

Also, you don't have to do leg press and squats (I know, I know...I do them both too...but, you can choose to do only one, or less sets of one).

It gets better. AA is the most time consuming. Don't let it frustrate you. MS is shorter.

Have fun and good luck,

Thanks for the encouragement!Timo Vennonen
Nov 27, 2002 3:08 AM
I might have been following Mr. Friel too diligently. In fact I've felt a bit dizzy after completing two sets of each exercise! Sounds like a good advice to cut it short every now and then.

I'm kind of looking forward to the MS with the fewer exercises and less time in the gym.

By the way, it would be nice to hear some statements regarding the effects of the gym to your riding. "Before-after", if you know what I mean. I've been lifting a lot before, I've been riding a lot before, but I've never been lifting and riding. What's the bottom line? Do you really feel the difference in the spring? At least Friel is very enthusiastic.
Jo Boika, AA is a long workout. But, in winter that is okaySpunout
Nov 27, 2002 4:44 AM
as I usually don't spend a long time on the bike during this period. And, I don't go more than 3 times per week. The important thing is to keep the loads low, not get stressed or injured.

Once you are in MS (mine starts in January) the time in the gym is cut in half, and you can work on your base miles on the bike/trainer without spending so much time on weights.

This is my first winter doing Friel's program, I need more strength in the hills and leg speed, and would like to be able to turn a big gear in the last 100m of a RR. I'm noticing differences in my muscle tone. However, that 15 minute cool-down on the bike after the weights is VERY important: After doing leg presses it is easy to STOMP the pedals. I spend that time at 110 (with 140rpm spin-ups) trying to keep a smooth, light action on the pedals.

You almost lost me...Timo Vennonen
Nov 27, 2002 5:58 AM
...with the head line, but your signature was enough of a clue.

I guess we are in the same boat in terms of Friel, it's interesting to see what will happen. However, I haven't lost my road race virginity yet (I presume you have), but I'm planning to give it a go next summer. My strength/weight ratio is lousy at best and I really hope that all this machismo at the gym will improve things.

The cool down is somewhat problematic if there's no spinning bikes at the gym. I find that the seat angles are too steep to my liking on the lifecycles and such. Gives you a funny feeling in the legs, but it's probably better than nothing.

I haven't been doing AA workouts more than twice a week, the rest is dedicated to slow hölkkä, some murtsika (when the weather co-operates) and a bit of riding.


..see my post in 'fitness' regarding such subject...Spunout
Nov 27, 2002 6:46 AM
from an article at regarding strength training. The researchers cannot tell any difference, but cyclists sure feel stronger, and may post improved results.

BTW, Lifecycles are better than nothing, that's what I have at my disposal (and yes, their setup is terrible). I go home to the trainer.

You've exceeded my knowledge of Finnish, I've very little left (second generation Finlander in Canada).
Hupsis (Oops)Timo Vennonen
Nov 27, 2002 9:59 PM
I thought you were a native. Anyway, here's a crash course to some essentials:

hölkkä - slow running
hölkynkölkyn - cheers
murtsika - xc skiing (slang)

There's plenty of more, let me know if you're interested,

Thanks Timo! I only know remember..Spunout
Nov 28, 2002 5:11 AM
my Grandmother swearing at me, various Finnish expletitives. Actually, the largest population of Finlanders outside of Finland is in Thunder Bay, ON (Canada) where my family is from. Lots of skiing, saunas, and vodka!
cycling news rebuttal re: weights and cyclingBryanJL
Nov 27, 2002 11:22 AM
Alright, here's a bit of information regarding strength and cycling, in response to a posting at this particular post at, post information is at end of message.

I'd just like to had my 2 cents worth regarding Richard Stern's reply to Dana Matassa's weight training question. Richard commented "strength has little or no bearing on cycling performance". I disagree with his comments.

Over the last year I've tested 22 well-trained cyclists, were 10 were randomly allocated to a control group and 12 were in a supervised training group. The control group carried on with there normal endurance, speed type training and the training group trained with me twice a week on Cateye stationary trainers doing cycling specific strength training on-the-bike, for 8 weeks.

Before and after the 8 week intervention period the subjects had to do a VO2max test, biodex isokinetic leg strength test, and 40-kilometre time trial in the lab. After the intervention the control group managed to get 0.5% worse in 40-km time (with training!) and the training group improved on average 2.5% - a 3% difference. The improvements were statistically significant. Some riders improved 3-7% cutting 3+ minutes off 40-kilometre time. Analysis of there training over a 12 week period including 4 weeks prior to the intervention showed the only factor which changed in there training was the strength training. Therefore strength as a lot to do with cycling performance - if you train your strength specifically - unlike Bishop et al 1999, who used weight training.

Also mentioned, "most research using trained cyclists or triathletes shows no correlation between muscular strength and cycling performance," however there are numerous studies (ie. Hawley & Noakes 92; Bentley et al 00; Westgarth-Taylor et al 97; Weston et al 97; Stepto et al 99) showing a correlation between peak power output at VO2max and time trial performance. Power is a result of force x velocity. The amount of force you can produce depends on your strength, which affects your power. This was demonstrated above where the change in time trial time in the training group was highly correlated (r =0.79) to the change in peak power output at VO2max. Therefore there is a relationship between strength and cycling performance.

Amy Mason

BSc Sport Science & Physiology
MSc Sport Science Student
Department of Sport & Exercise Science
University of Auckland
New Zealand
Yeah, but..Spunout
Nov 27, 2002 11:53 AM
The article mentions 'strength training on the bike' and not weight training.

So, are we to assume that strength exercises should be ON THE BIKE, and that our weight programs are merely lifestyle, cross-training, and without probable effect?

IF we assume so, what is an 'on-the-bike' strength training program?
Yeah, but..BryanJL
Nov 27, 2002 2:18 PM
Well, specificity is certainly key.

The best way to improve at anything is do that particular thing.

On the bike strength training would include things like ILTs in larger gears, almost any sort of big gear efforts, and the like.

I think that weights probably do have an effect, but that there hasn't been a study conducted in such a way that the effects could be determined. Don't get me wrong, as a researcher I grumble when I say this (or rather that, since I am referring to the preceding sentence). I think that the issue everyone is after is this:

If I do weight training, will it improve my cycling performance?

I think the answer will turn out to be something like:

Weight training improves cycling performance over time, on the magnitude of years, and most significantly for older populations.

I think people expect to do weight training during the off-season, and within the course of the season see some sort of effect that is huge and noticeable and clearly attibutable to the weight training. I think the effects just aren't that large or noticeable within that short of a time-frame. In other words, I think there are positive effects, but they aren't huge, and the biggest benefits occur over the long term.

To throw another issue out there--one thing to consider is a cost-benefit--does the cost of the time and effort of doing weights outweigh the alternative (on the bike strength work)? Depends on your purpose in training, and circumstances.

Not exactly the easiest issue to sort out, and certainly one without a clear answer at present.

Weights better than nothing?Timo Vennonen
Nov 27, 2002 10:21 PM
Well, I don't really expect any huge leaps for the next season. I've been doing enough of many things to note that the progress is painfully slow. And it's even slower if you aren't gifted (that's me!). I don't know if I've carried along the strength that I had in my late-twenties, but I hope there's something left. The excess bulk is there for sure.

Probably one of the most important reasons to do the weights - so I've gathered - is to do something else than sit on your bike and gain at least something in the process.

On the bike strength training is bound to translate into strength on the bike, but if it requires a lot of time on the trainer... My important parts go numb even thinking about it. At 61 degrees north, strength training on the road isn't always applicable during the winter months.
Thanks for the encouragement!--my experienceBryanJL
Nov 27, 2002 11:26 AM
Hi Timo,

My experience has been that I *feel* stronger. This is evidence by my progress both in the weight room (ligting heavier weights, increasing reps, etc) and on the bike (using harder gears...I can track this because I do it on a trainer, so I know that at a given speed a harder gear is actually harder).

Am I stronger? Well, I think so. I feel stronger, I can push bigger gears.

What I think a lot of people don't realize is that training effects are sometimes very subtle, and take time...on the order of 6 months to 1 year and more.

I remember being able to out-sprint some people who were better than me...only to have them beat me in longer distance rides, or when having to repeat the sprints. They had the years of experience in their legs....It takes time.

The biggest, most important aspect of weights is the residual effect over time, as you get older. Do it now, keep it up, be stronger later in life. A good deal for me.

Thanks for the encouragement!--my experienceJon Billheimer
Nov 27, 2002 5:26 PM
If you go through Coaching Science abstracts I think you'll be hard pressed to find one study that shows conventional weight training having any effect on aerobic performance, e.g. 40k tt times, sustainable power at LT, etc. As a matter of fact there is research out there to show that unless strength training matches the sport movement in terms of planes of motion and velocity there is virtually no transference to sport performance.
Nov 27, 2002 11:07 PM
this is true.

However, I respectfully ask, what does it tell us that we don't know?

In other words, we shouldn't expect improvements in aerobic capacity through strength work, which is more anaerobic, and not an aerobic activity.

And certainly specificity is the Occham's Razor here--the simplest and most direct way to improve--do the activity itself.

I think that the issue of weight training's effects will be debated frequently for the time being. On the one hand, direct effects are hard to come by. On the other, most studies done don't support direct effects. But, it doesn't mean that weight lifting doesn't have positive (direct or indirect) results. Perhaps a better protocol would be more effective at discerning the differences, or, as I propose, a study should be done over time, on the order of years, to better assess the effects of weight training.

The analogy that I offer is that weight training is like a college degree, a liberal arts degree, specifically. Such a degree doesn't really train you to do anything in particular, but it does give you skills you can use and apply ina variety of circumstances. So too with weight training--coupled with on the bike activity, it produces stronger cyclists (which would be evidence by increased maximal force, ie wingate, etc).

It seems as if it comes down to two camps--those who push weights, those who do not. Clearly there must be differences between cyclist who dolift weights and those who do not--therefore, it's a matter of determining what those differences are, and how meaningful/powerful the differences/effects are.

certainlyJon Billheimer
Nov 28, 2002 7:53 AM

I agree with your analogy. You also make a valid point about the general benefits of weight training. Usually these discussions focus around its specific benefits, which are difficult if not impossible to demonstrate. Muscle balance, general strength, and injury prevention are obvious general benefits. I think most of us are concerned, however, with finding the most transferable benefits we can, as long as we're spending time in the gym. And there are modifications to standard routines which may partially achieve that goal. That was pretty much my point. Personally, I think core strengthening, particularly with respect to the smaller, deep postural muscles are concerned, are overlooked. Ditto, exercises to balance the hip rotators and flexors such as the iliacus, psoas, gluteus medius, and piriformis muscles.

BTW, if you're looking for comparisons with cyclists who didn't do weights, how about Merckx??:)-
great points!BryanJL
Nov 28, 2002 1:46 PM
Hey Jon,

Thanks for the response. You are right on, and I appreciate your responses and feedback and insight.

One of the limitations of the board in terms of a discussion is that sometimes its hard to fully communicate--I had a feeling we were agreeing.

I can't agree more with you--and to be honest, it frustrates me, the whole "is weight training effective, etc" debate. Honestly, I want it to be....but that's a bit of a bias that I need to make sure I check at the door when doing research.

Core, and the smaller, deeper muscles, are seriously overlooked. Or, how about the core muscles that are abused? I am referring to one of my pet peeves--the "pop" or "in" exercise I so often see at the gym--people doing reps improperly...too fast, poor form, etc.

Funny you should mention Merkx...I rode with Axel this morning...quite a challenging little "holiday pace" ride for the rest of us mere mortals. It was hard to believe it was him, but indeed it was. He trains in San Diego for the winter pretty frequently...he said the sunny weather was the biggest reason. I can live with it too.

Oh yeah....I should mention that through the ride I did some big gear efforts...and thought about chucking my weight routine...I think I will keep it, but the specificity sure is right on when you're doing it on the bike.

have a great holiday and some great rides!

Bryan....Jon Billheimer
Nov 29, 2002 7:34 AM
...this is a combination "I'm jealous" and "I'm not worthy" response. Since you're a)living where it's warm, b)playing in the X-fizz lab and c)riding with the likes of Merckx I think I'll pop a prozac and keep my damn mouth shut in the future!...but then, maybe you'll drop one of those agro-weights on your toe:)- Karma is a balancing act, you know!
re: The length of a single AA session á la FrielJames OCLV
Dec 3, 2002 9:05 AM

It definately gets better. The purpose of the AA phase is to develop overall body conditioning and to prepare your muscles and tendons for the higher loads to come.

What I've done (and what I've recommended to others) when short on time is to focus on the exercises that mimic the movements that you will make on the bike (leg presses, rows, squats), as well as the exercises that develop your core muscles. In my opinion, chest presses, heel raises, leg curls/knee extensions provide little benefit (aside from developing overall strength) to a cyclist, and you'll notice that these are actually phased-out during the latter weight phases.

Last season was my first using weights, and I can definately say that the time spent in the gym during the prep/base phases paid off in dividends in May.

Hope this helps!