Woman Executing A Side Plank

Strength Training for Enduro Racing

BY Colin Izzard

Start building a solid enduro strength base now with these technique suggestions and movement ideas.

If you’re racing enduro this year, now is the time to start building your strength base. When considering different strength programs, first and foremost, you should select one that complements your riding goals. Gym work should never replace your time on the bike since that’s where you’re building crucial fitness and handling skills. Now that that’s clear, let’s get to work!

What’s the Ideal Frequency and Duration?

I generally suggest hitting the gym two to three times per week, although the frequency can vary slightly based on the areas you need to work on and how much time they require. For example,  if you have a good deal of muscular imbalances, I would suggest three sessions per week as they will take more time to work through. As you start to see improvement on your deficiencies, and/or you start to approach the time of season where riding must take higher priority, scale back the gym to twice a week. As for the duration per session, aim for an hour or less. Remember this work is to compliment your riding, not take the place of it.

Start Small

If you’ve left yourself sufficient lead time for a proper strength training plan, start with working on smaller muscle groups in the pelvis, mid/upper back, core, neck, and shoulders. Too often, athletes move right to the larger muscle groups and movements such as bench press, squats, deadlifts, etc. The issue with rushing into those movements too soon is that the smaller underlying muscle groups are easily overpowered by the larger ones. This can lead to injuries or further enhance already existing imbalances. Once you’ve established strength in the smaller muscle groups, then progress into the larger groups to build power and strength.

Focus on Form

I like to have an athlete start at lower weights and focus on good form no matter the movement. By doing so, this sets the tone to execute movements with good form and purpose, as the weight and intensity increases. Three sets of 12 – 15  reps is a good starting point. As your body adapts, increase the weight and number of sets (try four or five instead of three), and decrease the reps to 10 – 12.

For the larger muscle group movements keep your weights at 70-80% of your one rep max. After six to eight weeks, or when a good foundation of strength and balance is established, start to add more weight approaching 90% of max 1 RM. At this time try to focus on your bigger muscle group movements with five sets of six to eight reps.

In addition to general strength movements, try looking at your agility and mobility as well. Consider your flexibility in your lower back, hamstrings, and ankles. These are key for bike control and comfort. Plyometrics such as box jumps, ladders, unstable surfaces, etc can all add to your flexibility and your general athleticism.

Cardio Considerations

Yes, even if you’re spending a lot of time on the bike, you still need to factor cardio into a well-rounded strength program. This can come in the form of a good warm-up pre-strength session. 15 – 30 minutes of rowing, elliptical, and swimming are all good cross-training options to keep you feeling mentally fresh. Initially, keep the intensity on the lower end and dial it up as the season progresses. Maybe try a circuit that starts and finishes with a hard 500 meters rowing.

To wrap things up, I have listed some of my favorite movements below. I might call one “tomato” while you might know it as “tomahtoe,” so please feel free to reach out if you have questions. And of course, consult with a well-trained professional to make sure you are using good form. This is two-fold–one to prevent injury during training, and also to maximize your hard work!

Pre-Hab and Small Muscle Groups:

  • Planks – Front, Right and Left
  • Bridge
  • Deep Squats
  • Single-Leg Squats
  • Single-Leg Dead Lift
  • Supermans
  • Lateral Raises- Front, Left and Right
  • Clamshells
  • Heel Taps
  • Foot Slides
  • Straight Leg Lift
  • Physio Ball Wall Rolls
  • Pulls Downs w/ Thera Bands
  • Bird Dogs
  • Wipers
  • Goblet Squat
  • Step-Ups

Medium and Larger Group Movements:

  • Bench Press
  • Squats
  • Dead Lift
  • Bent-Over Row w/ Heavy Bar
  • Wall Ball with Single Leg Lunge
  • Around the World
  • Suit Case Lift
  • Push Up with Ball Roll
  • Push Up with Dumbbell Pull
  • Russian Twists/ Core Rotations
  • Dead Lift with Plate/Ball
  • Curl to Press w/ Ball
  • TRX Push-Ups
  • TRX Mtn Climbers
  • TRX Rows
  • Pull-Ups
  • Chin-Ups
  • Mixed Grip Pull-ups
  • Battle Ropes
  • Walking Lunges – Forward and Rearward
  • Plate Flips
  • Hanging Knees to Chest –  Regular and w/ Rotation
  • Kettle Bell Rows – Single and Double Arm
  • Banded Rotations
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About Colin Izzard

Colin Izzard graduated from Syracuse University in 1998 with a BS in Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics. After a short time in Physical Therapy school while coaching at Niagara University, Colin decided to coach full time. From there, he has served as the Head Coach for USA Swimming Teams as well as working at UNC Chapel Hill as a swimming and strength coach. In the early 2000s, while racing semi-professionally off-road and coaching cycling athletes, Colin came across CTS where he has worked ever since. Colin loves helping new athletes get started as well as finding that one percent needed to improve!