Strength Training FAQ



Q: What makes this strength training programme ideal for cyclists?

The Sufferfest Strength Training sessions are designed specifically for cyclists, using exercises that are dynamic and which force each side of your body to work independently. This helps improve your left/right balance and strengthens those stabilizer muscles so badly neglected by cyclists (but which are critical to getting the most power to the pedals). As a circuit training programme that uses low weight, high reps, and limited rest periods, the physiological demands of these sessions are closer to endurance training than pure strength training. This ensures you work your cardiovascular system just as hard as your muscular system, and drive  improvements in both your power and your endurance. The entire programme has also been designed in a way that takes into account the on-the-bike training demands that a cyclist is typically under.

Q: Is The Sufferfest Strength Training Programme appropriate for triathletes?

You bet your tankini it is. We have strength-optimised plans for Full IM, Half IM, Olympic Distance, and Sprint Triathlon. The extra demands of multiple disciplines makes it even more critical that your strength training is properly scheduled with your other workouts.

Q: Who designed this programme? Do they really know what they're doing?

The world-class SUF / Wahoo Sports Science Team, led by Coach Neal Henderson and Cycling Physiologist Mac Cassin. Do they know what they're doing? Well, Neal has coached his athletes to 47 World Championship titles— most recently Rohan Dennis at the UCI Time Trial World Champs in Austria. In addition to being an experienced coach and cycling physiologist, Mac is a member of the USA Team Pursuit Squad, a former US National Champion. They got this.

Q: Will this help senior or masters cyclists?

Absolutely!  As we age, bone density declines, ligament and tendon strength drops, and your ability to recover and repair your body slows down.  Combine all those factors together and you have a perfect recipe for injury. If anything, senior and masters cyclists will benefit the most from these sessions. In addition to better bone and tendon health you’ll also see your balance improve.  While that might not seem like a big deal now, stabilizer muscles are some of the first to weaken as we age, leaving you more prone to falls and injury. By improving your core strength and single leg stability now, you are making an investment that will not only make you more BADASS on the bike, but help you stay active and healthy for years to come.

Q: Are the programmes based on my 4DP rider type?

The strength sessions are not specific to your Rider Type. That said, depending upon your particular strengths and weaknesses you may find some moves easier (or more difficult) than others.

Q: How is the programme structured?

The programme has three phases: Adaptation, Build and Maximise. The adaptation phase is between 7 (Intermediate) and 12 (Beginner) weeks long. It's the time when your body gets used to the new kind of work it's being asked to do. This phase is CRITICAL to any gains you make later. Don't underestimate it. The Build phase is 4 (Beginner) to 7 (Intermediate) weeks long and is when your body consolidates the work done so far and begins making gains. The Maximise phase is when your body really, truly kicks into gear and the BADASSNESS is released. This phase is 4 (Beginner) to 8 (Intermediate) weeks long.

Q: Why do I need to follow the progression you guys have laid out?

The structured progression of SUF Strength Programme is designed to minimize the risk of injury and allow your body to gradually adapt to the demands of the programme. Even though you may be strong on the bike, strength training puts different stresses on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Jumping ahead or doing too much too soon can increase your risk of injury and negatively impact your riding.

Q: Why is the programme so long (24 weeks)?

Agonia wasn’t built in a day. Proper adaptation and progressively building strength takes time and consistency. The more advanced sessions are seriously challenging - the only way to get a positive benefit from them (and not injure yourself) is to steadily build up your stability, core strength, and balance.

Think of it this way: Most people don’t hop on a bike for the first time and knock out a full century. They slowly build up to it over months and months, progressively building their endurance. 24 weeks may seem like a long time, but there are no shortcuts when it comes to getting stronger. We give you the formula, all you have to do is the work.

Q: Do I really need to do all 24 weeks of the programme?

Ideally, yes. Each phase of the 24-week progression is important, allowing your body to properly adapt before focusing on building and maximising your strength gains. The best thing you can do is be consistent and gradual with your progression. 

Q: What equipment do I need?

A mat, a couple of water bottles and, from time to time, a chair. That's it.

Q: I’m ready to start! Should I do the Beginner or the Intermediate programme?
Beginner if:
  1. You have no previous gym experience, or haven’t been to the gym in the past three years. OR
  2. You have a previous hip, knee, or back injury. Important! Be sure you get the all-clear from your doctor before starting the programme.
Intermediate if:
  1. You have previous gym experience AND
  2. You’ve been doing some kind of off-the-bike work in the past 6 months (running, advanced yoga sessions, kickboxing, etc.).

If you start down the Intermediate track and find that you can't complete 30% or more of the moves in the first two sessions with great form, then step over to the Beginner series. The most important thing in the early stages is to develop good form.

Q: I’ve just finished the Beginner programme. Should I start the Intermediate now?

If you’ve completed all 24 weeks of the Beginner programme, congratulations! You can now dive directly into the Intermediate programme and we recommend you go straight to Level 2 as Level 1 will be a bit too easy for the Stronger You that you've created. 

Q: What if I have a ton of strength training experience?

If you have previous and recent strength training experience, start with the Intermediate Plan. If you're following your own lifting or strength training routine, you can pair it with one of The Sufferfest training plans that are optimised for strength training.

Q: Will you be releasing an Advanced Programme for people who want to use it in a gym setting with heavier weights or machines?

We don't plan to launch any programme that requires equipment or weights anytime soonSUF Strength is designed to improve your performance on the bike. That means low weight, high-reps, and limited rest between sets. We also designed the programme such that it doesn’t require additional equipment, allowing anyone to get the benefits of strength training. 



Q: Is the SUF Strength Programme integrated with The Sufferfest training plans?

Does a Painsucker love lactic acid? One of the big benefits of SUF Strength is how it seamlessly integrates into the rest of your training. The crew at APEX Coaching has designed the programme to take your on-bike workouts into account so you see the most gains. When SUF Strength Programme launches you’ll be able to add it to all of our indoor-only plans for road, triathlon, MTB, and cyclocross. Riding the 2019 Tour of Sufferlandria? Of course you are. Strength training will be part of all of the ToS prep plans as well (available mid-November).


Q: I'm already on a Sufferfest cycling plan. How do I add Strength Training?

You can add strength training to any plan in the Cross-Training section of the Training Plans library. 


Q: I feel good! Should I skip ahead a week or two in the programme?

So you’re feeling good? Great! The real question is, when? If it is at the end of your first strength training session, then no. Stick with the progression. If it’s after your second session, well the answer is still no. However! If you find that you can complete every move in your current sessions with perfect form, without taking a break, and without feeling any soreness the next day, then and only then should you consider skipping ahead. And even then you probably shouldn't.

Q: What do I do if I start a plan then fall off the wagon? Do I need to re-start from the beginning or can I pick it up where I left off?

The first 6-8 weeks of the strength programme are all about adaptation and are by far the most important in the entire progression.  Skipping multiple sessions during this early adaptation phase and then jumping back into the progression may increase your risk of injury.

That being said, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session. If it’s not a recovery week you can typically fit in a missed session on a day you don’t have a bike workout scheduled (assuming you didn’t just do a hard workout the day before or have a date with something like The Shovel the next day). If you miss a full week, or multiple weeks, you will need to drop back down to the level you are most comfortable with, which for most people would be Level 1.

Q: The SUF STR plans are 24 weeks long, but your cycling plans are 10-12 weeks, long. What do i do when I finish the first cycling plan?

Do another one, of course.

Q: Can I do the workouts more frequently than the 2/3 times a week that you are probably going to recommend? If so what would be the recommended ‘filler’ workouts

When first starting we don't recommend completing more than 2 sessions a week.  While you might feel that you can handle another session, it's better to start off conservatively and make sure your body can handle the new load before even considering adding a third.  Since the Strength-optimised plans only include 2 strength sessions per week, you would need to read up on how to integrate strength into your own training plan:

READ: How to Incorporate SUF Strength Into Your Own Training Plan

The only time we would recommend doing more than 2 strength sessions in a given week is if you've have already completed 10 weeks of the progression.  At that point, adding a third session can be a great option if you are traveling or are away from your bike for a week and would miss your on-the-bike training.  This shouldn't be a regular thing, though. A couple of times during the course of a 12-week training plan is fine. Any more and you risk overtraining or injury.

Q: I’m riding regularly but I don’t want to follow one of The Sufferfest training plans. How can I incorporate the Strength Training programme into my riding?


You can apply a stand-alone Strength Training plan to your calendar. Go to the Training Plans library and expand the Cross Training section. Click on Strength Training to configure your plan, set a start date, and apply it to your calendar.



Q: Can I do SUF Strength on the same day as I train on-the-bike? If so, should I do the SUF Strength sessions before or after my cycling workouts?

Yes. And if you’re following one of our training plans, you don’t have to worry about it. We tell you exactly what to do and when to do it.

If you want to cut your own trail, we suggest doing strength training before any cycling workouts that have a high Neuromuscular 4DP rating (e.g., Standing Starts). You should also avoid doing challenging bike workouts (we’re looking at you, Nine Hammers) on the same day as strength training sessions.

If you're only doing an easy spin on the same day as your STR, then you should do it immediately after your STR session. Otherwise, it's fine to do it right after or later in the day.

Q: Do I need to warm-up before doing the strength training sessions?

Warming up is always a good idea. The videos have an opening series of activation exercises that will get you moving. But if you feel you need more, then we recommend 5-10 minutes of spinning at 60% of your FTP just to get the blood moving. If you have experience with the yoga sessions, anything in the Mobilize & Activate or Balance & Agility series would be perfect.

Q: Why aren’t there more exercises to strengthen my arms?

SUF Strength is designed to directly improve your performance on the bike so there is naturally a greater emphasis on leg and core work. As the sessions progress in difficulty we do incorporate more moves to strengthen your upper body. In addition to building a strong core, moves like High Planks and High Side are great for building shoulder strength. As you get further into the progression, the sessions get longer and involve more upper-body work.

Q: Why are single-leg exercises and balance movements such a big part of the programme?

Unlike running, cycling is pretty forgiving. Those smaller stabilizer muscles that are crucial for keeping balance when running don’t get engaged in the same way when you’re attached to a bicycle. But you need those stabilizer muscles and you need them to be strong. Without specific strength and balance work that targets those stabilizers, you’ll be more prone to injury and less able to put your full power to the pedals.

Another reason we focus on single-leg exercises is because cycling is, well, cyclical. Your legs are never doing the same thing at the same time. One leg is pushing while the other is pulling. Focusing on dual-leg exercises off-the-bike won't help you much.  To build functional strength that translates to more power on the bike you need to train each leg independently.

Q: What if I need more than 10 seconds between exercises to rest, recover, and get ready for the next move?

If you need more time to set up for the next move (or your form is starting to suffer because of fatigue), feel free to pause the video. That said, these sessions are designed to be true circuit training, meaning the short rest periods help improve your endurance and aerobic fitness. As long as you’re maintaining good form and not experiencing any sort of pain, you should try to make it through the sessions without pausing.

On a similar note, if you find that you have to pause the same session (let’s say 3A) multiple times, don’t move on to the next level until you master the current session. If 4A is on deck but you still have trouble getting through 3A, swap them out.

Q: Can I add heavier weights to the routines? If so, how?

Since these moves are dynamic and make higher demands on your stabilizer muscles, it’s important that you develop sufficient strength in those muscles before you try to add any additional weight. Some of the exercises in the sessions involve the use of water bottles, which we recommend you fill up a bit more each time you do a session. For most athletes the weight of a full water will be sufficient. With higher rep counts and short recovery intervals, adding too much weight can make it impossible to follow the intended flow of the session.

Only athletes with extensive lifting experience should add heavier weights, and even then only after they can do each move with perfect form. Our recommendation for those who really want to add more weight is to progress as recommended through sessions 1A, 1B, 2A, and 2B to the point you have completely mastered the demands of each move in those 4 sessions. Only then should you add weight, starting first with Sessions 1A and 1B before moving on to 2A and 2B. In any case, if you do choose to add weight you will have to use your own judgment regarding the appropriate amount and whether or not you need to increase recovery time between moves.

Q: Should I focus on keeping pace with the athlete in the video?

No. Let them do their thing, you do yours. Your focus should be on the quality of  reps, not how many you do. You should be in complete control throughout every phase of every movement. That will likely mean you’ll do fewer reps than the athlete on screen, especially at the beginning. As you progress you may find that you are able to maintain perfect form even while going faster than the athletes. That’s fine. The single most important thing is control.

Q: What do I do if I experience pain during any of the moves?

If you find any of the moves painful, STOP.  If you experience new or unexpected pain as a result of these sessions (apart from muscle soreness), consult your doctor.

Q: What if I have a previous injury or limited mobility? How can I adjust the exercises while still getting the benefits?

Like Kenny Rogers said, you got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. If you have a pre-existing injury, be smart about which moves you do and which ones you sit out. If your injury or mobility makes a move difficult or painful, just skip the move during the session.

Here’s the bottom line: If you do have a pre-existing issue or injury, check with your doctor first before you begin any sort of strength training.

Q: What do I do if I’m sick? Can I still get my strong on?

Here’s a general rule of thumb for training when sick: If it’s above the neck (stuffy or runny nose, mild sore throat, headache) then low and moderate-intensity is the trick. If it’s down below (bad cough, respiratory issues, or stomach distress) that’s a no-go. Most SUF Strength sessions are fairly high intensity. If your symptoms are above the neck, skip the strength training and do some active recovery (like one of the easier yoga sessions or a recovery spin) instead. If your symptoms are below your neck you should skip that day’s training entirely and try to use that extra time to get a bit more sleep.  Smart Sufferlandrians know it’s better to rest for 3 days and be ready to crush it on day 4 rather than training at 75% for a full week.



Q: Will this strength training program increase the size of my muscles/make me gain weight?

Everybody responds differently to strength training. Some athletes may see an increase in muscle mass. That said, The SUF Strength programme is designed to improve your performance on the bike, using high reps, low weight, and limited rest between sets to improve your power and endurance without adding significant muscle mass.

Q: How do I know the programme is working?

Within just a few weeks you’ll notice an improvement in your single-leg stability and balance. Not only will this be apparent when doing the single-leg movements in the strength training sessions, but also when you’re on the bike. You should feel a more stable connection between your feet and the pedals, resulting in a smoother application of power. You’ll also notice an improvement in your core strength. If you typically experience lower back pain (especially on long climbs), you’ll find that you can stay stronger for longer.

Q: Will this make my body more resilient to injury?

Absolutely. With improved balance comes reduced risk of falling. Add to that the increased ligament, tendon and bone strength associated with strength training and your body will be less prone to overuse injuries, and should hold up better if you do happen to hit the deck.



Q: These routines are making me so sore it's hurting my performance on the bike! What gives?

Cycling is a non-weight bearing sport, meaning your muscles never experience what physiologists call “Eccentric Contractions.” Think of walking down a flight of stairs: as you slowly lower your right foot to the step below you bend the knee of your left leg. This requires you to slowly elongate your quad muscles (that’s the eccentric part). This kind of contraction is the main cause of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. As a badass Sufferlandrian, your leg muscles are great at pushing the pedals down. But unless you regularly run or do some other weight-bearing activity, your legs aren’t accustomed to those Eccentric Contractions. Until your body fully adapts to this new stress, you’re going to be sore, which may affect your power on the bike. Don’t worry, it’s temporary. After 4-6 weeks you’ll find that you’re no longer sore the day after a strength training session and will even begin to see an increase in both your power and endurance.

Q: How will this improve my performance on the bike?

SUF STR is designed to increase your muscular endurance. Translation: You’ll be stronger for longer, able to keep pushing hard at the end of longer rides, and maintain higher average speeds.

The emphasis on single leg stability and core strength will also improve your left/right balance and help you put more power to the pedals. No watts left behind.

Q: Will Strength Training affect my Full Frontal results?

It depends upon your unique strengths and weaknesses. The goal of SUF STR is to build muscular endurance, which will help you be stronger for longer. Most people (especially those with a Sprinting weakness) should see a slight increase in their Neuromuscular Power. Your legs should feel more resilient to fatigue, especially after multiple maximal efforts. If you normally start the 20-minute effort in Full Frontal with legs that are already noodly, you should be better able to keep laying down the power and keep Sagan in your sights until the finish line. You may also find that you can hang on just a little longer during that final 1-minute effort.

Q: Should I cut back on my other training to incorporate strength training?

If you’re using one of The Sufferfest training plans optimised for strength training, you’re good to go. For information on how to incorporate SUF Strength into your own training schedule read this article.

READ: How to Incorporate SUF Strength Into Your Own Training Plan


Q: I’m already doing some of the yoga sessions. Do I need strength training?

Strength training has benefits that yoga doesn’t, and vice versa. Luckily, The Sufferfest makes incorporating both yoga and SUF Strength into your training easy for even the most time-crunched athletes. You’ll be stronger, faster, tougher, and happier.

Q: Should I incorporate stretching into Strength Training? If so, what type and when?

The Sufferfest Yoga for Cyclists sessions are a perfect complement to SUF Strength. Sessions like Balance & Agility and the Mobilise & Activate series are great to do before strength training. The Recovery Booster and Stretching After Suffering are perfect for boosting your recovery after a strength session. 


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