Disassembling the Beefcake Fallacy


(Begin athlete rant)

Wait, you want me to lift weights? Won’t that bulk me up and make me a beefcake like that poor dude in Waring who lives at the top of the hill that has a Strava segment named after him? What’s it called? “BodybuilderGrade.” Yeah, that’s it.
Whatever. I’m a road cyclist. Just feeling the weight of my arms on a climb makes me lose 5% of my watts. And that’s just the mental effect. Don’t even get me started on actual watts.  Listen, if I can’t see my internal organs in time for the serious racing season to begin, I know my season is shot. 
C’mon coach. Don’t you subscribe to the inverse gram to dollar cost maxim? You know, the one that states that number of dollars spent subtracting a gram from the total equipment mass are expressed as an exponent of said saved gram? Why on earth would I buy a 25 gram water bottle cage for 75 dollars and then turn around and beef myself up in the gym?
 

(The coach speaks)

I understand your concerns and I, being a student of physics, can appreciate the systemic challenges one faces in pulling a bit of extra weight around. That said, we need to strip away some of the assumptions you may be bringing to the discussion and review some hard, cold facts. Then many of the benefits become self-explanatory.
First of all, you are over 30. Do you understand what that means? It means you’re not getting any younger. It means for every year that you age, you are losing lean body mass. Do you know why you are losing lean body mass? It’s because you are producing less and less testosterone and human growth hormone each year you age. No, I don’t recommend testosterone supplementation. At all. And that subject, by the way, could take up hours of an entirely separate discussion. Hitting the gym and taxing your muscles actually stimulates the natural production of testosterone and HGH and we all know how these substances can help burn fat, improve performance, and accelerate recovery. So there’s that…
Then, of course, there is raw power generation. No, I’m not suggesting that weights can directly improve your FTP, but when a carefully planned and placed block of strength training supplements your riding, you will see improvements to your FTP and that’s in terms of watts per kilogram, not just net FTP.
Why do I emphasize watts per kilogram over net FTP. Well, to be honest, when you are on this 12 week program, you may see some gains in your overall weight. Especially if you are lean going into the season. Not so much if you’re a little soft around the middle as the lifting will help to convert the non-lean stuff into power producing mass. So yeah, watts per kilogram.
Plus, if you are a road racer, this 12 week block is done during the shorter days of the winter months. It’s a good way to bank some TSS points while bolstering your immune system going into the flu season. Don’t worry, when January rolls around, I’ll start to shrink wrap your newly found physique into a leaner meaner racing frame. Trust me.
Besides, the way the program is laid out, you are doing classic Olympic style lifts that work multiple joints/muscle groups. Yep, the core will be worked out while you are doing these. Like I said: classic Olympic style lifts.
And no, you won’t be doing high rep sets. You do high rep sets every time you ride your bike. I am talking about raw power production here, pure strength. You will suddenly feel “welded” to your bike.  So much so you won’t even feel the mass of the 14 pound machine beneath you. (And no I don't mean welded as in sitting heavy on it. Give me a break.)
Oh, and after the 12 weeks are over with, you WILL continue a maintenance routine. Like I said: age, fat, testosterone, HGH.
Anyway, you pay me to bring out the best in you. So fire me or shut up and let’s get you into the gym.
 

Learning to Love the Pain Cave

I want to clear up one thing right up front, I used to DESPISE stationary training. 


Oh, I tried them all: from old school screaming turbo trainers, fluid trainers whose smooth silence enabled me to keep the music to a tolerable level, to rollers with squirrel cage resistance fans that both challenged and “cooled;” but the result was the same…I still hated riding in place. 

Movies didn’t help. Old Spring Classics videos didn’t help. Disney princess movies didn’t help. 

 
I was done…

Yet is was against this jaded backdrop of my experiences that a few fateful events fell into place. Two of these were student-teaches-the-teacher type events wherein I was introduced to TrainerRoad by one client and the Wahoo Kickr by another. More on that later, but it was these two events that planted the seed that saw me actually sign up for Neal Henderson’s “Hypokinetic Training for Hyperkinetic Racing” session at last November’s USAC Coaching Summit in Colorado Springs. 

Yep, that’s a fancy name, and I wasn’t bamboozled by the striking session title as I knew full well that Neal was going to spend an hour extolling the virtues of stationary training and how, properly administered, it could up the game level of our clients. So, fully and solely motivated to better equip myself as a coach, I joined the session.

Now, the year prior to my attendance at the summit, I had signed up for a TrainerRoad account in order to bring some variety to the workouts of my clients who used old school CompuTrainer ergometers for stationary training. I liked what I saw, but I preferred to roll out onto the flats to do my interval work and feel the wind in my face and hear the shush of tires over tarmac. Plus, when I was hyperventilating at the conclusion of an L6 or L7 effort, the oxygen seemed more readily available outdoors and less stale and CO2 tainted than that in the man cave. So while I prescribed one set of protocols to my clients, I continued to old-school it out on the pavement. 

Then Neal showed me the magic. I chided myself for not keeping abreast of the technology. Ashamed of my self-imposed blindness and ignorance, not only did I drink in the material, but by the time I exited the session; I had ordered a Kickr, a complete set of Sufferfest videos, renewed my TrainerRoad subscription, sketched out a schematic to connect it all to the big tv monitor via a PC based media server I had built a few years back and was quickly becoming a believer.


No need to write down interval times and wattage numbers, no more oxygen deprived attempts to recall the correct interval or set number, and no need to worry that the rollers/turbotrainer/fluid trainer will distribute klag all over the room as they devour your rear tire; this model is…different.


I downloaded the MP4 videos into my media server (caution, the files are big, this a lengthy process), unzipped them, and placed them into a readily accessible folder. An ANT+ USB dongle was placed into the media box in site line of the Kickr, the TrainierRoad utility was downloaded, the bike mounted cadence sensor and human mounted heart rate monitor were paired within the system, FTP was entered as the default,  and I was literally off to the races.

Here’s how it works: In the TrainerRoad utility, search for the workout based on IF, TSS, power zone emphasis, duration, or a combination of any of these. Now, there are literally hundreds of power files available from TrainerRoad and they also have files for multiple videos, including all of those from the Sufferfest series. So, when I choose a Sufferfest file from TrainerRoad, I am prompted to drop the accompanying video into the file. Once I double click the MP4 file, I get this message on the TV screen: “Pedal to begin workout.” Genius. Easy, brainless, and ironically entertaining given some of the protocols the Sufferfest minions put me through. Oh, and this can all be done on a Mac or Ipad as well (see the DC Rainmaker's review).


Hands down, the Sufferfest/TrainerRoad/Kickr setup is the best thing to come to bicycle race training since the power meter. Yes, I said that.

You will say: "Ahah! with this technology, I have effectively eliminated my need for a coach." To which I respond, "Maybe, but just because you have access to the drug store, doesn't mean you know how to administer the medicine." 

Careful out there, in the wrong hands, this can put you into that vast sea of cyclists who are chronically overtrained...