Logan’s Cyclocross Season: Start With Strength Training

Logan VonBokel Cyclocross Paul Kumm Photo

Logan VonBokel has been a bike racer for a long time. From winning junior races in the St. Louis area to elite cyclocross racing in Colorado. The last 18 months has been a recovery story for Logan from a back injury, resulting in an artificial disc, to a real push in fitness for goals this cyclocross season. In our coach, client relationship, we’ve made some realistic goals, even conservative at times to keep morale high during some tough work stress and a season marking come back. *Featured image by Paul Kumm*

 In the next few articles we’re going to highlight Logan’s training process starting with some massive strength gains phases. By this point we’ve all seen some video of Kate Courtney doing some sort of coordination and core workout, or Ninor Schurter obliterating himself in the weight room. 

Let’s start off from a place of research and applied physiology. The study “Combining Explosive and High Resistance Training Improves Performance In Competitive Cyclists”  conducted by CARL D. PATON AND WILLIAM G. HOPKINS, is one of many peer reviewed research studies looking at the effects of resistance or strength training on competitive cyclists. In this study the workout group performed step ups and simple eccentric lunges. Over 12 weeks the exercise group gained up to 14% maximal power and saw significant increases in 1k TT power all the way to increases in lactate threshold power. This study is especially specific to our cyclocross goals to increase force, torque, max power, and endurance ability. 

Some thoughts from Logan “I’ve been a firm believer in training to be stronger and faster athlete ahead of the cyclocross season, rather than just training to be a faster cyclist.

I do weight lighting all year, along with running, but as the cyclocross season approaches, I start incorporating some plyometric workouts. These can be anywhere from 10min to 35min long. When I start them, in the heat of July, my focus is on building muscular endurance, whereas in November my focus is on explosive power (i.e. more box jumps).”

These strength days are pivotal for the high power and torque required for cross and MTB. You cannot go from off season or road season directly into high power, high torque riding without a strength base. Cyclocross calls for a totally different power profile based less on w/kg than a road race and more on high absolute powers and torques. For cross, we care less about getting a rider as lean as possible to where it looks like your muscles ligaments are pulling on bones to move the pedals of a starved bike rider, we want max power with core supporting strong glutes and quads dragging a mud covered wheel up a hill.

Just the act of hopping off and carrying your bike up a muddy run up while grasping at barriers pull yourself up the hill with your hands calls for a different sort of athlete. That’s where we started with Logan. Logan has the aerobic base from years of riding. Logan is also an accomplished runner. We also used running as a training tool in fall. We still train aerobically and we start that in July the gym base starting with running and plyo and then push the plyo into gym as we progress. We will have to dial back the gym and plyo as we get more riding intensity to better control fatigue so that’s where we start and build as much as possible for strength before and into early racing. 

Example Plyo Workout 

Example Cyclocross Plyo Strength Training Workout

First off, when tracking fatigue, we use Logan’s Apple watch and HR TSS but that is not accurate for actual fatigue on the rider. The fatigue from this workout is much higher than 29 TSS and we can adjust that later or just make sure we are aware and in communication on how fatigued the rider is.  This is also not where we started for plyo, this is a higher level workout. If you’re going to start working in this sort of strength start way lighter. Be aware that when you get tired things get harder. If you’re struggling on a box jump be careful not to get too fatigued and misstep and take a chunk out of your shin. Also embrace the eccentric motion of these workouts. Part of the “plyometric” definition is the act of falling against gravity or eccentric motion as your muscles catch weight. It’s extra fatiguing but very effective in building strength. 

Logan Von Bokel Plyo Strength Training Box Jump

Use a mix of strength work in the gym and plyo to increase your overall strength on the bike. Mix with riding workouts. You don’t have to mix in riding and lifting in the same workout but keep lifting exercises specific to your movements on the bike. Track your weight or in the case of plyo reps. Watch your peak anaerobic power increase on the bike if all is going as planned. It’s easy as a coach for cross to apply these workouts and assume they are working without data Our next post on Logan’s season will be about mixing in intensity and cyclocross base with these strength gains to make him lethal on the bike. Logan will be heading to nationals in Tacoma in a few weeks. 

Follow along on social media. 

Zack Allison earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at Colorado State University. As part of his education, he participated in many hands on exercise science practicum and internships, coaching many types of athletes, specifically cyclists.

Zack’s affinity for cycling started at the early age of 14 racing on the east coast. He quickly moved up the amateur ranks to race on the elite national circuit. This level of competition sparked his interest in exercise science, taking him to Colorado State University. While racing for his alma-mater and on various amateur teams he saw many podiums at the Collegiate Championships and Pro/Am events. Zack is currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado and has raced for Elevate Pro Cycling and currently races for Clif Bar.